Kirk Ferentz beat cancel culture. Now Iowa could be the team to beat
1. The history of B1G
Let me reintroduce you to a story that has defied all odds, a story that, in an age of cancellation of Mafia culture and rules, should have no chance of survival.
Yet one way or another it does – for all the right reasons. Well, that and the current longest winning streak in the Big Ten might have something to do with it.
“It’s all about working through things,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Determine what we need to do, how we can improve. Just like you do when you lose a football game.
Only it wasn’t a game. It was real life.
When allegations of racial conflict, bullying and discrimination engulfed the program last summer, when those allegations cost jobs – including longtime coach Chris Doyle – and led 8 former players to sue the university and to demand the dismissal of Ferentz (the trial is scheduled for 2023), an inevitable change is fast approaching.
People, jobs and even longstanding traditions do not survive this time when these allegations are being made. The NFL, the biggest and worst sports brand on the planet, took less than 24 hours to get rid of the Jaguars’ hiring of Doyle.
How desperate did it look last year in Iowa? After losing to Purdue and Northwestern to start the season, I wrote that Iowa would have to win for Ferentz to save their job.
And sonofgun, if the Hawkeyes didn’t succeed.
Winning, everyone, is the ultimate balm. This does not mean that a jury will not ultimately side with the 8 players, nor will it declare that Ferentz and the program are guilty of anything.
What is true is that Ferentz saw an opportunity for change – whether by force or intuition or both – and made it work. He instituted a board of directors for the players to give constant feedback, and listened and changed daily.
He gave players more input into the program, an investment that strengthened working relationships and team chemistry. He’s streamlined the process of going straight to him if there’s a problem, with the idea of eliminating any sort of simmering problem.
It’s not like Ferentz has trampled on Iowa players for two decades. He has always been regarded as a player coach and has an excellent reputation within the coaching community.
But when allegations do surface, the very last thing you can do in this age of cancellation culture is to ignore them. You take corrective action – and then win matches if you can.
After beating Big Ten Darling Indiana last week, Iowa has won 7 straight games since losing 2 in a row to start the 2020 season and ignite the Kirk Must Go crowd.
They steer the ball with power and determination. They throw with just enough efficiency to keep the defenses from overwhelming the running game.
And man, are they playing defense.
In the age of the passing offense, the Iowa defense has allowed no more than 24 points in 23 straight games. This is unheard of at a time when offenses get over 24 in a half.
This team, which was unable to play the final game of the regular season against Michigan due to Covid issues in the Michigan schedule, and withdrew from a bowl game, is one of the most successful teams. hottest college football.
That brings us to this weekend’s heavyweight game against bitter rival Iowa State. Maybe, just maybe, the greatest game in the series ever.
Iowa State is a legitimate threat to win the Big 12 and advance to the college football playoffs. And if you haven’t noticed it yet, this season – and all 6 games of 2020 – is starting to look a lot like 2015, when undefeated Iowa had to beat Michigan to reach the CFP and lose by 3 points.
This Iowa team won with defense and good running play, and just enough of QB CJ Beathard. This Iowa team looks eerily similar, but with one significant difference: they faced adversity a year ago.
They saved their coach’s job and pushed back the culture of cancellation. Two things that are almost unknown these days.
2. Cade in control
Ladies and gentlemen, Jim Harbaugh has a quarterback in Michigan. No really, he does.
We know because after a strong start to his career last year in the COVID-shortened season, Cade McNamara followed up with a catchy performance last week against Western Michigan.
Go ahead, find something negative to say about a guy who made 81% of his passes and threw 2 TD against 0 INT, and averaged 12.4 yards per attempt.
But we’ve been down that road before, where Michigan has found a quarterback and the big games are coming, and said quarterback is nowhere to be found. It all started with the transfer of Jake Rudock to Iowa, which brought Michigan to its peak under Harbaugh: the Citrus Bowl victory over Florida.
And while that doesn’t mean much, check out the rest of the stargroup acquired by Guru QB:
– Wilton Speight (difficult to upgrade, career ended at UCLA).
– Houston transfer John O’Korn (UM career: 2 TD, 4 INT).
– Brandon Peters (transferred to Illinois).
– Ole Miss transfers Shea Patterson (the best of Harbaugh’s QBs; 45 TDs in 2 seasons).
– Dylan McCaffrey (transferred to northern Colorado).
– Joe Milton (transferred to Tennessee).
So here we are with McNamara, who has yet to throw an interception in 82 career passes. He throws a precise, catchable ball and has enough speed to complete each throw.
