Each week during the season the Hawkeye Headquarters staff will predict the outcome of the Iowa football game.

Blake Hornstein (5-3): You all know the expression — you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.

The yodeling. The DPO watch. The Ferentz family goal. All disappearing into the ether.

Behind it all is an interim athletic director less than three months into her new job. When Beth Goetz announced Brian Ferentz would not be returning to the program, she steered the “drive to 325” off the side of a mountain.

Hawkeye fans could at least balance the emotions of knowing Brian’s return was unlikely with ugly performance after ugly performance.

If your name isn’t Kirk Ferentz or whoever viceroys the Sickos Committee, you’re probably not looking forward to whatever Big Ten West football we’re about to watch on Saturday. Heck, Jaster’s PS2 is already teasing us.

The bottom line is — Hawks fans can’t blame Brian Ferentz anymore. Heck, some of you have already turned from Kirk, to Kirk’s son to Kirk’s son in law (Tyler Barnes, Iowa’s recruiting coordinator).

Run whoever you’d like through the metaphorical guillotine. As Kirk tried to tell us all week, there’s still a game to be played this weekend.

Speaking of Ryan’s outdated piece of gaming equipment — I think it has a sense of humor. Not to mention the battle will be dueled at a baseball stadium.

Prediction: Iowa 6, Northwestern 3

Ryan Jaster (6-2*): An asterisk… that’s right. For this week at least. A lot has happened since Cooper DeJean was robbed of an iconic moment in a legendary rivalry, so we can’t dwell.

But let it be known that Floyd is in Minneapolis right now, saying “vacation is over – can I go home please?” (Soon.)

To the only place he’s known for almost a decade…

Iowa City, home of the Ferentz family. Kirk has pointed out before that staying together and watching his grandkids grow up nearby is important to his family, and Brian said he wouldn’t be able to look his kids in the eyes if he quit.

When it comes to “family,” only Vin Diesel in the Fast & Furious franchise could top the Ferentzes. Except even he doesn’t cite it as often. Yes, I looked it up.

Who could have imagined?

Marc Morehouse in 2012: “At some point, Kirk Ferentz and his three sons are going to be some sort of big story. It’s just too perfect.”

That’s the same 2012 as when Kirk made Brian Iowa’s offensive line coach and Brian made Kirk a grandfather, as reported here by Steve Batterson.

Adam Jacobi in 2013: “Kirk Ferentz should probably chill out on this whole ‘hiring the family’ business.”

Pat Harty in 2014: “Kirk cherishes the opportunity to work with his son, but not to the point of being nostalgic. The fact that Brian has the same job that Kirk had at the same stage in his life is a topic for later.”

Alex Hickey in 2022: “Kirk Ferentz is absolutely squandering what should be the golden age of Iowa football by continuing to employ his impossibly overmatched son Brian as the Hawks’ offensive coordinator.”

Deacon Hill to Blake Hornstein in 2023: “What this program’s about is about family and pulling through together.”

Dominic Toretto in 2023: “You will never be able to break my family.” 

Sorry, that guy doesn’t cover Iowa. Diesel’s character from the movies spoke the code — Kirk has lived it.

Then Beth Goetz arrived, and as Blake put it, there was suddenly a new sheriff in town

No more DPO. No more yodeling mountain climbing. Some who depended on it week to week aren’t taking it well. But it turns out, the point total mattered more than the win total after all.

While many fans were reading between every line, one random quip stood out to me at Kirk’s Tuesday news conference: “There’s no magic panacea.” 

True, but it doesn’t take a wizard to conjure a new playbook or create a competent offense in today’s game.

Brian knew 2022 needed to be better than 2021. It wasn’t. Then 2023 had to be better than 2022 – contractually. It isn’t. Somehow, the Hawkeyes offense kept finding new lows.

