It’s that time of the year again when we are regularly reminded that Alabama head coach Nick Saban has never lost to an assistant coach during his coaching career. That perfect streak will once again be put on the line this weekend when the top-ranked Crimson Tide make their way to College Station, Texas to face the No. 24 Texas A&M Aggies. Texas A&M, of course, is coached by Jimbo Fisher. You guessed it. Fisher is a former assistant to Saban.
Fisher has gone 0-2 against his former boss, including last season’s loss in SEC play. Last season marked the first time Fisher faced Saban as a coach of an SEC West Division foe. His previous loss to Saban came while coaching at Florida State when the No. 3 Seminoles opened the 2017 season with a 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama in the season opener in Atlanta, Georgia. The most-hyped Week 1 game in quite some time ended up being far from able to match the preseason hype. Florida State hasn’t exactly been the same since and may still be trying to recover from that game.
The odds always seem to be in Saban’s favor, as he generally has the best team in every matchup against his former assistants, and that should once again be the case this weekend. Is Saban due for a loss against an assistant? Perhaps. It’s hard to win so many games before taking a mild hit somewhere along the way, even if by a fluke. Fisher may have Texas A&M working to be a viable threat to Alabama, and maybe playing at home helps, but the Aggies have already lost one game at home to Auburn so it doesn’t seem like this may be a difficult destination for Alabama.
Brett McMurphy of Stadium notes Saban has lost to just nine active coaches. Active coaches with victories against Saban are Les Miles (Kansas; 3), Hugh Freeze (Liberty; 2), Gus Malzahn (Auburn; 2), Dabo Swinney (Clemson; 2), Mack Brown (UNC; 2), David Cutcliffe (Duke; 1), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa; 1), Kevin Sumlin (Arizona; 1) and Kyle Whittingham (1; Utah). Only four of those coaches (Malzahn, Swinney, Ferentz, Whittingham) are at the same program today as they were when they topped Saban. Swinney and Brown, of course, have victories against Saban in the national championship game (Brown in the BCS and Swinney twice in the College Football Playoff).
Is Fisher going to be the first former Saban assistant to beat his old boss? We’ll find out this week. If not, we may be waiting for Kirby Smart to get another crack in the SEC Championship Game.
The Iowa defensive line may be highlighted by the rise of A.J. Epenesa, but the depth on the line is beginning to resemble a kiddie pool at this point. A unit that has already lost a few players to graduation, a few more to transfers and one player early to the NFL Draft now has a retirement to add to the list of offseason losses. Jack Kallenberger has stepped away from football, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz announced on Thursday during a season-wrap-up press conference with Iowa reporters.
Kallenberger, who transferred to Iowa in 2017 after two seasons of junior college football with Iowa Central Community College, is no longer listed on the Iowa football website’s roster page. His departure was a mild surprise given the opportunity to compete for a more vital role on the defensive line this spring. Kallenberger’s brother, Mark Kallenberger, remains on the team after completing his redshirt freshman season with the Hawkeyes.
The last couple of trips to the Outback Bowl have not been kind to Iowa, but the first college football game to played in 2019 had a much more enjoyable outcome for the Hawkeyes. Iowa (9-4) used a big second quarter and a strong defensive showing in the fourth quarter to hold on for a 27-22 victory over No. 18 Mississippi State (8-5).
Mississippi State had a chance to take the lead early in the fourth quarter with a first-and-goal from the Iowa one-yard line, but three straight runs by Nick Fitzgerald were stuffed by the Hawkeyes and the Bulldogs settled for a short field goal by Jace Christmann to cut the Iowa lead to 24-22. Fitzgerald got one final chance to deliver a win for Mississippi State with the Bulldogs down 27-22 in the final minutes of the game, but an incomplete pass on fourth down allowed Iowa to run out the remaining seconds of the clock to wrap up the win.
Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley completed 21 of 31 pass attempts for 214 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. The running game had a rough afternoon against the Mississippi State defense, however, as the Hawkeyes combined for a loss of 14 yards running the ball, including sacks of Stanley. Mississippi State had a much more productive day on the ground with 190 yards as a team, fueled by 103 yards by Fitzgerald, who also passed for 152 yards on 14-of-32.
Nick Easley caught two of the touchdown passes thrown by Stanley. And although it took until the second half of the game to get him in the box score, T.J. Hockenson had three catches for 43 yards that came in important moments.
The win by Iowa was the first for the Big Ten this bowl season against the SEC after dropping the previous two matchups on the bowl calendar. The Iowa win also put the Big Ten above .500 this bowl season, pending the results of other bowl games being played on Jan. 1. The loss by Mississippi State at least temporarily dropped the SEC to .500 with other games still being played.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is now 8-8 all-time in bowl games and has won two consecutive bowl games after snapping a five-game losing streak in bowl games a year ago in the Pinstripe Bowl. This was the first bowl game for Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead as a head coach, so his search for a bowl victory will continue in the 2019 season.
This, of course, means Outback Steakhouse will be giving away free coconut shrimp to customers as the Big Ten won the Outback Bowl. A win by the SEC would have awarded customers free bloomin’ onion.
If you thought all of the talk from coaches in the spring had an optimistic outlook, think again. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is calling it like he sees it so far this spring, and the picture is not a very pretty one for the Hawkeyes.
”We’re not a real good football team right now. Don’t expect to be in April, and the objective is to be ready when the season start,” Ferentz told reporters on Friday. That seems kind of blunt, but that is fair. Every team figures to have some room for improvement in the spring, even for a defending national champion like Clemson or an annual powerhouse like Alabama or Ohio State. The good news is Ferentz did have at least a couple of positive things to say about this team so far this spring.”We see a lot of individual improvement going on right now. We’re doing some good things at time, but…we can’t get lined up sometimes. The formations are different, the language we’re using is different. So the guys are getting used to that still, and we expected that.”
“We see a lot of individual improvement going on right now,” Ferentz said. “We’re doing some good things at time, but…we can’t get lined up sometimes. The formations are different, the language we’re using is different. So the guys are getting used to that still, and we expected that.”
Part of the issue for Iowa comes from learning a new scheme being put into motion by Brian Ferentz, the team’s new offensive coordinator and son of the head coach. Any time a new offensive strategy is put in place, it can take some time to adjust and fine-tune.
”They’re doing some good things. But again, we’re not real consistent,” Kirk Ferentz said. ”I’m not expecting this thing to just clear up in the next two weeks.”
“There’s a lot more motions,” Iowa wide receiver Devonte Young explained. “A lot more deep routes, a lot more run-pass concepts so you don’t know like what’s going to happen.”
Are we about to see Iowa air it out down field more in 2017? That would certainly be a change of pace for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz did not have to look very far to find his new offensive coordinator. Not only did he have to look outside the Iowa program, but he didn’t even have to look outside his own family. Brian Ferentz, son of the Hawkeyes head coach, has been named the new offensive coordinator of the Iowa program.
The younger Ferentz had been serving a role on the Iowa coaching staff as offensive line coach and run game coordinator. He was also a three-year letterman at Iowa and has been on the Iowa staff for the past five years. Under his leadership in 2016, Iowa’s offensive line won the Joe Moore Award, which is presented annually to the top offensive line in the country (Alabama won the inaugural award in the 2015 season).
“Brian has been an integral member of our offensive coaching staff for five years, bringing national recognition to our offensive line and new levels of success in our running game,” said Kirk Ferentz. “Brian’s coaching experience here at Iowa, coupled with his time in the NFL, has prepared him well for his new responsibilities as the offensive coordinator for Iowa football.”
Brian Ferentz replaces Greg Davis, who retired from his position on the Iowa staff last week.