1) The Eternal Flame -- Iowa's loss to Central Michigan last week sure did reignite the national "boy, the Big Ten is bad" zeitgeist. ESPN.com did a whole big thing on it this week with the lead photo showing a Big Ten logo on a patch of drought-cracked earth.
Some theories: 1) The Big Ten had 40 coaching changes in the offseason including entire staffs at Illinois and Penn State. Wisconsin lost six assistant coaches and then fired its O-line coach in week 2. Iowa's Kirk Ferentz is working with new coordinators after 13 years. 2) Throw in the oversigning practice allowed in the SEC, and the Big Ten has significant talent gaps at quarterback and on the D-line. 3) It's warmer in the south, where 7-on-7 leagues and high schools with spring football practice flower everywhere. Will it get better and when?
The better question is does it matter? What else is everyone going to watch on Saturday?
2) Welp, Pat Forde can never come back here -- In his aptly named Forde-Yard Dash column on Yahoo Sports, Pat Forde takes a shot at Ferentz. The salary is the target and, yes, this is in the wake of the CMU disasater (losing to a MAC dead body isn't the way you want to make the national radar, kids).
"Ferentz has had a long and distinguished career in Iowa City, but he's also 9-11 in his last 20 games coaching the Hawkeyes, including consecutive losses to little brother Iowa State." (Just throwing that one in there on Iowa State, which is an innocent bystander over in Ames. Leave ISU alone, Pat. The Cyclones have a big game today.)
Couple of things, Ferentz's latest contract ($3.675 million through 2020) was announced days before the 2010 season opener. Iowa had just come off 11-2 and an Orange Bowl victory. Also, there has been the constant thrum of NFL rumors giving Ferentz and agent Neil Cornrich a market for Ferentz's services. The market was there.
In turn, the market of free ideas is open for debate on worth of the deal. (Here's a fireball from Bleacher Report's Adam Jacobi.) This is a stab at a lifetime contract and a lot of Iowa fan-dom seemed to agree with it before the '10 season. But that's hindsight, and here this discussion is.
Historically, Iowa football is a long play. One loss won't topple the program and one win won't crown it. Screaming "fire everyone" is a drain on your psyche and with a $21 million buyout, it's wasted motion. New staff . . . Central Michigan? . . . OK, you've stopped reading.
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No one at Iowa is satisfied with seven wins. In year 14, the air gets thin for a lot of coaches.3) Think Pig -- The Big Ten has the best traveling trophies in college football. Let's do a quick rank: 1) Paul Bunyan's Axe -- It's so comically giant and looks so dangerous in postgame celebration. You see it, you know Wisconsin-Minnesota. 2) Floyd of Rosedale -- If you ever get a close look at the 98-pound bronze pig, you'll be taken by the craftmanship. It's actually pretty beautiful. 3) Old Oaken Bucket -- The bucket is played between Indiana and Purdue. Not a rocker of a rivalry, but it beats the Little Brown Jug because it changes hands more than once a decade (Michigan is 67-22-3 against Minnesota). Plus, it has that way cool "I" and "P" chain thing.