IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz disdains rankings, shrugs off the BCS, insists teams usually get what they deserve when the regular-season is over.
"I am so uninterested in that right now," Ferentz said Tuesday. I’m just so uninterested in that. We’ll probably end up where we belong at the end of the day. The drama and the suspense is not killing me. I can assure you it’s not killing me. It hasn’t been."
But a few blocks from the football complex, Iowa’s sports information office sends an e-mail to media members around the nation explaining why it thinks the Hawkeyes are getting short-changed in popular perceptions.
"It seems popular for national pundits to criticize the University of Iowa football team these days," wrote Iowa sports information director Phil Haddy Monday. "Many have said Iowa doesn’t belong on the same board with Florida, Texas, Alabama, Cincinnati, TCU, Oregon or Boise State. Iowa’s schedule has been rated the seventh toughest in the nation."
Haddy listed a slew of statistics comparing Iowa to Boise State, Cincinnati, Oregon and TCU that, as you might assume, all favor the Hawkeyes.
Touting its story on Iowa in this week’s issue, a Sports Illustrated press release says Ferentz "will not go out of his way to politick for Iowa as the BCS race heats up (per past precedent of Texas’s Mack Brown and Florida’s Urban Meyer)."
But the Hawkeyes’ sports information department almost got a high ankle sprain from how hard it jumped into campaigning on Monday.
Haddy told me everyone had said Iowa’s killer road schedule would be its biggest barrier to success. Now that Iowa has worked its way through three-fourths of its Big Ten road games without a scratch, some people have downgraded the opposition.
I don’t think it’s the best week to compare Iowa to Oregon when a lot of people could have seen both the Hawkeyes and Ducks on national television Saturday. But some do have a belief the Big Ten is weaker than normal and Iowa is playing a tray-full of cupcakes.
Would Boise State, Cincinnati, TCU or even the mighty Ducks have won at Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State, a la Iowa? It seems unlikely. Oregon only beat Purdue by 38-36 in Eugene.
From Haddy’s e-mail: Iowa has played more opponents with winning records (6) than any of those four aformentioned teams. None of those four have beaten more teams that currently reside in the BCS’ Top 25.
Hardly. This was Haddy’s baby. He thinks ESPN’s Lou Holtz and others are putting out misinformation on what Iowa has accomplished this season. He said Ferentz knew nothing about Haddy’s e-mail until Haddy sent him a copy after firing it across cyberspace.
I asked Ferentz if he’d rather be ranked fourth than eighth in the AP poll. "I don’t care," he said. "It doesn’t matter.
"I do understand there is a reason coaches politic or people politic, because I guess it does matter. But I’m not worried about that. I’m just not worried about that.
"If we end up being Auburn (unbeaten in 2004, but excluded from the BCS title game), if that ends up happening to us, in some ways I’m not going to be too upset. Because I don’t know how you get too upset when you’re undefeated. But that is so far down the road, wow. I’m just, you know, just hope we can get by Saturday."
If Iowa beats Northwestern this week and Ohio State the next, the Hawkeyes become 11-0 national darlings who won’t have to defend themselves to anyone. If they lose one of those games, they tumble down the BCS chart.
But right now, it’s politics. That’s a much-dirtier game than football.