The above picture came from the pregame festivities in 2008. Iowa traveled to play the Pittsburgh Panthers, who were coached by Dave Wannstedt.
The consensus among Iowa fans was that regardless of any specific matchups, there was no way the Wannstache would out-coach their man, Ferentz.
After all, Ferentz was (at the time) a two-time Big Ten Coach of the Year. He had brought Iowa back from mediocrity and won two Big Ten titles. Yes, the previous two years had been rocky, but Iowa was ready to come back and Ferentz was still one of the best coaches in the game.
One only needed to look at the NFL teams that were still knocking on his door for proof of that.
Meanwhile, Wannstedt was, well, Wannstedt.
However, it was during that game that the bloom came off Ferentz's rose, so to speak. We had forgiven most of his past indiscretions—offensive conservatism and City Boyz Inc. to name two—but his on-the-field and personnel decisions in the Pitt game were baffling.
In the end, the Hawks lost 20-21, due less to any of Wannstedt's strategizing and more to Ferentz beating himself.
Ultimately, the 2008 season turned out fairly well and the 2009 season turned out extremely well. Nevertheless, the 2008 Pitt game will always stand out for me as the game where Ferentz's weaknesses as a coach became manifest.
Now, it is 2011 and Iowa is coming off a loss to Iowa State, a game in which Ferentz made some of the most questionable coaching decisions of his career.
The Wannstache is gone and the maestro of spread, no-huddle offenses—Todd Graham—has taken over at Pittsburgh.
I suspect most of the Iowa Hawkeye fanbase is with me in not feeling especially confident where it concerns their Hawks right now.
The question is will Ferentz be able to turn it around. Maybe Pitt 2011 will be just as much of a touchstone game as 2008, but in a different way.