The Hawkeyes lost their last three games, finishing the skid with an embarrassing defeat at then two-win Minnesota. After that contest, all-American DE Adrian Clayborn said the team had lost its will to win. Yeah, something was unhinged.
The bleeding continued when the school's all-time receptions leader, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, was arrested on various drug charges. Ferentz then announced leading rusher Adam Robinson would miss the game due to not living up to the coach's expectations.
So, Iowa packed up earlier this week and headed to Arizona for the Insight Bowl. A 10-2 Missouri team waited.
"No question our last time out we didn't play very well," Ferentz said. "If we don't play better we'll lose by 40 in this one. It won't be pretty."
Iowa could benefit from having a month of separation between the Minnesota game and the Insight. It also could be a month of hibernation before we see the ills that caused a team ranked in the preseason Top 10 to finish 7-5. We just don't know.
The Hawkeyes are a senior laden team and there's reason to believe that group can help the coaches get the train back on the track. But it's also a class that couldn't help stop the disconnect down the stretch.
Missouri is a veteran team as well. They're going to see the Hawkeyes' weaknesses on film and attack them like a shark smelling blood in the water.
We shall see what Iowa team shows up in the dessert. And we might know early, as there's been a trend of the Hawkeyes coming out flat to start the games in this tough stretch.
TELEVISION: ESPN (HD) will televise the game to a national audience. Sean McDonough, Matt Millen and Heather Cox will call the action.
RECORDS, RANKINGS: Iowa (7-5) is unranked. Missouri (10-2) is ranked 14th in the AP and Coaches polls.
HAWKEYE HUDDLE: Attend the largest gathering of Hawkeye fans at the Hawkeye Huddle on Monday, December 27, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Phoenix Convention Center. The Insight Bowl Hawkeye Huddle is free with cash refreshments and concessions and features the Hawkeye Marching Band, cheerleaders, dance team, and Herky. Fans can visit www.hawkeyesports.com/iclub for additional information.
HISTORY: Missouri and Iowa are meeting for the first time in over 100 years. Missouri holds a 7-5 advantage in the series that began with a 22-0 Missouri win in 1892. The teams have not met since the Tigers scored a 5-0 win on Nov. 15, 1910. Iowa's last win in the series was a 21-6 win at Iowa City in 1907 before Missouri won the three most recent meetings. Iowa won three of the four games played in Iowa City and Missouri won six of the eight games played in Columbia.
THE LINE: The game opened in Las Vegas as a pick'em or with Missouri as a point favorite. That number has increased to about a field goal in the Tigers' favor since it was taken off the board as Iowa dealt with player suspensions.
From the open to the current line, it's been confusing. Missouri is 10-2 coming in on a three-game winning streak as co-Champions of the Big 12 North. Iowa limps in on a three-game skid and an offense in need of a transfusion playing without top receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and leading rusher Adam Robinson.
Granted, these lines are set to get even action on both sides of the bet. Still, that the number stands at less than a field goal in some places doesn't match up with performance.
If you dig a little deeper, however, there is some method to the line-makers' madness.
First, Iowa lost five games by an average of 3.4 points, the largest margin of defeat being seven at Arizona. The Hawkeyes haven't lost a game by more than seven since the start of the '08 campaign.
Iowa and Missouri played one common opponent in 2010 - Iowa State. The Hawkeyes rolled the Cyclones, 35-7, in Iowa City during Week 2. The Tigers slipped past ISU, 14-0, in Ames during November.
Missouri posted a couple of solid wins against Big 12 Champion Oklahoma and at Texas A&M. But the Hawkeyes thrashed Big Ten Tri-Champ Michigan State, lost by one to Rose-Bowl bound Wisconsin and by three to Sugar Bowl participant Ohio State - all at home.
-Hawkeyes are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games as a road favorite of 10.5 or greater.
-Hawkeyes are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 neutral site games.
-Hawkeyes are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 bowl games as an underdog.
-Hawkeyes are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 bowl games.
-Hawkeyes are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 Bowl games.
-Hawkeyes are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games after allowing less than 170 yards passing in their previous game.
-Hawkeyes are 12-3-1 ATS in their last 16 games following a ATS loss.
