Rather than recapping the obvious from late last week -- the Playoff is set, Nebraska denialism, etc. -- let's take a look at some stories bubbling beneath the surface for the coming week and beyond.
The Carousel. Not since Ron Aiken left the program to take a job with the Arizona Cardinals in 2007 has a Ferentz assistant left the program for a clear promotion. Only former offensive line coach Joe Philbin and Hayden Fry holdovers Bret Bielema and Chuck Long have eventually become head coaches. With Iowa's staff having new cache from a playoff run and the coaching carousel more active than it's been in years, could this be the year that changes?
The most obvious candidate to leave for a promotion is Brian Ferentz, whose stock has been soaring since turning Iowa's ragtag offensive line into one of the conference's best units and the Hawkeyes' once-tepid running game into a juggernaut. He's young, he's enthusiastic, he has name recognition, and he's likely prime for a promotion. If that promotion is to come at Iowa, there's really only one seat open: offensive coordinator. Otherwise, Brian's going to have to go somewhere else to move up. If the Ferentz succession plan is as obvious as it looks, some time away from the program could improve Brian's chances of getting the head job down the line.
There are also two particular openings to watch. The first is Toledo, which just lost Matt Campbell to Iowa State. This is the second time in four years that the Rockets lost a young coach to a bigger program (Tim Beckman previously left for Illinois). MAC programs tend to do one of two things: Hire under-the-radar assistants or major-college retreads (Frank Solich and Terry Bowden have been successful there). Enter Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker, who makes a ton of sense. Parker coached at Toledo for a decade before coming to Iowa; in 27 years as a coach, he's only had two jobs, so he's certainly not job-hopping the moment a better offer comes along. He's 52 years old, so the odds of him leaving for another job during his career are diminished (and he might not get another opportunity to be a head coach if he doesn't go this year). And, most importantly, he's shown an uncanny ability to identify under-the-radar talent in the Toledo footprint. Kirk Ferentz said the same yesterday:
Ferentz calls recruiting of Desmond King "a vintage Phil Parker story," compares recruitment of King to Micah Hyde.— Rick Brown (@ByRickBrown) November 29, 2015
Desmond King was a two-star Ball State commit before Iowa snagged him. Micah Hyde had a Toledo offer before Parker found him. And these are just two of a hundred similar stories from Parker's 17 years at Iowa. Toledo could stay internal or hire a hot assistant -- it's one of the MAC's best jobs -- but they'd be nuts to not consider Parker, at least. His name is already starting to float out there.
@DDC2010 Other guys I'm intrigued by are Zach Azzanni, Mike Yurcich, Dave Warner, Joe Rudolph, Josh Conklin, Tyson Helton and Phil Parker— Jordan Wagner (@JWagnerOSU) November 30, 2015
The other potential move is a bit more obscure. Tulane fired Curtis Johnson Sunday. There is no word yet on the fate of the rest of the staff, particularly offensive coordinator Greg Davis Jr. Yes, THAT Greg Davis Jr. Davis has survived the last two firings at Tulane. I don't believe for a second that Greg Davis is headed to Tulane as a head coach in normal circumstances -- he already did that from 1988-1991, and I would guess that his light recruiting schedule at Iowa suits the 64-year-old coach just fine -- but if Davis' son remains on staff, it could change his mind. And if Greg Davis Jr. somehow got the head coaching position, hiring Dad as the offensive coordinator for his last few seasons before retirement could be a great situation for all.
And We'll Never Be Broyles. Speaking of Davis, he has been nominated for the Broyles Award, given to the country's best assistant coach. Each coach can nominate one member of his staff for the award, and a committee of former coaches (including Hayden Fry) makes the selection. Davis won the Broyles Award in 2005 while offensive coordinator at Texas. It's a big deal.
The nomination (and that of North Carolina defensive coordinator Gene Chizik) gave Mack Brown a chance to rib Texas fans:
Greg Davis Iowa OC and Gene Chizik UNC DC R again nominated 4 the Broyles Award. Thx for helping UT win the 05 NC! pic.twitter.com/r0P2KTRSGt— Mack Brown (@ESPN_CoachMack) November 26, 2015
I have no idea of whether Davis will win the award -- he's deserving, but so are a half-dozen other assistants -- but there's another award to keep an eye on: The AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year award. Iowa's staff has deep ties to the AFCA. Two former Iowa assistants -- Ron Aiken and Norm Parker -- have won the award since 2002, and Norm's award, given after a difficult 2011 season as he was announcing his retirement, was as much due to his lifetime in the game as anything.
The Broyles nomination is a nice touch, but if you see Davis' name pop up in the AFCA Awards, it might be the same lifetime achievement award that Norm got. Davis certainly has the credentials to justify it, and it's a good time to walk away on top. If Brian Ferentz is staying on staff, Kirk needs to clear a position for him. The only one left is Davis' spot, and it begins to make sense for everyone involved.
When the Roses Bloom Again. Everyone knows the stakes on Saturday: Iowa beats Michigan State and they're in the College Football Playoff. But should Iowa lose, the weekend's events might have finally knocked the Hawkeyes out of Rose Bowl contention. The Rose Bowl committee chairman has said repeatedly that their intention is to take the top-ranked non-Playoff participants from the Big Ten and Pac-12. Last week, Iowa held a four-spot lead over Ohio State; it would not be enough to stave off the Buckeyes should Iowa get blown out Saturday, but a close loss -- or an overtime loss -- might keep the Hawkeyes ahead of OSU.
And then Baylor and Notre Dame lost over the weekend, and the Buckeyes destroyed Michigan, and by Sunday morning Ohio State was sixth in the polls. It's tough to imagine a scenario where OSU won't be sixth in the Playoff poll Tuesday, as well; there just aren't any one-loss teams to move ahead of them. A one-loss Iowa is not going to finish ahead of a one-loss Ohio State in any scenario where just one team separates them (and that team, Michigan State, would move up). The undefeated record should lock Iowa into a New Years' Six bowl game, but it's virtually certain to be something other than Pasadena now.