As Big Ten counterparts with bad-but-better offenses – Rutgers in 2022 and Indiana in 2023 – fired offensive coordinators midseason, the “now is not the time” mantra was increasingly ridiculed

No one survives a season like that, let alone three, which brings it back to family. Kirk Ferentz is the longest tenured head coach in college football. Brian has had seven seasons as OC. Since taking on that role in 2017, he’s also coached running backs, fullbacks and tight ends in various years, but the past two with him in charge of quarterbacks have been the worst by far. But references to Iowa’s offensive offenses date back to his first year in 2017

Iowa brought it on itself with its Barta-as-Brian’s-boss plan to comply with nepotism laws, and then Gary’s designated performance objectives to let it take care of itself instead of doing what needed to be done — doing what would have been done anywhere else. As I stated several times, if the Hawkeyes didn’t like the attention the contract alteration brought, they could end it. Beth did. Maybe not in the way some expected, but in the cleanest and clearest way possible. That’s leadership.

Still, some fans wondered, “How do you get fired on your weekend off?” I’d insert one of the “Friday” punchlines that populated my radio show in the 1990s, but that question calls for a factual answer. 3 years of blah. 2 yards of offense. 1 excuse after another. And zero tangible accountability

Blame the players. Blame the injuries. Blindside the upside. No. It was time. We’ll never know what Brian would have said in his bye-week news conference this year, because the most consistent program in America deviated from its standard operating procedure off the field – you could call it “a departure from protocol” – while arguing that doing things the same way with the same results on the field isn’t insanity. 

All of this is a distraction in Wrigley week. This offense is about to play in a ballpark – a venue more suited to scores under 25. Except for that one record-breaking game the Cubs won 26-23 in 1922, of course. (Hat tip to the same two teams scoring 23-22 in 1979, though.)

And here comes Northwestern, keepers of the bad loss in so many years. The standings are deadlocked at the top, but win out and Iowa should be in. Will the Hawkeyes rise up in denial and dogged defense of Brian Ferentz, like a couple of former fullbacks did this week (humorously intended or otherwise)?

If any fullback can carry the Hawks to a Big Ten West title, it’s a man named Hayden Large, but as Kirk said repeatedly on Tuesday, let’s not look past the game directly ahead. 

The Totally Irrelevant Prediction says Iowa has enough to win … 6-3?! In overtime?! 

Wrigley Field was not “in the game” in 2004, , because it wasn’t in the game of college football between 1938 and 2010. So we went with Bank One Ballpark, home of the current National League champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Both starting quarterbacks got hurt – Iowa’s on the first play, Northwestern’s in the first quarter – and the game ended with a bona-fide baseball score.

Despite how ominous that seems, take all of this with a grain of important disclaimer.

The Hawkologist’s prognosis is a 1 on the 6-point pain index.

Here’s a look at what others from near and far expect, starting with the weather from Our Quad Cities Weather’s Tyler Ryan:

David Eickholt: The Hawkeyes need a big bounce-back kind of game. After losing to Minnesota on a controversial call, it would be easy to lose focus. On top of that, Brian Ferentz will not be with the team next season, but will finish out this year. Northwestern should be proud with the way they have responded after its difficult offseason.

Iowa is the better team and I have a hard time to see the Wildcats move the football against this defense. The Hawkeyes have only allowed one touchdown in the last 17 quarters of Big Ten West play. With Brian’s departure, I think it’s going to rally the offense and that the Hawkeyes will play a little more aggressive.

At 6-2, Iowa has more to play for than Northwestern and I think Iowa will come out like it. Keep an eye on a Cooper DeJean pick.

Iowa 20, Northwestern 10

Bill Connelly: Iowa 24, Northwestern 12

Athlon Sports
Steven Lassan: Iowa
Joe Vitale: Iowa
Luke Easterling: Iowa

Bleacher Report
David Kenyon: 
Iowa 24, Northwestern 13

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FILE – Illinois plays against Northwestern during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, in Chicago, on Nov. 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)