So the Iowa Hawkeyes are 12-0. Some of you might have been aware of this, but I'll say it again just in case you didn't see me write it the first time: The Iowa Hawkeyes are 12-0. However, Iowa wasn't always 12-0. Hell, they weren't even always 11-0....or even good. Don't believe me? Fine, I'll prove it. Sherman, set the wayback machine to January 2, 2015.
It's the TaxSlayer Bowl. Iowa is playing an aggressively mediocre 6-6 Tennessee team with a guy named "Pig Howard" on the depth chart, and trailing 42-7 after the 3rd quarter. They are getting beat so bad, Kirk Ferentz's face is literally bleeding. Mark Weisman is getting 1.4 yards per carry, Jake Rudock has been benched, Jonathan Parker did that thing we will never speak of again, and CJ Beathard is being escorted away from reporters by armed policemen. The Volunteers did the impossible and made Jacksonville an even more horrible place to be. Clearly, we inhabit the darkest timeline.
A friend asked me during this time period if I thought Kirk Ferentz was like a good dog that needed to be put down. I responded by saying he was more like a good dog that I would foolishly shell out $2,000 I couldn't afford for life saving surgery. By January 3rd, I was wondering if putting him down was actually the right choice
We all know about Iowa's slow decline over the last few years. After parting ways with Ken O'Keefe and Norm Parker, the Hawkeyes had an awful 4-8 campaign, followed by an 8-5 year just barely good enough to give everyone false hopes, and then fell back to earth by losing every trophy game and going 7-6. This process took 3 years (5 if you count 2011 and/or 2010). The TaxSlayer Bowl was twice as eye-opening, and it only took 60 minutes.
Give the Volunteers credit. The players were more physical, the coaches were making better playcalls, and their fans effectively made it a home game. In fact, if you see a Tennessee fan nearby go up and hug them, because I don't think anything would have changed if they had only won by a touchdown. If it's a close game...well, that's football. But by blowing Iowa out, Tennessee exposed numerous, glaring problems that needed to be addressed. Sure, Minnesota had dismantled the Hawkeyes earlier in the season, but this felt different. This felt worse. Ferentz the Grey died that day while fighting the mighty Balrog that was the Tennessee Volunteers, but the football gods were not yet done with him, and so he was returned to us as Ferentz the White.
Back in good ol' 2015: Well here we are. Iowa is 12-0. Most of the players are the same, but their fundamentals and execution are so much better that you probably wouldn't know otherwise. Greg Davis has finally figured out a way to get his playmakers in the game, Phil Parker is cashing in on an experienced group of defenders, and Kirk Ferentz has taken the offensive line that was to be this team's Achilles' Heel and let them bully their way to Indianapolis.
Not enough can be said about this coaching staff. Parker's name is being thrown around for head coaching gigs. Ferentz has become New Ferentz, or Old Ferentz, or Ferentz 3.0, or Bizarro Ferentz, or whatever we're calling him this week. And Greg Davis, the man I spent the last 3 years calling names that I dare not repeat here, put together as functional and productive an offense as we've seen in Iowa City for some time...as if to extend a giant middle finger right in my smug face.
If I meet Greg Davis in the future, I'll probably have to apologize to him. Tomorrow though...let's just go win another trophy.
What about Michigan State?
Oh I didn't forget about you, Sparty. I absolutely love this matchup. Before the season started, everyone just sort of assumed that Ohio State was going to be undefeated and represent the East in the CCG. Then Michigan turned out to be pretty good, and by week 6 they were the ones being penciled in as division champs. Well, Sparty beat 'em both. They haven't always looked great, they haven't always won convincingly, but apart from the Nebraska game, they've done nothing but win. Iowa and MSU have both struggled to ace the proverbial "eye test", but here they sit, one win away from the playoffs. Nobody would have picked this matchup preseason unless they drew names out of a hat. We are all in for a good old fashioned Big Ten rock fight tomorrow.
WWBWWBD: Championship Week
You didn't actually think we were going to forget about this, did you? Let's see where everyone will be at!
Creighton: Once again, I'll be watching from my apartment in Charlottesville. Sweet potato chili will be on the menu for dinner. For beer: Backpocket Brewing's very own Hawktoberfest. I bought a case a few weeks ago when I was back in Iowa City, and I've been saving it for today. I've also got a small stash of Cuban cigars that are ready to go for celebratory purposes, should they be needed.
InsertName: Revolution Brewing in Chicago for the girlfriend's birthday drinking ALLOFTHEBEERS
87Townie: In Amelia Island, celebrating the town tree lighting.
Candystripes for Breakfast: I have no idea what I'll be doing, nor really what I'll be drinking on Saturday, but I'm willing to be I'll spend some of the day on OTE, and I'll likely consume a Vanilla Coke during the day. Also, football might be watched. Who knows?
Aaron Yorke: I'm getting out of work just in time to go to a birthday party for my girlfriend's friend in the dreaded West Village of New York City. It's at an Italian Restaurant, so I'm guessing I'll be drinking red wine before escaping to the nearest sports-friendly establishment.
Jesse Collins: I will be at home in Omaha, probably eating delicious food, and just kind of not making too many plans. Just gonna enjoy this one as there aren’t too many more opportunities to watch football.
WhiteSpeedReceiver: I'll be in Eagan trying to teach my kids that sometimes you don't cheer for anyone in a football game you watch.
Thomas Speth: I'll be in Oshkosh. Cheering for the Spartans and still making up for the insane ending to Packers-Lions. Worth it.
MNWildcat: Milwaukee. I miss south suburban Minnesota, WSR. I will drink Great Lakes Distillery Rehorst Gin and/or Absinthe.
What about you, loyal readers? Let us know your championship week plans in the comments!