What that means for games at Wisconsin, Penn State, and, of course, Ohio State accommodation, is one to guess at this point – especially given Michigan’s track record in these rivalry games (Harbaugh a 5-11).
It might be better if we start with Washington this week. Baby steps, everyone.
Washington lost to FCS Montana last week, but that doesn’t mean anything to Harbaugh, who says he’s excited about quarterbacks and it was good to have freshman replacement JJ McCarthy against Western Michigan.
“I have a good idea that Washington has been preparing for us for a long time,” Harbaugh said. “It’s an important game for both teams, so I think the first game doesn’t matter.
3. The Big Green meritocracy
Mel Tucker calls this a culture change, and for the most part it’s not that much different from most.
Push yourself where you’re uncomfortable, then push more. This is where you learn and grow.
And if you don’t, they find someone else.
Tucker didn’t like what he had in his waiting room at Michigan State, so he went out and signed Kenneth Walker III from the transfer portal. Walker never really got the chance to be No.1 in Wake Forest. He found a home with Tucker’s mantra: play fast and play hard.
In Week 1 on the road against a strong Northwest defense, Walker had 264 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 23 carries. Tucker has insisted throughout the offseason on the need for more pieces on offense.
Check out these Walker pieces: 50, 30, 23, 16 and 14 meter runs. When you average 11.5 yards per carry it helps QB Payton Thorne play almost flawlessly after a 2020 season where he played so uneven, Tucker also brought in a portal player (Anthony Russo, Temple) for this work.
Only this time, Thorne beat Russo and kept the job. For now, anyway.
Everything is fluid with Tucker. He doesn’t mince words or make promises.
It’s a meritocracy in Michigan State, and if you’re not comfortable being uncomfortable, move on.
“We have to get this thing done,” Tucker has said repeatedly since spring football while preaching on a culture change. “You can’t hope to get better. You have to get better, period.
Or he’ll find someone who will.
4. Power on
This week’s Power Poll, and one important thing: Week 1 reality check.
1. Ohio State: Maybe it’s not plug and play at the most important position on the court after all. I’m not chasing CJ Stroud, but he needs to improve for Ohio State to be the elite.
2. Penn State: The offensive line can’t play like it did against Wisconsin and win the Big Ten. In time, quarterback Sean Clifford will have a big season.
3. Iowa: There’s no other way to put it: QB Spencer Petras needs to play better. Completing 48% of your passes will eventually catch up with you. Maybe even this week.
4. Wisconsin: Don’t fire QB Graham Mertz just yet. At the end of the season, you’ll see a different player – and understand how good Penn State’s defense really is.
5. Minnesota: VG star Mo Ibrahim has finished his season. It’s a long fall to save Treyson Potts. Worse: QB Tanner Morgan’s regression from 2020 continued into week 1.
6. Indiana: The Hoosiers aren’t a flash of a season; they met a strong team from Iowa which is the team to beat in the West Division.
7. Michigan: You don’t want to start talking about must-see scenarios 2 weeks into the season, but if UM loses to Washington, which just lost to FCS Montana, well, it’s going to get ugly.
8. Michigan State: Sparty appears to have 2 of the 3 critical components (running play, defense). Unfortunately, most important of all (the quarterback) remains a big question.
9. Purdue: Getting QB Jack Plummer back healthy and performing at a high level is huge for a program that took a big step backwards in 2020.
10. Northwestern: Defense, Northwestern’s DNA under coach Pat Fitzgerald, seemed outclassed against Michigan State. New coordinator, new players, big questions.
11. Maryland: Remember that the Taulia is not a Tua speech? Young Tagovailoa is ready for a huge season. If only Maryland D could follow.
12. Rutgers: Rutgers starts the season with bad (Temple), worst (Syracuse) and FCS Delaware. Nothing is known about this team until the end of September.
13. Illinois: Just when you thought it was safe to believe in Illinois, comes UTSA. That’s right, I said UTSA. It’s a process, and Bret Bielema has to play with the guys he has.
14. Nebraska: I hate to be the wet blanket here, but Buffalo is a solid MAC team. The Huskers had better get down to work to avoid a loss before a rivalry game with Oklahoma.
5. The five weeklies
Five games against the spread.
- Illinois to Virginia -10
- Oregon to Ohio State -14
- Buffalo +13 in Nebraska
- Iowa +4.5 in Iowa State
- Washington +6 in Michigan
Last week: 3-2