Friday, October 2, 2009

The System DOES Work!

For those Hawk fans out there who were mad about their team being unranked before this week, or about Penn State still being ranked ahead of them in one of the major polls, here is a word of advice: relax. In the big scheme of things, rankings are truly meaningles until about week 13, when it's time to decide who goes to what bowl.

Honestly, as much fun (or frustration, depending on your point of view) is involved in talking about the rankings, the only ones that matter are the final two. The first one decides what bowl you go to, and the second shows how successful your season was.

That's it.

Week 4 rankings are worthless. Alabama was ranked #1 more weeks than any other team last year. You don't get a trophy for that. In fact, they didn't even get a trip to the National Championship Game for that.

For the rankings to really matter, all Iowa has to do is win. After Saturday's great game, the team controls its own destiny on how far it will go this season. The rest will take care of itself. Hypothetically, say Iowa goes undefeated (knock on wood)...

#1 Florida plays #4 LSU in Week 6.

#2 Texas plays #8 Oklahoma in Week 7.

#3 Alabama plays #4 LSU in Week 10.

#13 Iowa would have to beat #9 Ohio State in Week 11.

As long as LSU doesn't lose both of their games, those 4 games alone puts Iowa at #9. That doesn't even begin to discuss the upsets that will (not might) happen between now and December. But even if every higher rank winds up winning, Iowa will be higher then #9...

-SOS and Computer Rankings will boost Iowa ahead of TCU, Houston, and yes, even ESPN's favorite team, Boise State.

-Virginia Tech will not play a tough enough schedule to warrant them being ahead of Iowa with 1 loss.

Iowa is now at #5. Who is still ahead of them?

-Florida, who would still have to get past the SEC Championship Game.

-Texas, playing in the Big 12 Championship Game.

-An unproven Cincinnati team.

-A shaky USC team that is prime to be upset again.

So when you go to pick up the sports page Monday morning, don't go straight to the rankings. It just doesn't matter. The only thing that will matter, is what happened inside Kinnick Stadium two days before. Because, taking the advice of Kirk Ferentz, before we worry about Big Ten Championships or even greater aspirations, Hawkeye Nation needs to worry about the Championship that will take place every single week for the next two months.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Delay of Game

With two midterms tomorrow, there will be a 24 hour delay of the return of Hawk Talk. Check back tomorrow afternoon. This is a one time occurance. After tomorrow, they will be regularly on Thursdays and Sundays.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Back in Black (and Gold)

To anyone who read my blog last fall and winter, thank you for your patience. To any new readers, welcome, and enjoy. The Hawk Talk blog is BACK!!! Beginning Thursday, October 1st, there will be bi-weekly posts onto the blog. Every Thursday and Sunday will be new posts. This time however, I don't plan on stopping in February. I plan to make it into a year round blog about what YOU, the reader, wants to hear about involving Iowa sports. So step away from Sportscenter, because I know you're as sick of hearing about Tim Tebow's injury as I am...the blog is back in business!

Also, if there are enough readers, I would like to have a mailbag portion if there is interest, so whenever there is a question, concern, or comment, please e-mail it to me at

A preview for Thursday to wet your appetite: I attended the Iowa-Penn State football game this weekend, so there is certainly a LOT to talk about! See you then!

Go Hawks!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

In Kirk We Still Trust

A contract extension was inevitable. With just three years remaining on his current contract, it was required for recruiting purposes to tack on at least one year to Kirk Ferentz's deal. But Thursday's extension showed the trust Athletic Director Gary Barta still has in his faithful head coach. With each passing season, it gets harder and harder to imagine life without Kirk Ferentz roaming the sidelines of Kinnick Stadium, despite the large shoes to fill when he came into Iowa City a decade ago.

Three Big Ten titles and six bowl games in 20 years used to be the standard at Iowa.

Meet the new standard: Two Big Ten titles, four bowl victories, and only halfway there.

While I may ruffle some feathers by proclaiming Hayden Fry the second best coach in Iowa's history, the numbers don't lie. Fry had six seasons with at least 9 wins. Ferentz already has four, and is in a good position to get number five next year.

