Iowa's confidence has been shaken to its very foundation. On Saturday, Kirk Ferentz is going to have to stop the quake.
I hate Minnesota. I mean, I really hate Minnesota.
I hate their coach who was clearly chosen just because he looks like a gopher. I hate their ginger backup quarterback with an apparent chip on his shoulder about Iowa not wanting his gingerness on the roster. I hate their blonde-haired pale-skinned Scandinavian fans, who somehow have turned complaining about everything into a badge of toughness and honor and have made Minnesota an even douchier Wisconsin. I love that Hayden Fry story about the Gophers having too many men on the field exponentially more because it's Minnesota who couldn't count. I hate Minneapolis. I hate St. Paul. I hate the Lakers just because they used to be in Minneapolis. Ice fishing is fucking stupid. Jesse Ventura was a shitty wrestler. You're all horrible.
But it's been a long time since I've been able to hate this: I hate that they're passing us by.
It's been five years since Iowa entered the Floyd game with even a hint of doubt that they were the better team, twelve since that was a certainty. Yet, on the heels of last week's dumpster fire, not only is the consensus that Minnesota is better than Iowa, but it's being accepted as common knowledge that Jerry Kill will outcoach Kirk Ferentz. If Iowa's a favorite in this game, it's only due to the fact that it's in Kinnick Stadium, where Iowa hasn't lost Floyd since 1999.
That's why Saturday is the perfect opportunity for a comeback.
Confidence in this team and this coaching staff is pretty low at this point, to be sure, but this is precisely where Ferentz usually finds his form. In 2007, Iowa was 2-4 with bad losses to Indiana and Penn State when they somehow found a way to beat #19 Illinois. In 2008, a poorly-coached loss in Champaign left Iowa 5-4; the next week, the Hawkeyes beat #3 Penn State. In 2009, with Ricky Stanzi out and Iowa's chariot quickly reverting to pumpkin, Ferentz took his team to Ohio State and took the Buckeyes to overtime.
Any edge in talent on either side is negligible, any advantage in coaching is tenuous. As Minnesota showed the last two years, this game can be turned entirely on emotion. You know there's going to be plenty of emotion on the Minnesota sideline. Since Brewster left, there has been no doubt that the Gophers understand what this game means to their horrible, horrible fans. There used to be no question of it on Iowa's end, either; 55-0 really did happen. The question is, does Ferentz still have that? Does he still want to destroy Minnesota, and can he and his staff convey that? It's the most basic premise of coaching, simply motivating your team to play as hard and as smart as they can, that is called into question now. Whether Kirk Ferentz can answer that call will determine Saturday's game.