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Is Kirk’s crew ready for its biggest test of the year against the Michigan Wolverines?

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of questions we have about the 2019 Iowa football squad will be answered in a few short days when the No. 14 Hawkeyes travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan to face the No. 18 ranked Wolverines. Will Kirk Ferentz’s undefeated squad be ready for its biggest test (so far) of the season? Let’s see what he had to say about it to the media yesterday (full transcript here).

Let’s start with a little snippet from the opening statement that I thought was interesting:

KIRK FERENTZ: ...We know we have a great challenge on our hands right now. We need a great week of preparation, and we’ll have to play our absolute best to have a chance to be successful in this thing, and that’s really the challenge in front of our team right now.

Kirk is stating the obvious here, but he’s also laying out a true fact that his team is going to have to execute perfectly at every level (or at least nearly at every level) to win this game, and I’m glad that’s the mindset going into practice for the week.

Now let’s go to injury updates:

KIRK FERENTZ: Injury-wise we have a couple guys working back right now, Jackson, Merriweather and Brents all practiced today, and they looked like they came out of it okay. So we’ll let them work all week, see how they look, but hopefully we’ll start getting some guys back on the field instead of losing guys.

That’s right folks: positive injury-related news!

Q. Jackson right now, is he going to start, or is he going to be a rotational guy on Saturday?

KIRK FERENTZ: It depends how the week goes. He looked good today and the film looked good. As long as he can keep progressing -- if he’s capable, certainly we’ll start him ... but my guess is we’ll continue to rotate the guys at least for the next couple weeks.

I’m ok with all of this. Keep that offensive line healthy!

Now for the not so great injury news:

Q. Any chance for Hankins or Reiff this week or --

KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, they couldn’t work today, so I just don’t see that happening. Hopefully we’re getting closer. I think we’re moving forward with all the guys that are still out, but yeah, just one of those deals.

Let’s hope Shea Patterson doesn’t pick this week to suddenly perfect his deep ball. DJ Johnson is going to be tested against these wideouts.

Now back to the good!

Q. Ultimately has this been a healthy exercise as far as getting guys back and getting the experience for Levi and for the other guys?

KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, any time you can survive injuries to starters and guys can go in and play and hopefully not just get by but play well, that’s a positive certainly because that’s how you build depth. There’s no better way than game competition. You can’t substitute that.

The whole trick is surviving it, and I think the offensive line has done a pretty good job of managing the bumps through the first four weeks, and getting AJ back will certainly help us, and hopefully we’ll be a more diversified group now.

I concur! Speaking of that strong play from the offensive line:

Q. You’re running the ball about 56 percent, the same as last year. Yards per carry significantly up, yards per gain significantly up. In a nutshell, what do you see?

KIRK FERENTZ: Part of it’s the blocking. So far, four games into it, our line has done a pretty good job, but the level of competition goes up this week, certainly ... I think we’ve seen a lot of progress with our running backs and receivers, and certainly the older three guys are the same three guys they were a year ago, but they’re better football players than last season at any time.

And then you throw Goodson in there, too, he’s giving us a little juice.

Key wording here re: Goodson “he’s giving us a little juice.” Now, maybe I shouldn’t read into that, but that sure doesn’t sound like he’ll be redshirting. In fact, he was asked later in the press conference about the prospect of redshirting and Goodson’s name didn’t come up at all. I think that’s your answer.

And last but not least, let’s talk seasoned veterans!

Q. Do you feel like your team is veteran in the right spots to combat that at quarterback, defensive line?

KIRK FERENTZ: So far we’ve been a group that’s focused pretty well ... I think so far we’re passing the test week to week, and this is going to be a whole new challenge for us. What we went through two weeks ago was a unique challenge and a tough challenge. This one will be even tougher. You keep learning as you go along.

We’ll know a lot about this team come next Wednesday. Let’s get a win.