If you're waiting to Kirk Ferentz to begin defending his team, you might want to bring some reading materials. The Iowa coach is in no hurry to sell his Hawkeyes to pollsters or naysayers in the national media.
"If it's appropriate, (Ferentz will campaign), but it's not right now," Ferentz said. "We are 9-0, we have three games to go; three tough games. It's so far away in my mind."
And that's where it should be.
Coach Mack Brown showed up on ESPN recently pleading his case that his undefeated and third-ranked Texas team was as good as unbeaten Florida or Alabama, the two teams rated ahead of the Longhorns in the BCS. While that might have planted a seed for a voter or two who saw that piece, it didn't move them up in the polls. It probably just charged up the folks in Austin.
Much of the Iowa fan base is beside itself with national talking heads, bloggers and others discrediting its team's accomplishments. Maybe they view it as a mounting conspiracy that will keep the Hawkeyes out of the national title game should they finish with a perfect record. Hey, a lot of us like conspiracies, but you'll be wrong more often than not buying into them.
"I am just going off experience," Ferentz said. "I really think that it seems like other than one year (2004, Auburn), there has not been controversy. Sometimes I wonder why people get so stoked up. It seems to work out at the end.
"The debate is if everyone has one loss. If everyone has one loss, there will be a debate then."
That could be fun. As someone who pulls for a playoff system in college football, the possibility of sitting back and watching those fireworks creates a day-dreaming, thought-bubble above a smiling face.
Back in '04, Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville talked to whoever would listen in the media when it appeared his Tigers might get shut out of the title game. He pleaded his case to no avail.
"I am so uninterested in that right now," Ferentz said. "I'm just so uninterested in that. We'll probably end up where we belong at the end of the day. The drama and the suspense (are) not killing me. I can assure you it's not killing me. It hasn't been."
This approach might surprise people unfamiliar with Ferentz's modus operandi. He's not big on worrying about things out of his control. What he can dictate is preparing with maximum effort for the last three games of the regular season, which continues Saturday when coming to Kinnick Stadium will be Northwestern, a team that has defeated Iowa in three of their last four meetings, including the last two in Iowa City.
Sitting at 9-0 and in the debate for a national championship weren't in the minds of many Hawkeye fans, let alone the college football followers at the outset of the season. Iowa has reached this point by staying grounded and away from the hype. Ferentz has led that charge.
The Iowa coach also wants his players to enjoy this ride, which he should. Too often in sports and life, people get caught up in how the story ends and miss out on some enjoyable content.
"(Iowa Defensive Coordinator) Norm (Parker) had a pretty good point," Ferentz said. "How many times in your life have been you been 9-0? I haven't thought about it, maybe in baseball. Those are probably the only good teams I've been associated with are baseball teams."
Teams usually play a lot more than 12 games in a regular baseball season, too. There aren't a whole lot of high school football players than can say they were part of a 9-0 team.
Iowa's previous best start occurred in 1985 when the Hawkeyes began 7-0. The Hawkeyes' first recognized season was 1889.
The historical reference puts this season in perspective. Yes, the Hawkeyes could shock the sports world by finishing on top of the mountain. But there's no need to change a script that already is delivering an unforgettable opening nine weeks.
Ferentz never has been concerned with style points, yet he's put together one of the most successful runs in school history. He's not changed since he took over in '99 and won one game. He's always believed you get what you deserve in life and sports, so he won't lobby for handouts from anyone until the resume is complete, if at all.
The coach is fine letting the pundits pick apart a resume that includes a close win just about weekly, no matter who the opponent.
"We'll take inventory after the season is over where we're at and what we did," Ferentz said. "And, you're not going to hear anybody in our camp, I hope, crying about it. I don't study this stuff, but the one thing I have noticed casually listening and paying attention over the years, usually the first team to complain is the first team to get beat. So, if that's prominent in your thoughts, you're really thinking about the wrong things.
"I think I speak for our team, you have to ask them, I'm sure you will. But I don't think anybody's worried about it right now. I think we all realize we have three really tough games waiting for us.
"I guess it's fueled for the fire to the discussions. But we're hardly the team that's going to go out there and wow anybody. That's just not our deal. We just need to keep thinking about what we have to do to find a way to win."
It's worked nine weeks in a row.
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