The Iowa Hawkeyes punched their ticket to Indianapolis two weeks ago after beating Illinois by two points at home. Not necessarily needing the win, they followed that up with a game-winning field goal on Black Friday at Nebraska.
They haven’t lost since a controversial call that took away a punt return touchdown against Minnesota a month ago, so they are riding into the Big Ten Championship on a four-game winning streak.
But standing in their way of their first conference championship since 2004 are the red-hot Michigan Wolverines. Jim Harbaugh will be back on the sidelines in search of his third straight conference title after serving a three-game suspension handed down by Big Ten commissioner Tony Pettiti due to the Connor Stalions sign-stealing investigation.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday afternoon, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz was asked about the situation in Ann Arbor. He admitted it doesn’t really affect them in any way as far as game prep goes, and he didn’t hold back when it comes technology being readily available to prevent these situations from happening in the first place.
“If you want a bigger picture view — this is something that probably could be corrected real easily,” Ferentz said. “Whoever’s gotta get together just to have a vote and allow us to have different technology — that’s been talked about seems like for, maybe not quite a decade but close to, and it’d be a simple way to fix everything. I know baseball had some issues, I think they’ve got that fixed. We could have fixed this probably a decade ago. But it’s like a lot of things have happened in the NCAA and college football — we’re a really slow-moving train when it comes to being progressive, trying to improve things, just improve the quality of the game. So it kind of fits in that category. Between now and Saturday, that’s really hardly a concern of mine. But one of these days, maybe we’ll take the steps needed to be taken just to take this off the board, as a topic for anybody.”
Ferentz is spot on. Had the NCAA implemented radio technology into the helmets of players, this whole sign-stealing investigation would have never been a thing. Every level of football except for college uses radio technology to communicate play calls. Instead, college coaches are tasked with coming up with hand signals to communicate what play is set to be run next.
The opportunity for radio communication has been presented in college football over the years, but the main culprit for it not being implemented is college coaches no longer having the ability to steal signs. Everyone has a sign-stealer in their program, but not everyone has someone like Stalions willing to go rogue on the program and do whatever it takes — even if it’s potentially outside of NCAA rules — to win.
When it comes to Michigan, Ferentz is cognizant of the challenge presented to his team next Saturday night in Indy.
“They look like the team we’ve seen the last three years,” Ferentz said. “They’re impressive at every position, extremely well-coached and they’ve got really good players. That’s not a new phenomenon, at least my 34 years playing against Michigan. The bottom line is they’re really good up front on both sides, they’re good on special teams, quarterback’s playing excellent, so it’s going to be a total team challenge for us. We’re going to have to, first of all, do our best to stay competitive in this whole thing, and then most likely have to find a way to try to get it over the top at some given juncture. They don’t look like they leave the door open a lot, so it’s going to be a challenge, but hat’s what you expect from a championship game.”
Ferentz didn’t name anyone in particular — it sounds like he hasn’t watched a whole lot of Michigan this season, which makes sense given the two teams did not play each other in the regular season. But Ferentz has a lot of respect for Harbaugh and the Wolverines, and it shows in his comments.
Michigan vs. Iowa for the Big Ten championship is slated to begin at 8 p.m. on FOX.