Many years ago, probably in July of 2000, my brother went with me to the Big Ten football media days in Chicago because we were going to stay an extra day after my meetings to go to a Cubs game.
On the morning of the last day of interviews, he went downstairs at the hotel to get some breakfast. When he came back, he said a guy already in a suit and tie at 7 a.m. had been in line behind him and just from his appearance and the way he seemed comfortable talking to a stranger, he guessed he was one of the Big Ten’s head coaches.
I asked him for a description of the person he’d chatted with and when I got it I pulled an Iowa football media guide out of my duffel bag and pointed to a picture of Kirk Ferentz.
“That’s him,” my brother said.
Almost two decades later, Ferentz is still on Iowa’s sideline. His 19 seasons in the same job makes him the longest serving head coach in major college football.
Probably the thing Ohio State fans know best about Ferentz is that he has been voted Big Ten Coach of the Year four times and neither of the coaches who won national championships at OSU during his tenure at Iowa has ever been Big Ten Coach of the Year.
His contract also has received a lot of attention for what was, at the time it was negotiated, a huge buyout of around $20 million dollars. But soaring salaries for coaches mean that his salary is now only the 13th highest in college football and his buyout is similar to the buyouts in the contracts of Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, James Franklin and Nick Saban.
Ferentz has a career record of 140-95 at Iowa. After winning one game and three games his first two seasons, he has had teams win 10 or more games five times. Five of his teams were ranked in the AP Top Ten and two of them won Big Ten championships.
He’s a good fit for Iowa and Iowa is a good fit for him. At 61, this will probably be his last coaching job.
Ohio State (7-1, 5-0 Big Ten) is an 18-point favorite over Iowa (5-3, 2-3 Big Ten) this afternoon in Kinnick Stadium.
That seems a bit high when you consider Iowa’s recent history at home against highly ranked teams. It beat then-No. 3 Michigan 14-13 on a field goal on the last play of their game last year and lost 21-19 to then-No. 4 Penn State on the last play of their game this season.
Iowa’s win over Iowa State looks more impressive now than when it happened. Also, the Hawkeyes’ three losses were by two to Penn State and by seven to Michigan State and Northwestern.
If they were to find a way to upset Ohio State, or at least throw a scare into the Buckeyes, it would probably be by keeping it a low scoring game.
Iowa ranks tenth in the Big Ten in scoring at 25 points a game, but is third in the conference and No. 12 nationally in scoring defense at 17.4 points a game.
From the outside, maybe the greatest fear about Ohio State is that it could have a letdown after last week’s win over Penn State. But the Buckeyes insist that is not going to happen.
Iowa’s biggest problem might be about take downs, more than letdowns. Because of injuries, the Hawkeyes will start a redshirt freshman at one offensive tackle and a right-out-of-high school freshman at the other tackle spot.
That could mean a very uncomfortable afternoon for Iowa quarterback Nick Stanley against OSU’s defensive line.
Iowa hasn’t beaten OSU since 2004 when it dominated the Buckeyes 33-7 in Kinnick Stadium. That streak won’t be broken this year.
The prediction: Ohio State 31, Iowa 14.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.