How Good Are The Hawks?

Veteran sportswriter, Ron Maly, wonders if Kirk Ferentz's 2002 team, now ranked No. 9 nationally, could wind up to be the best in modern football history at Iowa!

Multiple-choice question:

Q. What's the best way an Iowa football fan can spend a Saturday afternoon?

(a) Attending a game at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 26, 2002
(b) Watching Michigan's fans start filing out of the place in the third quarter
(c) Being able to hold up a "Rose Bowl" sign and not be accused of spiking his Pepsi with something stronger
(d) Watching the Hawkeye quarterback take a knee in the fourth quarter
(e) All of the above

The correct answer, of course, is "e."

Everybody keeps saying Iowa is the best team in the Big Ten, and I'm starting to believe it after Saturday's 34-9 victory over Michigan.

Ohio State? Forget it. The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes don't play this season, so Iowa's fans can claim that their team is best, at least right now, and no one can say they're wrong.

The Hawkeyes were rewarded for their success at Ann Arbor by being ranked No. 9 in today's Associated Press poll and No. 10 in the coaches' poll. They were No. 13 in the AP poll and No. 14 in the coaches' poll last week.

Iowa State is No. 22 in the AP poll and No. 23 in the coaches' poll after consecutive losses at Oklahoma and Texas.

Remaining on the Hawkeyes' regular-season schedule are games in Iowa City against Wisconsin on Saturday and Northwestern on Nov. 9, and a date with Minnesota on Nov. 16 in Minneapolis.

Let me say right now that the thought of having to play the Gophers in the Metrodome on the final week of the regular season to sew up a Big Ten title, or a tie for it, makes me a bit uncomfortable.

But Kirk Ferentz's team has answered most challenges so far this season, with the exception of Iowa State, of course, so all the Hawkeye fans can figure is that he'll have his team ready to cross the Minnesota bridge when the time arrives.

As long as I'm on a "best'' theme, I'm also starting to wonder if this might turn out to be the best football team Iowa has ever had, at least in the modern era.

Time, of course, will tell. Check with me on Jan. 2, 2003 and I'll have a better answer.

I'll likely get some argument from those who feel Forest Evashevski's powerful 1956 Hawkeye team (9-1) and 1958 team (8-1-1), both of which won Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl games, were better.

The 1958 team finished No. 2 nationally behind Louisiana State, and the 1956 squad finished No. 3 behind Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Evashevski's 1960 team—another tremendous outfit--finished 8-1, tied for the Big Ten title with Minnesota and was ranked No. 3 nationally, but didn't get the opportunity to play in a bowl game because the Big Ten sent only one team into postseason games then.

The 2002 team hasn't won the Big Ten title or Rose Bowl yet, but is on its way toward getting the chance. Besides, playing a 12-game regular, season schedule; it has the chance to win more games than any Iowa team in history.

Howard Jones' 1921 and 1922 teams both finished with 7-0 records, Big Ten championships and mythical national title recognition. Jones' teams won 20 consecutive games from 1920-1923.

However, as outstanding as those teams were, there were no bowl games for the Hawkeyes then. So there was no way to prove how good they actually were. Besides, they played before the so-called modern era began in 1939.

The 1939 Ironmen, coached by Eddie Anderson and led by Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick, finished second in the Big Ten and No. 9 nationally with a 6-1-1 record.

Hayden Fry's best team at Iowa was the 1985 group that was ranked No. 1 nationally for five weeks. However, the Hawkeyes had a disappointing finish—being upset by UCLA, 45-28, in the Rose Bowl to end a 10-2 season. They wound up No. 10 in the final national rankings.

Fry's 1991 team finished second in the Big Ten and No. 10 nationally after going 10-1-1. The loss was to Michigan, 43-24, and the tie was with Brigham Young, 13-13, in the Holiday Bowl.

Iowa's C. J. Jones, who caught touchdown passes of 39 and 3 yards thrown by his cousin, Brad Banks, said he was "smelling roses'' after Iowa improved its Rose Bowl hopes and moved its records to 8-1 overall and 5-0 in the Big Ten at Michigan.

Iowa hadn't beaten Michigan since 1990, and this was the biggest victory ever by the Hawkeyes in The Big House, otherwise known as Michigan Stadium.

Iowa clearly outclassed Michigan, and the Wolverines knew it.

"Let's face it, it was embarrassing,'' said Michigan running back Chris Perry, who was limited to 14 yards on nine carries by a savage Iowa defense that held the Wolverines to 153 total yards.

"I've never been in a butt-kicking like that,'' said Wolverines defensive end Dan Rumishek.

Whether Iowa, indeed, goes to the Rose Bowl depends on a number of things out of its control –such as Ohio State. But, Pasadena or not, the Hawkeyes appear headed to a very good bowl game.

And there should be no argument about who will be the Big Ten's coach of the year.

Anyone other than Kirk Ferentz would be a miscarriage of justice.

Some Questions

Question: Was Michigan really that bad or did Iowa make Michigan look that bad?

Question: Do you suppose Aaron Greving is already wondering if he made the right decision to quit?

Question: How long will it be before fans think Jermelle Lewis should be the starter at running back?

Question: You don't suppose Barry Alvarez would dare rain on Iowa's parade Saturday, do you? The more I think about it, the scarier that Wisconsin game gets.

Question: How in the world did Bob Davie screw up a Notre Dame team that had all the talent Tyrone Willingham is winning with now?

Question: How soon will Bret Bielema get back on the coaching staff at Iowa? Bielema (now at Kansas State) was the assistant coach who recruited a number of the Hawkeyes' outstanding players from Florida.

Question: Anybody seen any sign of Iowa State's rushing game? Got any eligibility left, Troy Davis?

Question: How many four-letter words did Bo Schembechler use when he saw Michigan have a grand total of 33 yards rushing against Iowa?

Question: Would you really want to be Missouri next Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames? Dan McCarney is going to have his Cyclones in a very foul mood.

Question: Do you think Benny Sapp wishes he could do it all over again?

Question: Will the World Series end anytime soon? And, like Hayden Fry used to say, who's playing?

Bowden's Dumb Comment

I'm the last guy to say Bobby Bowden should be put out to pasture. I'd never say that about about a guy of Bowden's age (72) and stature. It's just that ol' Bobby needs to think a little before he talks. In the event you missed the ridiculous comment that came out of his mouth Saturday, let me tell you about it.

After his Florida State team lost to Notre Dame, 34-24, Bowden was talking about how the unbeaten Fighting Irish continue beating teams by creating defensive turnovers.

"They work on it, they force them,'' Bowden said at his press conference. "That's the way they beat everybody. So just count us in the club. We're in a club. They're serial killers. They kill everybody the same way. No change.''

A short time later, Florida State officials issued a statement with Bowden's apology for the reference to "serial killers.''

"I used an analogy I should not have said,'' Bowden said in the statement. "Especially in the wake of recent events. I certainly meant no disrespect.''

Bowden was criticized earlier in the season by some who thought his choice of the "Let's Roll'' slogan trivialized the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Bowden called that criticism "stupid'' and I couldn't find that much fault with it, either.

But serial killers? Come on, Bobby. Dad-gum-it, think a little bit.
Ron Maly
Vol. 2, No. 93
Oct. 27, 2002
[While wondering how long the wolves will be howling outside Lloyd Carr's home in Michigan, Ron Maly mentions that he can be e-mailed at malyr@juno.com ]


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