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Brass-knuckle approach still works in college football

[ 0 ] November 12, 2013 |

Slobber-knocking never really went out of style in the Big Ten Conference.

Take a look at this year’s standings, and you’ll notice:

–Ohio State, averaging 301.1 rushing yards, is unbeaten and remains in the hunt for a spot in the Bowl Championship Series title game.

–Michigan State, which leads the nation in total defense with 210.2 yards allowed, can virtually wrap up the Legends Division title with a win this weekend at Nebraska.

–Minnesota, with an average time of possession of 33 minutes, 23 seconds, is celebrating an 8-2 breakout season.

–Wisconsin, 10th nationally in rushing offense and seventh in total defense, is 7-2 under first-year coach Gary Andersen.

And then there’s Iowa.

The Hawkeyes, 6-4, 3-3 in the Big Ten, have clawed their way back to bowl eligibility, thanks largely to a deep running back corps (193.9 rushing yards a game) and a stout defensive line (130.0 rushing yards allowed and 55 tackles for loss).

“There are perceptions about a lot of things, especially about styles of play,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The bottom line is, doing the best thing for what it is your players can do.

“If it means being more old school, then that’s one thing.

“You look at what’s going on with Baylor, they’re certainly very well suited to play the way they play.”

The Bears, a national pacesetter with 61 points and 686 yards per game, have become a sensation. Florida State, with 52 points and 521 yards, is not far behind.

But at some moment, every team has to get a little down and dirty.

“If you’re at the University of Alabama, you’re winning with defense,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “I think Stanford is winning with defense. I think Florida State is winning with defense.

“So all these programs have great defenses. It’s very difficult to be at the top level in college football without balance.”

The Hawkeyes, who are off this week, have been the beneficiaries and victims of a brass knuckle approach.

Iowa’s four losses have come against teams with a combined 33-3 record – and only Northern Illinois is allowing more than 17 points a game.

“There’s no one way to be successful in football,” Ferentz said. “The bottom line is, you have to have good players and they have to be well coached.

“And they’ve got to play hard on Saturday.”

The Hawkeyes will try to elevate themselves in the bowl pecking order by beating Michigan (Nov. 23 at Kinnick Stadium) and Nebraska (Nov. 29 in Lincoln, Neb.).

The Wolverines and Huskers are tradition-rich programs, struggling to find an identity.

“This, to me, is when football is really enjoyable,” Ferentz said. “You’ve got a lot of different levels, but everybody is playing for something and every game means a lot.”

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 19 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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