BTN crew leaves Iowa City thinking Hawkeyes, Badgers and maybe Minnesota are West's best teams

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

On the way to their annual Iowa football practice visit, the Big Ten Network crew had their plane delayed at O’Hare Airport for three hours because of an unusual air-vent issue.

Annoying? Sure. But as Dave Revsine puts it, he gets to work in the “toy department of life” — covering college sports for a television network. This was hardly a calamity. 

Revsine, the BTN’s excellent studio host, has been touring Big Ten campuses with sidekicks Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith since the network's launch in 2007. (This year, they added former Ohio State linebacker Josh Perry to the touring team.) On Friday, they indeed made it to Iowa City and evaluated a shortened Hawkeye practice, with players in shells. It was their 12th of 14 stops.

Though this year’s tour wasn’t on a convenient bus, as usual, it was appreciated after a year off in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Big Ten Network's Joshua Perry, Howard Griffith and Dave Revsine, right, interact with Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz during a Friday practice in Iowa City.

At the first of 14 stops, the four-man crew settled in at Nebraska — in advance of the Cornhuskers and Illinois facing off Aug. 28 in college football’s first game of the 2021 regular season. About 45 minutes into practice, they were watching a mundane blitz pick-up drill.

“I’ve watched so many blitz pickup drills through the years,” Revsine said. “But man, I was just so excited to be watching one again.”

Revsine felt like so many of us, in that we’re thirsting for in-person, live football again. And it’s coming close. And with Iowa being toward the end of the BTN crew’s tour, it was a worthwhile exercise to gauge their opinions on the 2021 Hawkeyes.

Revsine’s assessment? “Really positive. Skill-wise, I think they’re pretty good.”

He said offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz told them it was a bad practice. On the air, head coach Kirk Ferentz said a lot of players were missing due to injuries. That was probably one reason why.

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Nonetheless, the BTN crew came away from Iowa City thinking the Hawkeyes are just a tick behind Wisconsin in the Big Ten West. Minnesota might be their sleeper team, with Griffith saying Saturday, “I think this is the best-looking Minnesota team I’ve seen in 14 years.”

Revsine said Iowa clearly has the advantage over Wisconsin at running back, with Tyler Goodson as the No. 1. Wisconsin has the edge on the defensive line. He agreed with most of the Iowa media — it’s the Hawkeyes’ biggest concern.

“Wisconsin probably looked like the most complete team; maybe the fewest question marks,” Revsine said. “But I would say it’s a coin flip (with Iowa). It probably comes down to who gets better quarterback play.”

The Hawkeyes visit Wisconsin on Oct. 30.

At Friday’s practice, Hawkeyes who impressed included wide receiver Keagan Johnson, linebacker Jestin Jacobs and defensive end Zach VanValkenburg.

As Iowa went into a camp-ending scrimmage Saturday night, it has become increasingly apparent that Iowa has more playmakers at wide receiver than maybe was expected. Johnson and fellow true freshman Arland Bruce IV have forced their way into the plans. The BTN crew saw that, too, and it's encouraging for the Hawkeyes as they look to win the West for the first time since 2015.

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“That’s part of the way the game has changed pretty dramatically in the time we’ve been on the air,” Revsine said. “You can’t grind people out to the same degree you once did. They’re still going to play great defense, they’re still going to be in some close games, but they have some quick-strike ability, too.”

The 18th-ranked Hawkeyes open their season Sept. 4 against No. 17 Indiana. That game will air at 2:30 p.m. CT on the Big Ten Network.