But perhaps the most amazing thing about Ferentz's journey is the way he built the program from the ground up. When he arrived, the cupboard was empty. Being competitive in a game was a moral victory. Now it is not a suprise to compete for the Big Ten championship. Despite going through a quarterback transition this past fall, losing the best running back in the country, and one of the best defensive linemen, the Hawkeyes will enter 2009 with a team ranked in the Top 20.

Not bad for a coach who was under fire less than four months ago. Starting the season 3-3, the fanbase was growing restless, and the pressure fell on the coaching staff.

Facing rumors of being on the "hot seat", all Ferentz did was defeat the 3rd ranked team in the country, blowout the biggest conference rival in their stadium's farewell, defeat the all-mighty SEC in a New Year's Day bowl game, and finish the season 20th in the country.

But those events didn't turn Ferentz from nearly getting fired into the greatest coach in school history. He was already up there, and 2008 just cemented his legacy.

Without the strong finish, fans would have been calling for Ferentz's job. What none of the fans could answer, however, is who would take over. Who could coach the Hawkeyes better than Kirk Ferentz? Noone. That's who. There isn't a single coach in the country that would make a better fit at Iowa. His calm demeanor, his success on the football field, and his stability within the coaching staff is what makes the Iowa Hawkeyes and him the perfect couple. Every relationship experiences its ups and downs, but this one always seems to pan out in the long run.

Ferentz always knows what to say in any situation. When there were too many off the field issues, he created a Director of Player Development position. He immediately shot down NFL rumors this offseason. Now, he has secured a longterm contract to remain at Iowa.

Let's hope for at least 10 more years for the greatest coach in Iowa history to add to his legacy!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Flapping Their Wings

While I was on a hiatus from writing, one Iowa team in particular picked up steam and began to roll through Big Ten play. With their thrilling, triple overtime victory over Penn State yesterday afternoon, the Hawkeyes women's basketball team has now won five of their last six games after starting out the Big Ten schedule just 1-3.

In college basketball, momentum is one of a team's most valuable teammates. The team that is hot in January and February has a big advantage heading into March. It is still early to be thinking about the NCAA Tournament, but Bluder's Bunch is back on the right track.

The team now sits at 6-4 in conference play, 13-8 overall with eight games remaining until the Big Ten Tournament. This is plenty of time to continue to move up the conference ranks. Despite being in sixth place, Iowa remains just three games down from first place Ohio State in the top-heavy conference.

The next three games will be vital for the team's NCAA Tournament hopes as they compete against three teams with better conference records. After taking on 8-3 Indiana at home, the Hawkeyes will travel to 6-3 Minnesota before returning to Carver to face off against the 9-1 Buckeyes. Taking two out of three or even sweeping the three-step could set up a rise in the standings since only one other team on the schedule, Wisconsin, boasts a winning record.

3,486 fans came out to Carver on Super Bowl Sunday to watch the epic battle between the Hawkeyes and the Nittany Lions. And you thought men's basketball were the ones with attendance problems. This team is in a fight for the NCAA Tournament, and are catching fire at the right moment.

A few more big wins could set up a magical March. Don't be one of the "fans" who misses out.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Time to Lace Up the Skates

Many NCAA sanctioned sports have over 100 teams competing at the Division 1 level. But many sports are not Men's Gymnastics. Currently, the sport only has one division. There is no Divsion II, III, or NAIA. Just Division 1, and just 18 teams competing for the National Championship. One of those teams is the University of Iowa.

Last Saturday, the Iowa men's gymnastic team traveled to Chicago to compete in the Windy City Invitational to begin their 2009 season. They placed 6th out of 6 in the final standings. Since 2000, the team has only finished in the top 3 in the Big Ten twice, and have finished last three times. The team continues to be a generally uncompetitive team in a sport that lacks competition to begin with.

Meanwhile, traditional Big Ten teams continue to fill arenas and win championships in the sport of hockey. While the Big Ten does not sponsor a hockey conference, many schools play in hockey-only conferences with sucess. Four teams have won hockey national championships. The games are televised regularly with steady ratings throughout the northern states.

