A 10-2 mark, a spot in the Top 20 of the College Football Playoff rankings, and a 2nd division crown in 3 years could be written off as a success for several programs nationally.

For Iowa? There’s an overwhelming sentiment that Kirk Ferentz’s team achieved most of that in spite of themselves.

Look no further than the Hawkeyes’ inept offense as the most credible evidence supporting that claim: 18 points per game, which would have been lower save a 41-10 Week 3 win over Western Michigan. That’s why they’ll be hunting for a new OC with Brian Ferentz out after this season. If not for a Top 10 defense engineered by Phil Parker, 2023 would have been a total wash.

Hawkeyes fans may be bracing for a blowout loss to Michigan in the B1G Championship Game rather than hoping for a win in Indianapolis. Here’s a stock report with the regular season in the books:

Most improved: MLB Jay Higgins

It was next man up for the Hawkeyes with Jack Campbell headed to the NFL. Higgins may be the next great middle linebacker to come out of Iowa City.

Higgins made the switch from the Cash spot and shifted to MLB in Campbell’s absence. In 12 regular season games, he totaled 141 tackles, 4.0 TFLs, and a sack, while nabbing an interception and forcing a pair of fumbles.

There’s plenty of talent on the board for the NFL Draft, but Higgins’s stock has risen tremendously this season.

Biggest surprise: That the Hawkeyes made it to 10 wins in the 1st place

Taking a look at Iowa’s wins this year, some of them could have just as easily gone the other way.

The Cy-Hawk Trophy game saw the Hawkeyes win by a touchdown. The victory against Purdue was a 6-pointer. Northwestern, Illinois, and Nebraska were all by 3 points or less.

There’s a world where Iowa could have been just as easily 5-7 rather than 10-2. And its offense, which spun its wheels more often than not, made its fans sweat out a number of games during the season.

Best win

Technically, there was no “signature win” for the Hawkeyes in the traditional sense this season, but going into your rival’s stadium and taking back the Cy-Hawk Trophy is a good a win as any.

Last year, Iowa State came into Kinnick Stadium and beat Iowa 10-7 as Aaron Blom missed a 48-yard field goal as time expired. But the Hawkeyes got their revenge in Ames in Week 2, winning 20-13.

Despite holding a 20-3 lead late in the 3rd, the Hawkeyes nearly let the Cyclones come all the way back, but their defense came up with a key stop with just under 90 seconds to go to ensure the Cy-Hawk Trophy returned to Iowa City.

Worst loss

The easy call would be to point to the 31-0 loss to Penn State at Happy Valley, but the Hawkeyes weren’t really favored to win that in the 1st place. Instead, their 12-10 home defeat to Minnesota in Week 8 takes the “honors” here. The Golden Gophers hadn’t won in Iowa City since 1999 and had dropped the last 8 games in the series coming in.

Basically everything that could have gone wrong did: Iowa’s run game was a non-factor in this one, registering just 11 yards on 28 carries. Deacon Hill threw for just 116 yards and was sacked 4 times. The Hawkeyes turned it over 3 times.

To top it off, Cooper DeJean appeared to bring back a Golden Gophers punt 54 yards for a touchdown that would have given his team the lead with less than 90 seconds remaining. But officials ruled that he had signaled for a fair catch.

Hill, with plenty of time to position the Hawkeyes for a game-winning field goal, went sack-incomplete-interception on the ensuing drive. Game over.

Play of the Year

Let’s rewind to Saturday, and Marshall Meeder stepping on to the field for a game-winning 38-yard attempt. Meeder, added from the transfer portal in the offseason, wasn’t even supposed to be in this position anyway: Drew Stevens was watching from the bench after an awful day at the office.

But Meeder it was. And the South Carolina native made good on his attempt to top Nebraska and deny the Cornhuskers a bowl bid.