-Hawkeyes are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games in December.
-Hawkeyes are 15-6-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
-Tigers are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 vs. Big Ten.
-Tigers are 5-12 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
-Tigers are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 neutral site games as a favorite.
-Tigers are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games in December.
-Tigers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game.
-Tigers are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games following a S.U. win.
-Tigers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games following a ATS win.
At 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, Barnes could be a major obstacle for Klug and fellow DT's Christian Ballard and Mike Daniels. The Hawkeye trio needs to rely on technique against the athletic Barnes. Pressure up the middle on QB Blaine Gabbert will help the Iowa ends get heat on the mobile signal caller.
Missouri LT Elvis Fisher vs. Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn - Man, Clayborn has faced some serious challenges this season. He's found another one in Elvis, who will not leave the building open for shots at Gabbert.
Fisher will be starting his 40th game in a row as Missouri's left tackle. Clayborn is hoping to be closer to full strength after a regular season of nagging injuries.
The interesting thing about this match-up is that both players exhibit a good mixture of power and agility.
Missouri TE Michael Egnew vs. Iowa LEO Jeff Tarpinian/Troy Johnson - No offense to the Iowa players drawing this assignment. Both are solid veterans. That said, the Hawkeyes really could use injured Tyler Nielsen in this spot.
Egnew leads the nation's tight ends with 83 receptions in '10. The first-team AP all-American also has 698 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He's averaging almost seven catches a game.
Tarpinian has been banged up all season but was recovering nicely in preparations for the Insight. He's shown to be better than Johnson in coverage.
If Tarpinian can at least play on passing downs, that would be a lift for the Hawkeyes.
Regardless, linebackers will be challenged to stay with this possession receiver that runs precise routes. If Gabbert is given time, this kid will get open.
Moe leads Missouri with 893 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He reminds me a bit of former Michigan State and current Colts WR Blair White.
Missouri KR Marcus Murphy vs. Iowa KO Unit - Iowa fans have to hope that the coaches patched up some of the holes on this special team's unit. The short kick-offs against Minnesota are an all-too fresh memory of the failures here.
Murphy averaged 22.1 yards per kickoff (14-310) during the last six games of the regular season. His long was 39 yards. He's consistently posting returns that help his offense.
Iowa WR Marvin McNutt vs. Missouri CB Carl Gettis - Mr. McNutt is enjoying a fine season and will be the clear-cut, No. 1 guy the Missouri defense tries to stop with Johnson-Koulianos out. This is the junior from St. Louis' time to shine, especially if he wants to showcase his skills for the NFL. There is speculation that he'll test the waters after this game.
Gettis likely will receive the assignment of covering McNutt. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound senior will tie a school record with his 50th consecutive start in the Insight bowl. He has two interceptions, two fumbled recoveries, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Reisner caught 39 passes this season for 410 yards and two scores. He ranked third on Iowa in both categories.
Gooden ranks second on the team with 79 tackles and also is tied for the lead with two interceptions. At 6-2, 6-2, 225, he's shown the athletic ability to run with TEs, and he'll be challenged by Reisner.
Smith boasts 5.5 sacks on the season to go with an interception and two pass break-ups, showing he's disruptive. He also owns nine tackles for loss.
Zusevics has been solid in his first year as a starter. He's succeeded with excellent technique and he has the feet to frustrate Smith.
Iowa RB Marcus Coker vs. Missouri MLB Will Ebner - I stuck Ebner in here but I could have put various Missouri defenders who will try to confuse Iowa's true freshman RB. The Tigers nave lived off aggressive blitz packages that have helped result in an impressive 38 sacks in '10.
Coker has improved in recognition, but this will represent his stiffest challenge in that area. The Tigers also have shown a propensity to run blitz, forcing Coker to read that dimension.
Conversely, Coker is a tough runner. If Missouri gets caught with their hands dipping too often into the blitz cookie jar, the D.C, native can make them pay in the second level.
Iowa WRs Colin Sandeman/Keenan Davis vs. Missouri CB Kevin Rutland - With McNutt getting extra attention, Iowa's third and fourth receivers during the season, step up to two and three or 2A and 2B. Iowa would be helped greatly by some production here.
