Iowa's 12-0 record silences talk of Ferentz, contract
During an interview in July, I asked Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz why his contract only came up after a loss.
“That’s just the way it is,” Ferentz said. “I’ve gotten over that a long time ago.”
We’ve moved ahead more than four months since that conversation, and there’s been nary a whisper about a contract that runs through Jan. 31, 2020.
That’s what happens when your team goes 12-0 for the first time in school history, resides in the Top 10 and earns a spot in Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game opposite Michigan State.
A victory Saturday in Indianapolis and Ferentz’s $4,075,000 salary will get sweeter. According to incentive clauses in his contract, Ferentz has already earned a $250,000 bump for the undefeated regular season.
He’ll get another $350,000 if his team finishes the year in the Top 5 in either one of the two national polls. That would drop to $250,000 if the Hawkeyes landed in the Top 10 for the fourth time in the Ferentz regime, $175,000 if it’s the Top 15.
There will also be a $50,000 bonus if Ferentz is named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the fourth time in his career this week. A national coach of the year award would bring $100,000. There are other bowl and contract enhancements on the line. His assistant coaches and staff members have also earned a salary bump.
But there’s only one number being kicked around by the coaches at the football complex these days. It’s 13-0.
Iowa faces a Michigan State team that is 11-1 and won at Ohio State two weeks ago.
The Hawkeyes remained No. 3 in the Amway/USA Today Coaches poll released Sunday, but dropped to No. 4 in the Associated Press poll. Michigan State is No. 5 in both polls. The Hawkeyes were No. 4 in the College Football Playoff poll last week, the Spartans fifth.
So it’s Herky against Sparty, in what is essentially a CFP quarterfinal. The winner goes to the final four.
Getting a grand
Jordan Canzeri needs 36 yards against Michigan State to become Iowa’s first 1,000-yard back since Marcus Coker's 1,384 rushing yards in 2011.
Canzeri is on the brink of that milestone despite missing the better part of three games. He suffered a high ankle sprain four carries into the Northwestern game, an injury that kept him off the field against Maryland and Indiana.
Canzeri also went over 2,000 career yards at Nebraska. He rushed for 140 against the Cornhuskers, his fifth 100-plus game of the season. He entered this season with two 100-yard games in an injury-plagued career.
“When you put yourself in that mindset of being positive all the time, no matter the circumstances that come your way, great things can happen,” Canzeri said.
Matchup to watch
Iowa cornerback Desmond King should be able to catch up with his cousin, Aaron Burbridge, during the game. Burbridge, a junior from Farmington Hills, Mich., is Michigan State’s top receiver with 75 catches for 1,158 yards and seven touchdowns. King leads Iowa’s secondary with eight interceptions. He is tied for the lead nationally with Shawn Lurry of Northern Illinois.
Both Iowa and Michigan State have made a killing in the turnover department this season. Both are a plus 14, tied for fourth nationally. Both have forced 25 turnovers, which ties for 12th nationally.
The Spartans have a 105-17 edge over opponents in points after turnovers this season. That includes a pair of touchdowns in Saturday’s 55-16 victory over Penn State – a 13-yard interception return by Malik McDowell and a 77-yard interception return by Demetrious Cox. Iowa has outscored opponents after turnovers, 83-40.
Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook didn’t play in a 17-14 upset of Ohio State two weeks ago because of a shoulder injury. But he was back in the pocket Saturday against Penn State, and didn’t miss a beat.
The senior completed 19 of 26 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns. For the season, Cook has completed 194 of 337 passes for 2,730 yards. He has throw 24 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.