It is well-established that Kirk Ferentz is conservative, but what exactly does that mean?
The most appropriate dictionary definition is definition No. 3b from Merriam-Webster.com: "marked by moderation or caution."
In other words, Kirk Ferentz is not going to take a chance on a turnover or a sack or giving up a long play, and he will always err on the side of his defense. He will leave points off the board if it means he won't take a chance on putting his defense in a bad situation.
Following 2011's loss to Iowa State, Marc Morehouse (Cedar Rapids Gazette) wrote a column in which he defended Ferentz's conservatism, arguing that it "works more...than it doesn't," and Iowa fans have to ride the highs and lows.
However, Horace E. Cow's post on Black Heart Gold Pants regarding Iowa and Iowa State entitled "Statistical In-Ferentz" was more accurate. The article noted that Ferentz's decisions in the game were less conservative in the truest sense and more "pathologically risk averse."
The issue is Ferentz often sticks rigidly to what he has done and what has worked for him, seemingly without considering what is going on, on the field.
This was never truer than at Iowa State last year.
This season, Iowa will be in for a long year if Ferentz leans on his defense the way he has in years past, and the way he often did last year to the detriment of the team.
Ferentz's philosophy does work but only when he has a staunch defense—think 2003, 2004, 2008 or 2009—that can implement it.
His 2012 D will not be able to hold 7-10 point leads in the fourth quarter. His offense has to put points on the board—end of story. If it doesn't, this will be another year of close losses and blown leads.
In effect, the key to this team's success will be for Ferentz to recognize the inherent dynamic of his team—an offense, and specifically, a passing game with the raw materials to win games—and adjust his philosophy to work with what he has, and not against it.