Sandeman was slowed by injuries during the final month of the season but managed 17 receptions this season and a pair of scores. Davis played last year as a true freshman and has hauled in 10 passes and a touchdown in '10. He's waited patiently for his opportunity and here it is.
Rutland is physical at 6-0, 195 and comes in with four QB sacks this season. The Iowa WRs will need to read hot with this kid.
-Mizzou's appearance in the Insight Bowl represents MU's 6th-consecutive bowl game outing, the longest stretch in school history.
-MU's 40 wins since 2007 ranks as 10th-most in the nation.
-A win would give the Tigers four straight wins to close a season for the first time since 1965.
-Among teams with at least six wins over FBS opponents in 2010, the winning percentage of MU's nine victims is second-highest in the nation (63-47 = 57.3%), behind only Auburn (86-60 = 58.9%).
-The Tigers have won their last seven games against Big Ten foes, since their last loss in 2001 at Michigan State.
-Mizzou's defense leads the Big 12 Conference, and ranks 6th in the nation, in scoring defense. Through 12 games, the Tigers are allowing an average of 15.17 points per game.
-Coming into the bowl game, Mizzou's defense is ranked #1 nationally in red zone defense, as opponents have scored just 55% of the time they've gotten inside the Tiger 20-yard line.
-Missouri's offensive line will take the field with a combined 141 career starts heading into the 2010 Insight Bowl.
-Missouri place kicker Grant Ressel is 16-of-18 on FGs (88.9%) and 42-of-44 on PATs, making him 42-of-45 on FGs (93.3%) and 81-of-83 on PATs (97.6%) for his career.
-Iowa ranks third in Big Ten bowl appearances. Ohio State has received a conference-best 42 bowl bids, followed by Michigan (40) and the Hawkeyes (25).
-Iowa will be playing a ranked opponent for the seventh time in 13 games, the most for a Kirk Ferentz coached Hawkeye team. Iowa played six ranked teams in 1999 and 2003.
-Seven of Iowa's 12 regular season opponents earned bowl invitations.
-Iowa is playing on December 28th for the first time ever.
-Iowa has five players on its roster from the state of Missouri. Those players include senior WR Paul Chaney, Jr., senior DE Adrian Clayborn, freshman LB Christian Kirksey, junior WR Marvin McNutt, Jr., and freshman WR Don Shumpert. All five are from the St. Louis area.
-Iowa assistant Phil Parker was an assistant coach at Toledo when the Toledo head coach was current Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel.
-Iowa is tied for first nationally in fewest turnovers (nine) and Missouri is 18th (16).
-Iowa is tied for seventh in turnover margin (+1.1) and Missouri is tied for 14th (+.92).
-Iowa is tied for 11th in interceptions (17) and Missouri is tied for 21st (16).
-Iowa and Missouri are tied for 43rd in sacks allowed (1.43).
-Senior QB Ricky Stanzi has established a school record with a touchdown pass in 21 consecutive games. With just the bowl game remaining, Stanzi's efficiency rating of 160.5 would also establish a school record.
Missouri is the type of team that's given Iowa problems in the past. The Tigers spread it out on offense and are aggressive defensively.
If Iowa stays in its base 3-4 defense, Gabbert and a bevy of skill players could pick apart the Hawkeye defense, which is banged up at linebacker. Coordinator Norm Parker is a master at finding ways to stop teams given time to prepare. I trust he will find ways to counter the Tigers' attack.
But will it be enough? Does he have the ingredients he needs at LB?
Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi and the offensive unit will need to be on their toes, read and react. Coker could use help in identifying blitzes.
Stanzi looked very inaccurate on deep balls and overall struggled with throws in the final month. And now he's lost two of his top four receivers in Johnson-Koulianos and Robinson.
The Big Ten has locked up the best bowl affiliations in college football. Pretty much every eligible team gets sent someplace warm.
The drawback in that setup is that conference schools often face opponents that have enjoyed superior seasons. That's certainly the case in this game.
Based on the season, Missouri is the better team here. The Tigers also have fewer question marks.
Missouri 27, IOWA 24