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Archive for January, 2014

The new landscape

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
One of the byproducts of the College Football Playoff Committee's meetings the past few days has been some answers to frequently asaked questions about the selection committee which beginning this fall will determine which four college football teams will get a chance to play for the national championship. The Q&A, which has been posted on the organization's website, provides some insight to the process and how everything will work. It starts by detailing a mission which involves ranking the top 25 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision and selecting and seeding the best four teams for the playoff as well as assigning other teams to selected other bowl games. Remember, no conferences have automatic berths in the playoffs and there is no limit on the number of teams from a conference which can participate. It also details that criteria used to rank teams will be up to the 13 individuals on the committee. From the Q&A: "Selection committee members will have flexibility to examine whatever data they believe is relevant to inform their decisions. They will also review a significant amount of video. Among the many factors the committee will consider are win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents and conference championships.'' A series of ballots will then take place to determine the top four teams, beginning with a ballot to select a pool of teams to be considered. Once formulated, that pool of teams will be ranked and individual ballots will be compiled to form a composite ranking. The selection committee has set as a goal to be as transparent as possible and a structure which sets forth a defined set of procedures used in setting the teams will be made public. The selection committee's rankings will be publicized throughout the season, beginning at some point midway through the season. Those so-called interim rankings will be released four times before selection weekend. The 13-member group will meet on the weekend of Dec. 6-7 to select its playoff participants and teams which will play in other bowls. Five conferences -- ACC (Orange), Big Ten (Rose), Big 12 (Sugar), Pac-12 (Rose) and Southeastern (Sugar) -- have negotiated individual bowl contracts for their champions. The highest ranked champion of the other five FBS conferences -- the American Athletic, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt -- as determined by the selection committee will play in one of the six New Year's Day bowls. Others available berths will be awarded to the teams ranked highest by the committee, which will assign teams to bowls. When three of the bowls -- Fiesta, Cotton and Atlanta -- are not hosting semifinal games, their participants will come from (1), the highest ranked champion among the five conferences without negotiated bowl tie-ins, (2) conference champions displaced when their contracted bowls host semifinals and (3) the remaining teams ranked highest in the committee's rankings. According to its Q&A, the committee will assign teams to non-playoff bowls to create the most compelling match-ups, taking geography, an avoidance of regular-season rematches and an avoidance of rematches of recent bowl games.

Together again

Monday, January 13th, 2014
Retirement and Norm Parker were never comfortable companions. Parker was a football coach and even after he ended a 48-year career in coaching in 2011 when he ended a 13-year run as Iowa's defensive coordinator, the game was too much for Parker leave behind. He was a regular around the Iowa football complex until the time of his unexpected death today. Parker watched tape, talked to players, attended a few practices and continued to enjoy every minute he spent around the game he played in college at Eastern Michigan and coached at eight different institutions at the college level. He once was a head coach -- for three years at St. John's High School in Ypsilanti, Mich., right out of college -- but Parker returned to his alma mater in 1968 and never left the college game. He coached everything from the offensive line, tight ends and receivers to defensive line and linebackers before first working as a defensive coordinator at East Carolina from 1980-82. He filled similar roles at Michigan State and Vanderbilt before accepting the coordinator's position on the staff Kirk Ferentz headed at Iowa in 1999. Parker's ability to teach, his insistence on excellence and a sense of humor which kept everybody in their comfort zone as they got their jobs done separated Parker from his peers. He knew stepping away from the game would be challenging, saying at the time of his retirement, "I'll probably end up volunteering at some high school just to be around the smell of the locker room.'' A cup of coffee was a constant companion as he watched Iowa games from a suite in the press box the past two years, but Parker told me following a 2012 appearance at the Davenport Grid Club that his preference was to simply watch the action. "I like being able to sit and just watch. I like watching the formations, watching what guys are trying to do against a particular offense, that type of thing,'' Parker said. He was surprised at the number of experts he found himself surrounded by as he tried to watch what was taking place on the field. "I sit up in those suites around people who think they know all the answers. I go to practice and hell, there are times when I don't even know what's going on, but others, they have all the answers,'' Parker said. "It's good to be around, though, I still enjoy that.'' Now, Parker will be around his best buddy. He and his late son, Jeff, are together again. Jeff Parker, born with Down syndrome, died in 2004 at the age of 33 because of complications following strokes. The pair were constant companions, both around the football team and frequently sharing front-row seats at Iowa basketball games. They'd joke, laugh, pal around, and put everything in perspective about what really matters to everyone they came in contact with. That was Norm being Norm - but it was also Norm teaching us all about life whether we realized it at the time or not. Ferentz always understood that, one of the reasons that Parker continued to work as his defensive coordinator in 2011 one year after complications from diabetes led to the amputation of one of Parker's feet. "I think his impact, the effect he had on this football program, goes way beyond the football part of things,'' Ferentz said. "His impact has really gone way beyond any defense he may have called or coached and that is something we are real appreciative of.''

