Iowa-Illinois rivalry renewedNotes from Big Ten media day
For Iowa football fans who may not remember, border-state rival Illinois does indeed have a football team.
If you forgot, it’s understandable. The teams haven’t met on the gridiron since 2008, but this year, thanks to the realignment of the Big Ten conference, that will change, and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is excited about it.
“I think it’s certainly one of the good byproducts of the new realignment,” Ferentz said yesterday at Big Ten media days in Chicago. “It gives everybody a chance to, at least for the most part, play their border-state teams. And in our case, at least, I think it makes a lot of sense.”
While the Iowa-Illinois rivalry dims in comparison to the intensity of the annual Iowa-Iowa State, it is good to see a rivalry like this renewed.
Illinois holds the all-time advantage in the rivalry, going 38-29-2, but in the last six meetings, Iowa has won five of them.
Of those six, three were decided by 10 points or fewer.
The rivalry was just one of many things Ferentz discussed on Monday at the unofficial kickoff of the college football season.
One of the most talked-about players this season will be offensive tackle Brandon Scherff, who will most likely be a first-round draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
The recent video of him cleaning 443 pounds three times has left many college football fans speechless, and he is drawing comparisons to other top Iowa linemen.
“First guy that comes to mind is Marshal Yanda, who’s a three-time Pro Bowl guy and three-time All-Pro,” Ferentz said. “And the first thing I think about with Marshal is just his enthusiasm and his eagerness to improve and work hard, and that certainly would sum up Brandon as well.”
Yanda, a third-round pick in 2007, has spent his NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens, and has been named to the Pro Bowl and an All-Pro in each of the last three seasons.
He’ll be blocking for senior running back Mark Weisman, who rushed for 975 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
“He’s a tough, physical runner, there’s no question about that,” Ferentz said. “And we’ve had all types of runners during our 15 years that have been successful. You think about a guy like Fred Russell, who was certainly under a 200-pound guy, not tall, and ran a different way. There’s a lot of different ways to be successful. And Mark, I think, plays within his skill set. He does a great job of that and is very much team oriented.”
The other player Scherff has the task of blocking for is junior quarterback Jake Rudock, who threw for over 2,000 yards last season, with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
“It’s like any position,” Ferentz said. “People tend to get better if they’ve got the right attitude, a good skill set. And I think we saw that with Jake in the spring. He’s certainly more confident. You can’t hand confidence to a player; they’ve got to go out and earn it on the field.”
Iowa will open up its season on Aug. 30 at home against Northern Iowa.