Does A Win Over Michigan Put Iowa On A BCS National Championship Course?
To say things have gone according to plan for the Iowa Hawkeyes this football season would be a fabrication.
It became apparent in the spring, after several off-season shenanigans by players, that whatever plan Kirk Ferentz had in mind for his football team would need to be adjusted several times over the course of the upcoming season.
Adrian Clayborn was involved in an incident in January where he may or may not have pulled a Kimbo Slice on a cab driver. In April, James Ferentz, Tyler Christensen and Zach Derby got themselves a public intoxication charge one night in Iowa City.
Not to be outdone, Kyle Calloway decided to pull a drunken Evil Knievel on a moped one night a few months later.
While the shenanigans were relatively minor in severity, they meant the season would start with the distraction of several players sitting on the bench serving suspensions, something Coach Ferentz couldn't have anticipated.
After the shenanigans, came the injuries.
Sophomore running back Jewell Hampton, the heir apparent to Shonn Greene, injured his right knee when practice began and will seek a medical red-shirt for the year.
Starting cornerback Jordan Bernstine was officially ruled out for the season after sustaining a severe ankle injury during practice.
Offensive tackle and NFL prospect Bryan Bulaga was forced to sit out three games this season with a thyroid condition. There is also a tight end whose name we can't mention who is sidelined again, this time with an ankle injury.
For some Hawkeye fans, the injuries and shenanigans resemble shades of Iowa's 2004 season, where Ferentz directed his team to its second Big Ten Conference title under his tenure as coach.
The Hawkeyes started 2004 with several injuries, but overcame adversity behind the leadership of quarterback Drew Tate. Iowa finished 10-2 in 2004, beating LSU in the Capital One Bowl and finishing the season with a No. 8 Associated Press ranking.
The team defense is also a similarity between the two seasons. In large part, the success of 2004 was the result of a staunch Iowa defense. So far this year, the defense has been the main contributing factor in Iowa's best start since 1995.
Though the 2009 season appears to be starting off in a similar fashion, one huge difference exists between this year and 2004.
After the first five games of the 2004 season, the Hawkeyes had a record of 3-2 and suffered a humiliating loss to Arizona State during the third week of the season.
The first five games of this season have Iowa sitting at 5-0 with no humiliating defeats...just a close game against a FCS school that, since the Iowa game, has outscored its opponents 193-21.
Is it possible that the off-season shenanigans and injuries caused Ferentz to take a look at how he handled similar issues in 2004, and in doing so could he have figured out a better plan of attack?
Could Ferentz's new plan have Iowa on course for a BCS National Championship?
This week's homecoming game against the Michigan Wolverines in front of a national audience on ABC will help answer these questions.
Michigan comes into this week's game with a record of 4-1; their only loss coming last week in overtime against instate rival Michigan State.
Freshman quarterback Tate Forcier is already being heralded as Michigan's next football Messiah. On the year, Forcier has almost 900 yards passing and nine touchdowns. Running back Carlos Brown, Forcier's sidekick, is averaging nearly eight yards a carry.
Some people think Michigan could actually be a contender for the Big Ten championship because of their offense.
For Iowa, a dominant defensive performance so far this year has them in contention for the Big Ten title, as well.
The Hawkeyes are ranked fourth in the nation in pass efficiency defense and tenth in scoring defense. They also happened to be second in the country in total interceptions.
Iowa is also currently riding a streak of 33 consecutive quarters without allowing a rushing touchdown. They have stifled three of the nation's top running backs so far this year.
If Iowa can beat Michigan, something they were unable to do in 2004, Ferentz has undoubtedly learned something from past mistakes.
If the powerful Hawkeye defense can shut down the high powered Michigan spread offense with the nation watching, the whispers of Iowa's national championship chances will grow louder.
If Iowa can replicate their Penn State performance against Michigan this weekend, the Hawkeyes catapult themselves into the national title race by defeating the third top 30 team of the season.
That is something no other team in the country can claim.
Even with shenanigans and injuries, typical Kirk Ferentz football teams grow stronger as the season progresses. If that is indeed the case again this year, no team in the country will be safe by the end of the season.
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