Final countdown

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
The top spot was easy. Florida State earned its spot on the top of my final Associated Press football ballot with its work on the field. Jimbo Fisher's team was impressive in the way it rallied for the win against a stellar effort by Auburn's defense. I did vote Michigan State, Auburn, Oregon and Oklahoma into my next four spots. The teams I had in the fourth through seventh spots on my previous ballot on Dec. 8 all lost their bowl games and while I opted to keep Auburn in the top three, the teams in the fourth through seventh spots all dropped at least five spots in my final ballot. Michigan State earned its way to No. 2. Its defense ranked among the nation's elite from the time the Spartans first stepped on the field this season, but the growth of the team's offense from start to finish and the its success vs. Stanford in the Rose Bowl led me to bump the 13-1 Spartans ahead of a two-loss Auburn team. You could probably flip a coin between the fourth through 11th teams on my final ballot.There are a lot of similarities between those teams. At the end of the day, I ended up with four SEC teams in my top nine, a recognition of the depth of the strength of the conference this season. Ohio State landed in the 11th spot, one notch ahead of LSU. I've seen them both in person and without Zach Mettenberger at QB, which is where the Tigers were at the end of the year, the Buckeyes are the better of the two. The only other Big Ten team to be rated on my final ballot is Wisconsin, which I dropped from 19th to 22nd following its loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl. Here is my final ballot of the season: 1. Florida State 2. Michigan State 3. Auburn 4. Oregon 5. Oklahoma 6. South Carolina 7. Clemson 8. Missouri 9. Alabama 10. Stanford 11. Ohio State 12. LSU 13. UCF 14. Louisville 15. Baylor 16. UCLA 17. Oklahoma State 18. Texas A&M 19. Notre Dame 20. USC 21. Vanderbilt 22. Wisconsin 23. Fresno State 24. Northern Illinois 25. Duke

For what it’s worth

Monday, January 6th, 2014
The win column isn't the only place the Iowa football program is on the rise. The Hawkeyes are also climbing in their value as a program among their Football Bowl Subdivision peers. Iowa ranks 11th in the nation among the 119 FBS programs listed by Ryan Brewer of Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus in his annual ranking of the worth of collegiate programs, up four spots from a year ago and moving ahead of Big Ten rivals Nebraska and Penn State in rankings released Monday to the Wall Street Journal. Brewer, an assistant professor of finance at the school calculates the intrinsic value of FBS teams by examining revenues, expenses, making cash flow adjustments and risk assessments and growth projections for each school. Based on those areas, he calculates a dollar value to determine the comparative worth of each program if it were to be put up for sale in a mythical marketplace.. Texas continues to top his list with a worth of $875 million. Only one other school, Notre Dame at $811.5 million, tops the $700 million mark although two Big Ten powers fill the third and fourth spots in this year's rankings. Michigan rates third at $685.5 milion while Ohio State is fourth at $674.8 million. Florida is fifth at $660.8 million. Iowa sits in 11th at $479.1 million, up from a worth of $315.6 million in his previous rating. LSU, Iowa's opponent at the Outback Bowl last week, is 10th at $529.8 million, whlie the Hawkeyes have moved past Big Ten peers Nebraska, in 12th at $432.5 million, Wisconsin, in 13th at $406.4 million, and Penn State, in 14th at $377.6 million. No other Big Ten programs ranked in Brewer's top 25. His rankings value Rose Bowl champion Michigan State at 29th at $212.9 million, Minnesota at 36th at $179.7 million, Northwestern at 40th at $154.5 million and Iowa State at 41st at $152.1 million. Indiana at $125.8 million and Purdue at $114.6 million also make his top 50.

