Iowa's football team is getting better every day.
Bobby Williams, who is in no danger of being classified as a coaching giant, said so today.
"Iowa is probably playing as good as anybody in the country,'' Williams said.
The Michigan State coach evidently upgraded his opinion of the Hawkeyes after giving it some thought since Saturday.
Following the Spartans' 44-16 loss in Iowa City, I asked Williams what he thought of Iowa.
"Iowa has a very, very good team,'' he said. "No question they're one of the best teams in the conference.''
Keep Him in the Conference
Still on the subject of Williams, a man from eastern Iowa e-mailed me with this message:
"I'm organizing a group to keep Bobby Williams in the Big Ten. Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz is my first member.
"How about Seneca Wallace's run Saturday night? He is going to win the Heisman Trophy by default. All the other hopefuls are taking gas.''
Indiana No Push-Over—Just Ask Badgers
Gerry DiNardo, Indiana's first-year coach, said, "Iowa probably has been playing as well as anybody in the conference. They certainly threaten our defense with a running game that's as good as anybody's in the conference.
"That's a place where we'll spend a lot of time (in practice) this week.''
DiNardo's team is an 11 1/2-point underdog in its 11:10 a.m. game Saturday at Bloomington, Ind.
However, the Hoosiers (3-3 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten) showed how dangerous they can be last week by rallying from a 19-point deficit to upset then-No. 23 Wisconsin, 32-29.
"The first thing that jumps out at you about Indiana is the emotion, enthusiasm and effort they're playing with,'' Ferentz said today. "Gerry has done a great job with that team.
"I know full well how tough it is to come into a new situation. Gerry has done that a couple of times. So he probably went to work a heck of a lot faster than we did.
"They've changed their style pretty dramatically, especially on the offensive side. Anytime you come back from a 29-10 deficit tells you the character and heart your team is playing with.
"To do it against a ranked team and a worthy opponent speaks louder about how the players have bought into the program.''
Being Smart and Lucky
Asked how Iowa defended Michigan State pass receiver Charles Rogers so well, Ferentz said, "I'm still not sure how we did it. It was a cumulative effort. We tweaked our schemes a hair. You'd better be smart about what you're doing—and you have to be lucky. Rogers is a fantastic player.''
Iowa, which was ranked next-to-last in pass defense among major-college teams, held Rogers—potentially a standout NFL receiver in the future—to five receptions for 78 yards. His NCAA-record streak of catching a touchdown pass in consecutive games ended at 14.
Maybe He Should Be Governor, Too
Ferentz raved again today about the quality of football in the state of Iowa. The Hawkeyes are ranked No. 15 in the Associated Press poll and No. 16 in the coaches' poll. Iowa State is No. 9 in the AP poll, No. 13 in the coaches' poll.
"Dan McCarney (the Cyclones' coach) took over long before I got back here,'' Ferentz said. "He took over a situation that was different. They were really down as a program.
"Iowa State doesn't have much in terms of tradition, and I don't mean to say that in a negative way. But look at their bowl history and so forth. It's been a tough grind for him.
"I'm not at all surprised (at what has happened). Dan has done a fantastic job, not unlike what Barry Alvarez has done at Wisconsin and Bill Snyder has done at Kansas State.''
Ferentz, McCarney, Alvarez and Snyder are all former assistants under former Iowa Coach Hayden Fry.
"It's a great thing for our state,'' Ferentz said of the success of Iowa and Iowa State. "We felt that way last winter, too. Both Iowa and Iowa State were playing in bowl games and Northern Iowa, our Division I-AA school, was in a championship game.
"We don't have a lot of people in this state, as you know. We're under 3 million in population. The high school football in our state is excellent, the coaching is excellent. It's great, and we're hopeful it continues.''
Jan. 1 Bowl Game for Iowa?
College Football News has Iowa projected to play Tennessee in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day in Tampa, Fla.
The game matches the No. 3 team from the Big Ten against the No. 3 team from the Southeastern Conference.
The same source projects Iowa State to play Oregon in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 28 in San Diego. That game matches the No. 3 team from the Big 12 against the No. 2 team from the Pac-10.
Don't get too excited, and don't order any bowl tickets yet. Iowa st[ill has five regular-season games remaining, and Iowa State has six. The projections change weekly.
Instant Replay? Forget It
Ferentz said he gives "little thought'' to the possibility of having instant replay in college football.
"The coaches have talked about it, but I don't think it's feasible from a financial standpoint,'' he said. "I can't see a conference (like the Big Ten) doing it on its own. It's a very expensive venture.''
Vol. 2, No. 77
Oct. 15, 2002
[Ron Maly's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org ]