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Chris Dufresne ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Iowa Hits Part of Schedule That Will Be No Sweat

November 28, 2002|Chris Dufresne

USC and Notre Dame coaches won't total 50 hours of sleep this week as they prepare for Saturday's big game at the Coliseum.

Meanwhile, in Iowa City, Iowa, Coach Kirk Ferentz may not get out of his pajamas until after the Saturday morning cartoons. That'll be him in his driveway, stifling a yawn as he picks up the morning paper.

While Florida and Florida State go knuckles down this weekend, and Nebraska seeks revenge against Colorado, and No. 1 Miami plays at Syracuse, Iowa will be doing ...

"Absolutely nothing," Ferentz said this week, being kind enough to set aside his crossword puzzle and take a phone call.

Only in college football can a team wrap up the regular season on Nov. 16 and have to wait a minimum of 46 days to play its next game.

Imagine, in the NFL, playing the conference title games on Jan. 28 and then holding the Super Bowl in mid-March.

Iowa, which clinched a share of the Big Ten title almost two weeks ago, doesn't know for certain where it's playing its next game, although it's almost a cinch to be in the Rose Bowl, or what team it's going to face, likely Washington State or USC.

Iowa's fate will be decided by other teams on television while its players are fighting over the remote control and eating spongecake.

Iowa is like the golfer who posts a low score in the morning and has to wait around in the clubhouse to see if it holds up.

Ferentz, who in four seasons has taken Iowa from 1-10 to 11-1, hasn't even tried to keep his players focused on the next game. Six weeks from now is a light year for a 20-year-old kid.

Instead, get this, he gave his team two weeks off and told them to do exactly what players are not supposed to do: rest on their laurels.

" 'Let everyone tell you what a great job you've done,' " Ferentz told his guys. " 'When you go home for Thanksgiving, let everyone pat you on the back.' They should. Because our guys have really deserved it. To go from 0-8 in the league to 8-0 in a matter of four years, that's something to be very, very proud of. Then, I'll be all over their butts when they get back here in December."

Iowa played 12 consecutive weeks without a bye and finished its season while some teams still had three regular-season games remaining.

Iowa could be in limbo until Dec. 8, the day bowl bids become official. The Hawkeyes are likely Rose Bowl bound, but there's still a remote chance they could end up in the Fiesta or get bounced out of a bowl championship series game.

It's tough to say how dormancy affects the Hawkeye cause. Brad Banks, the team's brilliant quarterback, can't hurt himself in the Heisman Trophy race, but he can't help himself either.

Thanks to Washington State's loss last Saturday, and other mathematical blips, Iowa hopped two spots, from No. 7 to No. 5, in this week's BCS standings.

Imagine that, cracking the top 5 while you're getting a start on Christmas cards.

Yet, the USC-Notre Dame winner this weekend is likely going to take Iowa's No. 5 spot in the BCS. The real danger in too much goof-off time is having to hold another orientation when players return to campus.

Excuse me, the name escapes me, but weren't you our left cornerback?

Florida State discovered in 1998 what it's like to go stale. The Seminoles wrapped up the regular season on Nov. 21 against Florida. A few weeks later, Coach Bobby Bowden awoke from a Dec. 5 catnap to discover all heaven had broken loose and Florida State was going to play Tennessee for the national title.

Seminole players entered the Fiesta Bowl like bears just out of hibernation and suffered an error-filled title-game loss.

Ferentz says he isn't worried.

"I'm totally confident our guys will get back into it," he said. "I'm not worried about who we're playing either, or any of that stuff. We'll have plenty of time come December as far as looking at an opponent."

Iowa could probably start breaking down film of Washington State or USC, but Ferentz isn't interested in viewing rough cuts.

"All that would do is screw up our game plan, if we got a jump that early," he said. "For sure, we'd botch it."

With so much time to kill, Ferentz this week did something coaches almost never do from August to the bowl games.

"I went out to dinner with my family last night, all the stuff that normal people do," he said. "It's great. I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do this week to justify my existence around here."

Hey, anyone up for a game of dominos?

Making Plans

Pacific 10 officials were in Iowa City this week paving the way for Iowa's probable trip to the Rose Bowl.

There are only two scenarios in which Iowa does not get to Pasadena.

One is a terrific alternative; the other stinks.

It is remotely possible that Iowa could play for the national title against Ohio State in the Jan. 3 Fiesta Bowl.

This would require Miami, Oklahoma and Georgia losing and Iowa jumping to the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings.

You say nothing that crazy could ever happen -- except it happened last year.

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