Not-so-fitting finale

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014
Iowa's football team probably deserved a better fate than the one it was handed in today's season finale against LSU. The Hawkeyes knew they needed one of their better efforts of the season if they were going to have a chance to defeat the only team in the country to defeat BCS title game finalist Auburn and the Hawkeyes were far from perfect at Raymond James Stadium. Iowa lost the turnover battle 3-1, never a good thing, couldn't help itself with a fake punt and struggled to get much going against the Tigers offensively. The turnovers led to 14 points, more than enough for LSU to hold for a seven-point win over an Iowa team which made great strides this season. The Hawkeyes' defense is regaining the edge it has enjoyed throughout much of the 15 years Kirk Ferentz has coached the team. Offensively, Iowa looked more comfortable in its cleats than it did in the first year of a transition at the coordinator position. Depth there is improved and the future looks good as long as the redshirting freshman receivers that Greg Davis has raved about are ready to produce next fall. Iowa needs continued growth in developing an ability to create separation in the passing game and Davis would like to see additional depth developed on the offensive line. That's a work in progress, something Iowa made this season in part because of the leadership of a 16-member senior class. Ferentz has praised the group for the work it put in in leading the Hawkeyes on and off the field over the past 13 months. The reward was a bowl bid and an 8-5 season and the knowledge that they helped push the program forward. Before leaving the field today, the seniors organized one final swarm to lead the team to its locker room. The sign of unity, of the ability to work together to right the ship, are significant in the legacy the group leaves behind. "We came in together and we left together,'' linebacker Christian Kirksey said. "That is Iowa football.'' And creating that bond they believe will stick as the Hawkeyes move forward is nearly as valuable as a ninth win would have been this afternoon.

Report card: LSU

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014
Report card for the Iowa football team in today's Outback Bowl against Louisiana State: OFFENSE: D The Hawkeyes finished the season with their lowest offensive output of the season, The Hawkeyes totaled just 233 yards -- 34 yards fewer than Iowa managed against Michigan State. Iowa's passing and rushing numbers were the second-lowest of the season, illustrating the uphill battle the Hawkeyes faced as LSU denied Iowa the inside zone reads that are the bread-and-butter of the Hawkeyes' power running game. Mark Weisman finished with 37 yards, finishing 25 yards shy of 1,000 for the season. Jake Rudock completed 9-of-22 passes for 102 yards and threw one of Iowa's two interceptions. Tight ends CJ Fiedorowicz and Jake Duzey combined for seven of Iowa's 13 receptions as the Hawkeye receivers struggled to get open. DEFENSE: B- The defense gave the Hawkeyes everything they had, but in the end it wasn't enough. This unit found itself on the field for entirely too much time - 35 minutes, 46 seconds to be exact - as a result of the offense's inability to sustain drives. The Hawkeyes rattled Anthony Jennings in his first start at QB, sacking him four times, intercepting him once and breaking up an additional pass with more than adequate pressure. Jeremy Hill did create issues, averaging 7.7 yards per carry on his way to a 216-yard game. SPECIAL TEAMS: C- Talk about a mixed bag. There was good - Jordan Cotton's 96-yard kickoff return to set up Iowa's final score - and bad - Kevonte Martin-Manley's fumbled punt, a missed 35-yard field goal by Mike Meyer and a couple of shanked punts among the seven that Connor Kornbrath averaged 40.3 on -- that led overall to a frustrating day for Iowa's special teams. COACHING: C Iowa got caught off guard by some unexpected looks from LSU in the first half, leading to an inability to run the ball that combined with a lack of success passing and a 14-0 deficit at the half. Iowa did make some adjustments, but they did not happen quickly enough to allow the Hawkeyes to overcome a mistake-filled performance. It all added up to a disappointing ending to a more-than-solid season.