Big Ten morning links

An otherwise very encouraging Big Ten bowl season ended with a thud, as Iowa got hammered 45-28 by Tennessee at the TaxSlayer Bowl on Friday.

There was no real shame in losing to the Volunteers, a young and very athletic team that no doubt benefited from the extra bowl practices and was more excited to be in Jacksonville. Still, the Hawkeyes fell behind 28-0 early and weren't all that competitive from the jump, adding more misery to an extremely disappointing season in Iowa City.

Despite being blessed with one of the all-time great schedules on paper, Iowa finished a meager 7-6. Its best win? Take your pick between at Pitt or at Illinois. The team lacked an identity all season long.

So what now? A season like this should prompt a hard look at making some changes, whether that's on staff or in the general approach to doing things (repeatedly calling long-developing run plays to the outside against a speedy team like Tennessee, for instance, makes little sense). Kirk Ferentz isn't going anywhere, as he still has a $13 million buyout; he'll even receive a longevity bonus of $525,000 on Jan. 31.

Ferentz did shake up his staff two years ago, but he's mostly a stay-the-course guy. After the bowl loss, he insisted the program isn't "going to go down the drain." But there's little question the Hawkeyes have stagnated. Since the 11-2 Orange Bowl season of 2009, they've gone 34-30. They've lost four straight bowl games.

Iowa faces another offseason of fan grumbling, just as it did after the 4-8 season in 2012. There's a quarterback controversy brewing, too, as C.J. Beathard outplayed Jake Rudock vs. Tennessee.

Remember when Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst fired Bo Pelini two days after the Huskers beat Iowa on the road? Eichorst said then that he had to evaluate were Iowa was. When you look at where the Hawkeyes are today, compared to where the rest of the Big Ten is going, it's hard to feel too optimistic.

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