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IOWA CITY — The Ferentz family’s belated Thanksgiving celebration on Saturday had a slight distraction.
“We had the (Wisconsin-Minnesota) game on, and I was trying not to get too sucked in emotionally,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said.
As the Ferentz family celebrated Thanksgiving, Kirk got another thing to be thankful for — a Big Ten championship game appearance — after Minnesota’s win over Wisconsin.
Well, maybe it was more than a slight distraction.
“As you might imagine, the phone blows up after that,” Ferentz said.
Now as the 23-year head coach and grandfather switches from his family preparing a turkey — “I don’t prepare turkey, I eat it,” Ferentz clarified — to him preparing for Michigan, some question marks loom in Iowa City.
The most notable one is behind the center. Ferentz did not name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game yet, saying an announcement will probably come on Tuesday.
Alex Padilla started Iowa’s game against Nebraska, but the sophomore completed less than half his passes for the third straight game.
Spencer Petras, Iowa’s starter for the first nine games of 2021 and all eight in 2020, then started the second half and had more completions and yardage with one fewer throw.
“Overall I’ve been pleased with both guys,” Ferentz said. “Both of them have really performed well during the course of the year. … We go into this week feeling good about our situation there.”
Ferentz said he’s not trying to be “coy” about the quarterback situation. It’s just a matter of talking to Padilla and Petras before making an official decision.
“It’s not like it’s a great secret,” Ferentz said, noting the abundance of film available of both options.
Then there’s the flu bug that has ravaged the Hansen Football Performance Center ahead of the Nebraska game.
“It made for an interesting week to say the least,” Ferentz said.
While the illness did not keep any otherwise-healthy athletes off the field, Ferentz said it affected how much he could use certain players.
“On Friday, we had a lot of guys affected by the bug,” Ferentz said. “It’s just a matter of how long can guys hang in there.”
Offensive linemen Connor Colby and Mason Richman were among the players who needed to miss parts of Friday’s game. Ferentz was “really pleased both those guys were able to play.”
Running back Tyler Goodson said the bug affected “quite a few guys,” including some of his roommates.
“I stayed away from them,” Goodson said on Friday. “I stayed at my girlfriend’s apartment.”
Then the celebration following the win over Nebraska — the win gave Iowa at least a share of the Big Ten West title — did not involve much social distancing.
“For those of us who didn’t get it, I’m sure we all got it now because it was a pretty good locker room in there,” Ferentz said with a smirk on Friday.
Ferentz said Sunday the flu is “hopefully not” still affecting the team, but he said he’d know more later in the day.
“Preliminary reports are really good,” Ferentz said. “Hopefully it’s run its course or at least we’re on the tail end of it.”
Amid the uncertainty at this stage in preparations, Ferentz has the benefit of already seeing some film of Michigan earlier in the season despite no regular-season matchup because of similar offensive strategies.
“When Michigan is one of the common opponents, they’re typically a team we watch because they do run the ball a little bit,” Ferentz said. “I know they run the ball effectively, but they're not a one-dimensional football team.”
Wisconsin, Nebraska and Northwestern all played Michigan this season before playing Iowa.
That leaves at least one certainty for Ferentz.
“They’re a tough team to prepare for,” Ferentz said. “When you get to a championship game, that’s really what you expect.”
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