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This, that and another thing ...
So the Iowa football team is playing in the Big Ten championship game after a 10-2 regular season with few “big” wins.
Sure, the Hawkeyes beat Indiana when the Hoosiers were ranked. They beat Iowa State when it was ranked. And they beat a good Penn State team when it was ranked.
But Indiana finished the year 0-9 in the Big Ten, 2-10 overall. Iowa State is bowl eligible at 7-5, the same record Penn State finished with. The Nittany Lions went 4-5 in the Big Ten.
Sometimes it really is better to be lucky than good.
But Iowa has been both.
You don’t go 10-2 and 4-0 in November without being a good football team. Iowa had a definite “bend but don’t break” month, winning those four games by a total of 27 points. or 6.75 points per game.
But the Hawkeyes found a way to win each time and that, in itself, is the mark of a good team.
The offense has yet to get untracked and — heading into its 13th game — likely won’t have any new wrinkles for Michigan on Saturday. The defense has been very good at times and very average at others. Special teams have been consistently special.
So what does this all mean? It means Kirk Ferentz and Co. know what they are doing.
Many are clamoring for Brian Ferentz to be shown the door as offensive coordinator, but few outside the football complex know what exactly goes on inside. How complicated is Iowa’s offense? Is it too complicated? How much control does Brian really have of the offense?
These things make for interesting — and, at times, dull — cackling during a game, but 10-2 is 10-2. And that’s not bad.
As of this writing, Matt Campbell remains the Iowa State football coach.
In this crazy week that saw two coaches — Lincoln Riley and Brian Kelly — bolt for greener (as in cash) pastures, Campbell has stayed put. So far.
His name has been on the “wish list” for every program with an empty coaching chair, and rightfully so. The job he’s done at Iowa State has been nothing less than remarkable.
That’s why I think he should stay.
Campbell has made the Cyclones a consistent winner, something many others have failed to do. Iowa State — and Iowa, for that matter — are different beasts from the Notre Dames, Oklahomas and USCs of the world.
“People just want to always just assume you’re going to chase money,” ISU AD Jamie Pollard said in a radio program, via the Des Moines Register. “There’s something at Iowa State that I talk about all the time, you’re in control. I tell that to Coach Campbell. OK, we went 7-5 this year. You know what’s different about being 7-5 at Iowa State versus being 7-5 somewhere else is you don’t have the board of regents, you don’t have a president, you don’t have an AD and you don’t have any donors telling you you have to switch coaches on your staff or you're fired.”
It’s a good and fair point. Of course, Pollard is making a pitch to Campbell and the coach ultimately needs to do what’s best for him and his family, as Pollard acknowledged.
But Campbell has been a good story and, for us, that’s what we like. And, besides the grass (and money) isn’t always greener elsewhere.
Speaking of Iowa State, something you may already have noticed is there’s been a change in The Gazette’s Cyclone coverage.
Ben Visser, who held the role of correspondent since 2017, has moved into a full-time job in Ames and had to step away from covering ISU for The Gazette.
Ben did outstanding work, covering a huge turnaround in the football program, an equally big downturn in men’s basketball and, one of his true passions, a new era of wrestling, among other topics.
Ben will be missed by us and, I’m sure, many of our readers.
The good news is Rob Gray has agreed to return to his role as The Gazette’s “Iowa State/Central Iowa” sports reporter. Rob is a true sports journalism professional who held this role from 2011 to ’13.
“Gray is a veteran reporter, working for the Des Moines Register for 10 years and, for a short time, at the Iowa Speedway in Newton. Gray, who once backpacked Central America and taught English in Prague, has covered everything from auto racing to high school sports to UNI football and will be a great addition to our ‘stringer team’ with a focus on the Cyclones.”
That’s what I wrote in 2011 when Rob first joined our team. It still holds true today. He was a “Senior Writer” for Cyclone Fanatic since leaving us and knows the Iowa State beat inside and out.
I’m thrilled to have him back on our team and I know he will take our coverage of Iowa State to another level.
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