Iowa Football

Iowa football notes: Kirk Ferentz still a 'hard no' on playing non-conference games out west

Ferentz brags up the Big Ten, but he's not so big on the upcoming NFL early entry decisions and the transfer portal

SAN DIEGO — It’s a good thing the Holiday Bowl is a bowl. Otherwise, the Hawkeyes wouldn’t be here.

You’ve known this all along, but oh boy did Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz double down on never playing a non-conference football game west of the Central time zone ever again.

“As long as I have a voice at Iowa, hopefully I’ll have it for a while, we’re not playing out here for non-league games,” Ferentz said Thursday during the final news conference before the Holiday Bowl. “If they want to come to our place, that’s fine. But traveling out here and doing the time change, and then you know we had a two-hour rain delay at Arizona State, we’re not going down that road again, I can assure you that.”

When Ferentz uses “not going down that road” it’s 100 percent and written in molten steel.

The rain delay at Arizona State also was a 44-7 drubbing for the Hawkeyes. Storms delayed the game by two hours. The Hawkeyes didn’t arrive back in Iowa City until early in the a.m.

The Hawkeyes have won just two of their last 13 games west of the Central time zone. So, that also might have something to do with Ferentz not wanting to travel west.

Ferentz big on the Big Ten in Holiday Bowl

The Big Ten and Pac-12 will always have the Rose Bowl. In 2020, the two leagues will not have the Holiday Bowl, but will have other tie-ins against each other.

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When the Big Ten unveiled its 2020 bowl lineup in June, the Holiday Bowl wasn’t on the list. The Big Ten and Pac-12 will meet in the Rose and Redbox bowls next season. There’s also a shared tie-in with the Las Vegas Bowl that will have the Big Ten and SEC rotating against the Pac-12.

“I think the conferences are very, very similar just in terms of their philosophy toward the game and toward academics,” Ferentz said. “Not trying to get on a pedestal, but always felt like the Big Ten is the epitome of what college athletics should be about.”

If you ever want to hear a coach sigh so loudly it shatters glass, ask about the speed differences between the conferences.

That crossed Ferentz’s desk on Thursday.

“You know, the myth about the Big Ten I think gets a little blown out of proportion,” he said. “We play some guys. You line up against Michigan, they have some guys that can move around pretty good and disrupt you at every position and I think probably a similar comparison there.

“Yeah, their receivers, these guys get a million balls and they know how to get open and they know how to catch it and they know how to run afterward and that’s going to be a starting point, but hard to find any position on the roster where they don’t have guys that are very active and very talented and very dangerous.”

Another sigh: College football 'free agency'

Whether it’s three hours or three minutes, college football free agency will begin after Friday’s game.

Between the transfer portal and NFL early entries, it really is free agency. As you might imagine, neither Ferentz nor USC head coach Clay Helton were super giddy about getting into this topic.

Between Iowa’s 2020 early NFL entry candidates defensive end A.J. Epenesa, offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs and safety Geno Stone, the four NFL early entries Iowa had in 2019 and the two Iowa lost in 2018, Ferentz happily welcomed the cocoon of a game to escape all of that noise.

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“Right now our focus is on this game, quite frankly,” Ferentz said. “We’ve asked the players to put it aside. They have done a great job of that. They get it. They are mature guys and they understand it’s all about this game.

“Plenty of time for everything else afterward, and quite frankly, one nice thing about playing the 27th, we get a little bonus time to think about stuff and that will be one of the topics.”

Helton has felt plenty of this. He is, after all, the USC head coach.

“There are some guys that are going to be Sam Darnold and be a top three pick, and you say, you know what, you’re not going to be drafted any higher, this is as high as you can go,’ Helton said. “So if you choose to make this decision, man, I support you. That’s why you came to USC.”

As for the portal adventure ...

“There are some young men that are in that graduate transfer mode that you say, ‘Hey, you know what, right now, I don’t have a crystal ball, but right now, this is where you stand on our football team. If we had to play another game today, this is where I think you can go to. This is how we can help you get there,'" Helton said.

“And then just provide them the most clarity and transparency you can so each family and each individual can make the best decision for themselves.”

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft is Jan. 20. The portal remains open for business and it most definitely will pick up likely three minutes after the bowl game.

Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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