Like it or not, Iowa wont go away quietly
Dream season unfolding for the Hawkeyes
The first College Football Playoff ranking of 2015 has been released and the top four are some usual suspects in Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, and Alabama, however at number nine in the rankings is a team that not many people would have expected to be there before the season started or be undefeated at this time of the year; University of Iowa.
The Hawkeyes are 8-0 and have a great shot at running the table, as their next four opponents are a combined 13-20, so barring any slip ups Iowa should be 12-0 at the end of the year.
Now I know the first thing people pointed out was Iowa’s strength of schedule which was one of the weakest in the country, but entering their ninth game of the season that schedule isn’t looking as “cupcake” as many projected. They beat a tough Pittsburgh team at home, who was recently ranked as high as 23rd until the Panthers were upset by North Carolina, the Hawkeyes also have gone on the road to beat both Wisconsin and Northwestern. That same Northwestern team beat Stanford to open the season, and Iowa beat the Wildcats with roughly half of their starters hurt, including their quarterback CJ Beathard who is battling a nagging groin injury, their third string running back Akrum Wadley rushing for 207 yards and four touchdowns, and a defense that held Northwestern to 10 points a week after losing their best defensive player Drew Ott to a torn ACL.
This team feels new and improved under “new Kirk” as many Iowa fans have started to call their long time head coach. What was our first clue that this is a different Kirk Ferentz, who had been on the hot seat before the season started?
Ferentz named the junior Beathard the starting quarterback in December of 2014, ending the Jake Rudock era in Iowa City as Rudock transferred to Michigan. The difference in quarterback style was drastic and it was a change that Kirk needed to make, Bethard has the bigger arm, is more accurate, and could also extend plays with his feet. Beathard has also been very careful with the football, throwing three interceptions while tossing nine touchdowns. CJ has been everything coach Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis could ask for and he’s done this all while being banged up, managing to make plays with his limited mobility.
The running game for the Hawkeyes has probably been the biggest reason as to why CJ has been so successful. It has been running back by committee deal for Iowa, but man what a committee it’s been. After losing starter LeShun Daniels to an ankle injury, oft-injured senior Jordan Canzeri ran for almost 700 yards in seven games with Daniels is sidelined, then during the Northwestern win Canzeri also sustained an ankle injury, forcing Ferentz to go with the sophomore Wadley.
The depth Iowa has at running back has been just excellent this season, this great running game is also a great credit to the “big uglies” up front who’ve created excellent holes for these guys to exploit and break off big runs time and time again. This offensive line which lost the Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff to the NFL, is now anchored by Austin Blythe has just been terrific this year for the run game along with their pass protection.
Ferentz has also opened up his mind and the playbook for that matter. He’s brought out fake punts and fake field goals on occasion this year, and going for it on fourth and short when you wouldn’t expect him too. It’s almost as if someone told him this offseason to have a little fun with the team this year. Kirk has always taken a businesslike approach when it comes to his press conferences, interviews, and game day strategies. That act had gotten tiresome in Iowa City, where a lot of fans were asking for Ferentz to get the axe after a thrashing by Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl last season.
It’s pretty easy to tell Kirk is more relaxed and has loosened up on the sidelines just by the play calling and the attitude of the players around him. Even though Ferentz has changed he’s reminiscent of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, not really cracking a smile or getting out of control on the sidelines, even during his press conferences Kirk always been very vanilla.
Like them or not, call them a “boring team”, tell me how they’ve beaten “nobody” you can try whatever you want to belittle what Iowa has done so far this year but guess what? Iowa doesn’t care what any of you think, they’re just going to keep mowing down every opponent that comes knocking on their door trying to end their perfect season.