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KIRK SPEAKS: WISCONSIN

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Can Iowa knock Wisconsin out of the Top 25?

NCAA Football: Northern Iowa at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

It’s week four of the college football season and the Iowa Hawkeyes are 3-0. Undefeated. Who’s next? Why, it’s the Wisconsin Badgers, coming to town for Iowa’s last home game for nearly a month. It’s a big game. Wisconsin isn’t a top 5 team anymore after losing to BYU last Saturday, but the Hawks will still have a chance to upset a ranked team and earn themselves a spot on the Top 25 list while simultaneously erasing Wisconsin from it completely.

Last weekend we found out that maybe Iowa’s offense isn’t dead after all in a beat down against an inferior UNI squad. But this matchup is where the West will be won, and where we see how Iowa looks against an elite team. As he does every Tuesday, Kirk met with the media yesterday to talk about it all. Let’s see what he had to say, yes?

Read the full transcript here.

Let’s start things off with a KIRK TALKS ABOUT THE PAST ALERT!

KIRK FERENTZ: When Barry Alvarez went up there back in ‘89, ‘90, that winter, he certainly had a vision. I think that program has embodied his vision for many years now. They’re built, strong and physical front on both sides of the football. Have a great running game...

I think when you look at this team, you’re seeing the same thing right now. The foundation of their team, their offensive line is not only big, but they’re outstanding, veteran, very skilled, very adept at what they do. They play well together. Very cohesive group.

This and the next clip are probably the two most noteworthy things Kirk says here in his introductory section:

KIRK FERENTZ: We just played an outstanding running back two weeks ago. I mentioned he might be the best in the country. If he’s not, it might be the one we’re playing this week. This guy is just a tremendous football player, too. It’s unusual when you play two guys of this caliber within a two-week span. That’s what we’re facing.

They’re not the same exact runner, but I can’t imagine many guys in the country better than either of these guys. We witnessed this, how good Taylor was firsthand last year. Heis really a great player.

Remember what this Iowa defense line did to that “outstanding running back [from] two weeks ago?” Me too, and I hope the defensive line can do it again to Jonathan Taylor. Kirk goes on after this to lavish praise on the Badgers. Quarterback play, receivers, tight end, and a defense that doesn’t allow a lot of points. It’s clear from the way Kirk’s talking here that he knows they’re up against a squad that can find success on both sides of the ball.

KIRK FERENTZ: Bottom line, it’s just a great challenge for our football team. We’ll learn a lot about where we’re at on Saturday in terms of the kind of progress we need to make, if we’re going to have a chance to play against the top-level football teams.

Hey, that’s what I said! Great minds think alike, coach. Onto the questions....

Q. How much progress do you see when you look at [last year’s Wisconsin] film versus what your offense is doing right now?

KIRK FERENTZ: It’s hard to compare. It’s almost apples and oranges right now. Plus it’s last year and this year.

I think we made progress each week along the way here. We’re doing some things better. Now we’re moving into conference play. We have nine games. We got a lot of room for improvement. If we’re going to have the kind of season we want to have, we have to keep improving weekly. That’s been the biggest thing for our football team, how can we clean up our play and keep getting better.

But...ARE you improving weekly? Well, let’s see what you learned from watching the BYU film:

Q. What was BYU able to do?

KIRK FERENTZ: Their execution was really good. They played well. They made some nice plays. They competed hard, which again that’s a given if you’re going to beat Wisconsin.

I heard this on the radio somewhere in the last couple days, first time they lost a non-league game at home since 2002 or ‘03, something like that. The odds are against you at some point, one thing I’d say. BYU played a really good game. They caught them a couple times. It took a really good effort. That’s what it’s going to take for us.

You hear that, Brian? Dial up some “nice plays” this weekend and we’ll win the game. This is another non-answer! There’s gotta be some meat in this press conference, right?

Q. They play multiple, a little bit more four front than three against you. The fact that you guys have played against two teams that play a lot of three and four, how will that help you prepare for a team as multiple as Wisconsin?

KIRK FERENTZ: I think the good news is, in this series, we kind of know who they are, I think they know who we are. That’s the good news. Bad news is we know who they are. They give up 12 points a game or 10 points a game. That’s the challenge.

... Probably the thing that’s significant here, they’ve had a philosophy in place, they’ve had a staff that’s been in place. That’s true of a couple of the opponents we play. But it’s amazingly uncommon in college football...

In the case of Wisconsin, they’ve got DNA that has been pretty consistent. A couple other teams in our conference are the same way. At least from a preparation standpoint, when we look at film, we can say, Okay, this is probably what we can expect. Now the challenge is how do you crack the safe? It’s hard because these guys are really good at what they do.

Well, that’s a little bit of something at least, but is there anyone out there reading this blog that didn’t know Wisconsin was consistent?

Q. You had young offensive linemen trying to figure that out last year. They played with a different style and tempo. Multiple fronts. Do you think now they are more comfortable against the scheme?

KIRK FERENTZ: We’ll find out Saturday. Big thing last year, we clearly failed the test last year. We couldn’t sustain anything. We couldn’t make anything go. Part of that was them, a big part of was us, too. We had a hand in it too. The challenge is what can we do better. They’re going to play well. How do we better execute, how do we better get into things that we’ll maybe have some success with. It’s a tough challenge.

And this from earlier in the press conference...

Q. When you look back, do you think you were too impatient with the running game at times last year?

KIRK FERENTZ: One thing about them typically, they make you earn everything. Patience is part of that equation. ... We just weren’t able to sustain. Part of it was a good play they made, but there’s sometimes where we didn’t convert what I call makeable plays. If you’re playing a team that’s as good on defense as Wisconsin is traditionally, to have a chance, you’ve got to make the makeables, you have to make those at a high percentage. It’s going to be tough to make the other ones.

...We left the door open in just about every area...We’re going to have to build, somehow generate something to sustain some drives. They make that tough on you.

Right along with that, we didn’t help ourselves field position-wise. We started inside the 10 on two punts we didn’t field. To me that’s a makeable play. That really affected field position, which affects play calling. A lot of things that factor into it.

Q. You had young offensive linemen trying to figure that out last year. They played with a different style and tempo. Multiple fronts. Do you think now they are more comfortable against the scheme?

KIRK FERENTZ: ...we clearly failed the test last year. We couldn’t sustain anything. We couldn’t make anything go. Part of that was them, a big part of was us, too. We had a hand in it too. The challenge is what can we do better. They’re going to play well. How do we better execute, how do we better get into things that we’ll maybe have some success with. It’s a tough challenge.

So, reading between the lines of this press conference here, Kirk is saying that we’ll need better offensive line play to open up lanes for runners that will sustain drives? And we’ll field more punts (we’ve already seen some of that)? And Wisconsin is a team that doesn’t allow a lot of points, so the game will be a low scoring slog? Sounds like a classic Big Ten Saturday and a classic game of Kirk Ferentz football.

This also came up:

Lastly...

Q. What were your opinions when the conference decided to go East-West?

KIRK FERENTZ: ...When you go through expansion, I’m not providing any commentary other than when you go through expansion, it’s hard to make everything work. That’s what we were going through.

Me personally, my personal preference is for geographic matchups. I think it just makes sense from the fan standpoint. It makes sense on every level in my mind. Trends come and go, all this and that.