Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
There are two great things I've seen out of Iowa's coaching staff that give me great reason for hope this year.
The first was the flea-flicker against Minnesota. The second was the energy and excitement displayed by the players heading into overtime against Michigan State (see the video accompanying the next-to-last slide).
Back in the Hayden Fry era, it was nothing to see a trick play thrown into a game. In fact, it was almost rare not to see a trick play at least once a game or so. However, in the Kirk Ferentz era, it has been taboo.
Ferentz is a straight-forward kind of coach. He shows you what he's going to do, tells you what he's going to do and dares you to beat it. It's kind of intimidating when it works.
There's nothing fancy about it. It's just good ol', smash-mouth football.
There are times though, when a good trick play can be as demoralizing as a straight-up-the-middle blast from a bruising running back. It lets the opponent know that they have to be ready for anything. They may have to rethink their strategy a little.
It's a mind game.
It was good to see that play thrown in there, even though Iowa really didn't need it. It sent the message that future opponents need to be wary. Iowa does have a few tricks up its sleeve and Coach Ferentz isn't afraid to let Greg Davis pull them out every now and again.
What's more, it lets fans know that there could be some fun coming in the future. It's entertaining to watch an entire defense bite on a sure-fire run, only to have something completely unexpected transpire instead.
Perhaps more importantly though, is the energy this team is starting to embody. They're enjoying the game of football. They're breathing in deeply, the majesty of the battle, savoring in the heat of the moment and aren't too stuffy to show that they love this game.
We do too.
The coaching staff needs to continue embracing it. Players that enjoy the game, play it better. I believe that with every ounce of my being. When you're having fun, it shows.
There are some tough matchups ahead, but some really fun ones too. There are great chess matches between wild offenses and stout defenses. There are some potentially entertaining battles in historic venues.
Soak it up. Live it. Be in the moment. It all passes too quickly.
When you look at Iowa, you're looking at an enigma. We've seen the horrendous catastrophe this team can be. We've also seen the heroic warriors the players are.
As hard as it may be to believe, this Iowa team is capable of running the remaining table and winning the Big Ten. Even if they fail to make that lofty height, they can still win more than they lose in this second half of the season.
How far they go is all up to them.