At this time last season, many Iowa fans were calling for Kirk Ferentz to lose his job. Now he’s the Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Ferentz won the award Tuesday, when the conference announced the second half of its individual award winners. It’s the fourth time in his 17-year tenure leading the Iowa football program that he has won this iteration of the award, previously taking home the honor in 2002, 2004 and 2009.
Ferentz’s Hawkeyes have a perfect 12-0 record following the conclusion of the regular season, the first 12-win season in program history. They boast the No. 4 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, and a win in the Big Ten Championship Game this weekend in Indianapolis would in all likelihood secure a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Ferentz was under fire in recent years for winning no more than eight games in any of the previous five seasons, going a combined 19-19 in the last three, a steady decline since leading the Hawkeyes to 11 wins and a victory in the Orange Bowl in the 2009 campaign.
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But Ferentz vowed to do things differently in the wake of an embarrassing end to last season, when Tennessee thumped Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Most significantly, that meant a change at quarterback, installing C.J. Beathard as the start in place of Jake Rudock with an odd January depth chart. That triggered Rudock’s transfer to Michigan, but Beathard has proven to be terrific, turning in one of the better seasons of any quarterback in the Big Ten this year.
The 12-0 regular season by Iowa has been trademarked by terrific play on both sides of the ball. The defense ranks 15th in the country, allowing just 18.7 points a game, while Beathard and a multi-headed monster at running back have the Hawkeyes as the third-highest scoring team in the Big Ten at 33.7 points per game.
Sure, Iowa’s strength of schedule has been criticized by just about everyone, though a signature win over Northwestern in Evanston is looking better and better by the day. But if the Hawkeyes can beat one-loss Michigan State in this weekend’s conference title game, they’ll be one of just four teams in the country competing for a national championship.
Not a bad job by Ferentz.