The yearning of an NCAA hockey team has been mentioned in Iowa City before. Carver Hawkeye Arena is built perfectly to support a hockey team. The support for a team appears to exist. The only thing stopping it from becoming a reality seems to be the University itself. Without wanting to eliminate sports, the Athletic Department does not have room to add a hockey team to the lineup.

It is time for Gary Barta to put 2 and 2 together.

While it may be disappointing for the men's gymnastics team, eliminating them opens the door for a team that has potential to generate enough revenue to support itself. With natural rivals with teams in hockey states, an Iowa Hawkeyes hockey team could produce interest that could rival the wrestling team. Perhaps an exageration, but not by much.

Hockey is a fast paced, hard hitting sport that is relatively inexpensive to watch in person. Giving it a place in Iowa City would help the university create a stronger and more profitable athletic department.

It can even have a positive affect on the Big Ten. With Iowa being the sixth Big Ten team, it could be enough to get the conference to add the sport. With four of the past seven National Champions, the Big Ten would instantly be one of the toughest conferences in the country.

It ultimately comes down to which team would generate more fan interest: Men's Gymnastics or Hockey.

My choice is easy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Curious Case of Jake

Nearly four years ago, Jake Christensen enrolled at the University of Iowa as a member of one of the highest rated recruiting classes the football team had ever had. Yesterday, he decided to transfer from the team with 15 career starts, nearly 3,000 yards passing, and a broken spirit.

When the Class of 2005 came in, Iowa had just finished ranked 8th in the nation for the third straight season. Every Hawkeye fan looked to Christensen as a sign that bigger and better things were on the horizon. The job of the prodigy quickly changed, however, after the next two seasons in Iowa City saw the Hawkeyes regress to 7-5 and 6-7. He was now in charge of leading the reincarnation.

2,269 yards, 17 touchdowns, and just six interceptions were comparable to the first season for past Hawkeye greats, including Chuck Long and Drew Tate. But the media and fans focused their attention on three different statistics: last in the Big Ten in total offense, a 6-6 record, and no bowl game.

While Jake struggled in the spotlight, the unheralded Ricky Stanzi rapidly improved throughout the Spring, and was ready to challenge for playing time. Throughout the first month of the season both quarterbacks competed for the starting role. One looked rattled while the other flourished. One was constantly booed and harassed, the other hailed as the new great thing. And at that moment, Jake Christensen became one of Iowa's best leaders.

Like many young quarterbacks, Ricky experienced growing pains in his first year at the helm of the offense. Luckily, he had a former starter to turn to for advice. Displaying the signs of a true leader, Jake remained involved on the sidelines and helped develop his successor into one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the Big Ten.

When Stanzi succeeded, Christensen was the first to congratulate. When Stanzi struggled, Christensen was the first to criticize, and then advise. He suddenly became the unofficial, much needed Quarterbacks Coach Iowa had been missing. As Stanzi continued to succeed, Christensen cheered louder, never complaining about standing on the sidelines.

Finally, during the end of the season finale, Jake got what he deserved. Cheers. No more hooting and hollering about poor pocket presence or underthrown passes. Throughout the season, fans had forgiven their once proclaimed savior. Perhaps it was because Iowa had a successful season. Perhaps it was because a new quarterback had taken his place and been more efficient. Or perhaps it was because the fans realized Jake Christensen contributed as much to this season as Andy Brodell, Seth Olsen, and Christian Ballard, but he was the only one who had yet to be congratulated on a job well done.

For four seasons, he put his heart and soul into helping Iowa be sucessful, but was rarely appreciated for it. He cracked under pressure. He always tried his best, but his best was never good enough to silence the critics. Jake Christensen was quick to embrace the Hawkeyes, but the Hawkeyes never completely embraced him.

And now, for better or worse, he is gone. Gone from the team he loved who's fans refused to love him back. Gone from the sideline where he excelled as a leader. And gone from expectations that were too high to expect him to reach in the first place.
Gone from the Iowa Hawkeyes, a year early, is one of the team's most valuable players from this season. And I'm not talking about Shonn Greene.

ESPN College Football Team