Some facts really are stranger than fiction.
The Citrus Bowl match against Tennessee will be the going-away game for Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz.
He is the son of the Hawkeyes’ long-time head coach Kirk Ferentz.
The unpleasant departure has been in the works for too much of Brian’s seven seasons. A year ago, the father was arm-twisted into agreeing that Iowa had to reach a certain degree of offensive efficiency in 2023 or his boy had to go.
The revised contract called for a $50,000 reduction in pay (to $850,000). Iowa had to win at least seven games and average 25 points on offense.
Was that amendment bizarre?
The language: “If Coach does not meet the designated performance objectives, the agreement will terminate on June 30, 2024.”
Iowa won 10 and played Michigan for the Big Ten championship. Alas and alas, the Hawkeyes scored only 216 points, an average of 16.6 per game, far short of mandated requirements.
To compound the disappointment, 41 points came against Western Michigan. The Hawkeyes got 22 against Rutgers. All the others? Not so much.
The really good Iowa defense contributed one touchdown, a pick six. One punt return went the distance.
The 31-0 loss at Penn State certainly didn’t help. Iowa gained 76 yards, second-fewest in daddy Ferentz’s 25 seasons. It was the first time the Hawkeyes had been shut out since 2000.
The 12-10 loss to Minnesota was the tipping point. Iowa mustered 127 yards of total offense.
Generally speaking, the defense carried Iowa wherever it went. The offense ranked No. 131 out of 133 college teams. Bye, bye Brian.
“Kirk Ferentz got his son $5 million in his seven seasons as OC,” said Bud Elliott of CBS Sports.
“Nepotism is a great hustle.”
This is a tough Iowa team. The defense is among the best in the country. Michigan had considerable difficulty gaining ground. Tennessee will have to play better than it did in mid-November to defeat the Hawkeyes. Speed might be decisive.
This may be a very difficult debut for Nico. Iowa won the Big Ten West.
In offensive stats, it is worse than Vanderbilt.
In this era of many skill players opting out of bowl games to protect NFL chances, it took Joe Milton a long time to decide he wasn’t going to play in the Citrus Bowl. He practiced with the team in Knoxville and didn’t announce no go until he arrived in Orlando.
He will continue to help Nico prepare to replace him. He will be on the sideline during the game as Hendon Hooker was for him at last year’s Orange Bowl.
Joe did not achieve the 2023 numbers of a high draft choice. He is the correct size and he has the great right arm but his decision-making was at times questioned as was his accuracy.
The best thing Milton had this season was the unwavering support of Josh Heupel. The coach heard fans clamoring for Nico but stayed steady in the boat with his veteran.
Those who wanted new defensive backs will see their dream come true – of necessity. Seven old ones fled through the transfer gate.
Starters who stayed to play are Gabe Jeudy-Lally and Jaylen McCollough. Beneficiaries of the openings are freshman Rickey Gibson, sophomores Jourdan Thomas and Andre Turrentine and junior walk-on Will Brooks.
Because of injuries, Brooks played a lot in the last two games and actually looked better than some of the scholarship players.
Freshmen Jordan Matthews, Christian Conyer and John Slaughter might play.
Blessing (not in disguise): Iowa’s passing game ranks 127 in the country. Four teams are lower.
Deacon Hill, 6-3 and 258, transfer from Wisconsin, is the quarterback. He moved up when the No. 1 QB was injured. Hill has thrown for 1,096 yards and five touchdowns. He has completed 49.4 percent. He has lost six interceptions. His quarterback rating is a lowly 22.8.
Michigan sacked him four times in the championship game. Critics said Iowa’s offense was brutally bad.
Hmmm, keep in mind that Tennessee, in times past, has helped some mediocre QBs look like Heisman candidates.
Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is firstname.lastname@example.org