Folks, it’s gonna be a long night.

Last week, a loyal reader (they exist! Hi alex) told me last week that it was probably the most positive Kirk Speaks he’d ever read from me.

That was last week. This week is exciting, but there’s also that looming sense of dread when you absolutely know something is going to suck and you just want to get it over with.

Literally no one expects Iowa to beat Michigan. There are even bets on whether they will score more or less than .5 points in both halves

But that’s me. What doe Kirk Ferentz think? Let’s check out his presser from Indy to see. Full transcript here, my highlights below.

Let’s get injuries out of the way:

Q. You’re mentioning on Sunday having a little more of an injury update this afternoon. Are you able to comment any more on Diante Vines and Logan Jones?

COACH FERENTZ: They both practiced two days now, so keep our fingers crossed, but it looks like they’ll be able to go.

Some good news! However, and I said this last week, it’s imperative that Kaleb Brown stays wideout 1. At this point, Vines is a noticeable downgrade from Brown.

COACH FERENTZ: I think it’s representative of our team. We found ourselves short of some veteran experience real fast this year, and then it seemed to compound itself.

So, the next guy in. Deacon hadn’t played a lot, high school or college — hadn’t played at all in college. And it’s been a while since he played in high school.

Kaleb, as I said, two years ago he was playing running back, good running back in Chicago, and goes to his next school. I don’t know how much he did last year. I doubt much because I know the guys that were playing for them.

So that’s the first time where he’s getting extensive work at the position. We’ve seen him improve each week. And he looks like he’s having fun now because he’s starting to figure it out. And he’s done some really good things.

One of the best plays he had the other day was the block on Stilianos’ run, that run he had down to our boundary.

He’s a good skill guy that way. He’s had the ability and skill. Now I think he’s starting to learn how to play. And to each of those guys, must be nice to know what it feels like to be a good player. He’s starting to experience that. I never had that experience as a player.

So it would be pretty cool. I think he seems to be enjoying it.

It’s obviously still a relatively small sample size, but man, I have truly forgotten what it feels like to have an Iowa wide receiver to actually be excited about. It makes me look back at guys like Martin-Manley with more fondness than I had at the time, because back then, wide receiver catches were commonplace.

I love that Kirk says he’s having fun and enjoying the game. That gives me a lot of hope. I said it last week and I’ll say it again, good things seem to be ahead with Brown as Iowa’s top wideout.

Q. Just the kind of culture

COACH FERENTZ: Not everybody does that. I heard this morning someone who has an unhealthy habit of maybe being too active on that. It’s nothing but a waste of time, in my opinion, if you’re serious about competing.

That’s maturity too, trying to get a guy to understand it’s not going to do a hell of a lot of good for him.

But I’ve been saying it gets back to having the right guys on your team. And I’ll take it a step further. We talked about Kaleb maturing as a player. He’s starting to get a good feel for things and having some fun doing it.

Maturity is people, too. I think back to last year, which was a really tough year, it was a challenging year for all of us, and proud of that team, the way they fought through.

We’re sitting there at 3-4, and I know everybody was probably dumping on us a little bit. But that’s not a new phenomenon. But we had two choices last year. The guys chose the right path.

I bring that up in that clearly some of the younger guys on our team right now were paying attention to the older guys last year. You think about Campbell standing up in front of everybody and saying, hey, we’re a team.

Seth Benson, his running mate, you have Kaevon in the back end, you had Riley, LaPorta. You have a good group of guys who knew how to act and how to do things.

And clearly the guys that have stepped up this year that maybe weren’t as prominent last year as leaders, they’re watching those guys.

That’s something I talked to the guys all the time; if you want to be good, look and see how good people are doing whatever the profession or vocation may be.

It’s part of plan, part of the planning how they train and the mental side how they handle things. We’re fortunate we’ve had guys teaching each other a little bit.

Interesting peak behind the curtain here from Kirk. I’m sure there’s gotta be some behind the scenes stuff, but in the face of the public, this program has done a remarkable job of showing a sense of unity in the face of outside adversity.

It’s why it also simultaneously sucks when Kirk sometimes lets his players be the ones who have to stand in front of the media and get barraged with questions about an incompetent offensive coordinator week in and week out instead of letting Brian take the mic. But even then, the players do a good job.

That takes effort, it really does. It’s clear that, at the end of the day, these guys have respect for the coaches and the program.

Q. Let’s say Saturday we stand here and you guys are our Big Ten champions, what do you think happened in the game to get you guys over the finish line?

COACH FERENTZ: What we’ve been saying. We’d have to do everything right and probably force a couple mistakes. You can’t worry about all those things.

You have to worry about what you can do and your performance. That’s what the week’s for. It’s us trying to know our opponent really well.

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