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IOWA CITY — As Iowa football players spoke to reporters outside the Hansen Football Performance Center Tuesday, there still were another 96 hours before they’ll be playing South Dakota State a couple-hundred yards away at Kinnick Stadium.
Don’t remind them of that, though.
“I don’t even want to go to class this week,” wide receiver Arland Bruce IV said. “I just want to go to the game. Don’t tell my coaches I said that.”
That impatience is not unique to Bruce. Almost exactly eight months after their Citrus Bowl loss to Kentucky, the Hawkeyes showed an obvious eagerness to jump right to Saturday’s game.
“It feels like the longest week of the year,” quarterback Spencer Petras said. “We’re just ready to go out there and play.”
Defensive lineman Logan Lee is “looking forward to being able to hit somebody that’s not on our team.”
But Iowa players have to avoid hitting the metaphorical fast-forward button through the next three days of preparation before playing a respectable South Dakota State team.
The Jackrabbits lost in the FCS championship in the delayed 2020 season and then went to the FCS semifinals in fall 2021.
"We're playing a really good football team and a good football program in South Dakota State,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “First thing that jumps out at you when you look at their film in any phase is they're well-coached and they really play hard, and that's what good teams do.”
South Dakota State’s starters last year at quarterback and running back were selected in the NFL Draft, but the Jackrabbits still are in good shape at both positions.
Ferentz said this year’s quarterback Mark Gronowski “may be better” and running back Isaiah Davis also is a “really good player.”
“I know they feel like they've had as good a skill players as they've had offensively at any one time, and that's over a couple of decades of coaching there,” Ferentz said.
Petras and Ferentz both brought up Iowa and South Dakota State’s mutual opponent in 2021, Colorado State.
“They beat Colorado State pretty bad last year,” Petras said. “We beat Colorado State, but wasn’t very handily last year.”
South Dakota State had a four-possession lead against the Rams at the end of the end of the third quarter. Iowa, as Petras alluded to, was trailing at halftime and didn’t expand the lead to two possessions until the fourth quarter.
“So that’s definitely a reminder there,” Petras said.
Ferentz said the Jackrabbits’ impressive result last year “got my attention right then, knowing that we had them down the road.”
“This is absolutely not an easy game,” Petras said. “Doesn’t matter if they’re FCS or whatever. They’re going to be a good football team.”
The Hawkeyes’ heightened awareness of South Dakota State’s potential aside, Iowa remains a clear favorite in Saturday’s contest.
ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Iowa a 95 percent chance of winning against South Dakota State, compared to a 52 percent chance of winning against Iowa State.
As for the rest of the “longest week,” Petras has been through this routine a few times before — twice, to be exact, as a starter.
“The key there is kind of not wishing the week away,” Petras said. “The key is taking every day for what it is and winning the week, winning the preparation battle.”
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