IOWA CITY, Iowa – My only regret about the Iowa football team playing on the same day as Trick or Treat night is that I will miss seeing the kids in their costumes.
I won’t miss my two dogs barking and howling every time somebody rings the doorbell or knocks on the door. But there are few nights more special than Beggars’ night.
It would be fun seeing how many kids are dressed up as Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard or defensive back Desmond King or, heck, even punter Dillon Kidd with the way this season is unfolding.
There might even be some kids who go as Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz by chewing gum, taking it one house at a time and respecting those also in pursuit of candy.
Just like there are sure to be kids in Michigan who proudly will wear a Jim Harbaugh costume that consists of cheap khakis, no shirt and a look of disbelief in the wake of the Michigan State meltdown.
Kids want to emulate who’s hot, and right now, Ferentz and Harbaugh are hot.
But for Ferentz, it could change in the time it takes to lose a football game.
Even at 7-0 and ranked 10th nationally, Iowa still has doubters who can’t overlook the schedule or Iowa’s past five seasons of mediocrity.
And that’s just fine with Ferentz because he probably would rather his team be overlooked than praised repeatedly.
All Ferentz wants to think about is the next game on the schedule, which is Maryland on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. But the more your team wins, the harder it is to stay in the moment and to keep those around you grounded.
“Maryland is a team that beat us last year,” Ferentz said of Iowa’s 38-31 loss to the Terrapins last season in College Park, Md., a game in which Iowa led 14-0. “They’ve got a lot of good players from last year returning.”
And while that’s true, fans are more concerned about Iowa’s pursuit of excellence and seem to be dismissing Maryland as simply another overmatched opponent that’s in the way.
Ferentz can try to downplay Iowa’s improbable rise this season, but there is too much history on the line and too many possibilities for fans and the media to pull back now.
Only once in the 127-year history of the Iowa football program have the Hawkeyes been undefeated after eight games. That came in 2009 when Iowa started 9-0 before finishing 11-2 overall.
As great as Forest Evashevski and Hayden Fry were at Iowa, neither had the Hawkeyes undefeated after eight games. The closest Fry came was a 7-0 record in 1985, while the best Evashevski could do was 6-0 in 1960.
Ferentz now has a chance to do it twice in six years.
The same coach who 10 months ago was a source of ridicule and the punch line to jokes has a chance to do something that must be spectacular because nobody else has done it at Iowa.
Just when it looked as if Ferentz’s reign might be unraveling, he responds by leading yet another resurgence at Iowa, his fourth if you count the 2013 season when Iowa doubled its win total from the previous season by finishing 8-5.
The offseason chatter and narrative that insisted Ferentz should resign because he was incapable of doing his job at an acceptable level now looks silly.
It was premature to think that way then just like it’s premature to assume that Iowa’s remaining five opponents will offer little resistance.
“Two points we really tried to emphasize with our football team last week; first part was right now we still got 42 percent of our season left and close to 63 percent of our Big Ten season left in terms of scheduling,” Ferentz said in reference to Iowa coming off a bye week. “So there’s a lot of football left.
“And then the second thing is we just gave some illustrations from this past month, not including last Saturday, but last Saturday can include some games as well, just the quote, unquote upsets that take place in college football. And the point there is as much as everybody wants to think they know what’s going to happen or what should happen, football is pretty unpredictable.”
Ferentz and the Iowa fans, and the media to an extent, represent three powerful forces that are pulling in opposite directions. It’s one game at a time versus runaway expectations.
Ferentz was ready for the media’s warm embrace on Tuesday, although, he declined to answer when asked who would win between his current team and the 2009 Iowa squad.
If I’ve learned anything about Ferentz after all these years it’s that he won’t answer certain questions, especially ones in which he is asked to rank his teams at Iowa or pick one team or player over another.
Iowa should defeat Maryland (2-5, 0-3) on Saturday because all signs point to Iowa being the better team. The Hawkeyes also have had two weeks to prepare and to get healthy.
Junior quarterback C.J. Beathard should feel much better on Saturday than he did against Northwestern two weeks ago. Keep Beathard healthy, run the ball effectively and then stop the run and Iowa should be on its way to going where only one other Iowa team has gone before, which is 8-0.