Big Ten Playbook: Payday for Ferentz. Five teams in top 16.

Paul Chryst guides unranked Wisconsin past No. 5 LSU 16-14 before a throng at Lambeau Field that won’t be topped if the Packers host the NFC championship game. And he gets what? A game ball? A Spotted Cow? Accolades from Cheeseheads everywhere?

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Kirk Ferentz leads Iowa past Miami of Ohio 45-21. . . and he gets a 10-year contract extension worth $4.5 million a year through 2025.

But seriously, hats off to Ferentz, 61, who had four years left at $4 million a year. That kind of coin goes a long way in Iowa City. Some insiders believe Ferentz also is well-positioned to pave the way for his son, Brian, to be his successor.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Considering that in 2012, Ferentz, who was coming off a 4-8 season, was the subject of speculation that he might be getting fired, this is a lesson in the virtues of patience. An estimated $16 million buyout also greased the decision to allow the Big Ten’s longest-serving coach to stay on the job.

Ferentz rewarded Iowa’s loyalty with last year’s joyous 12-2 march to the Rose Bowl—and never mind that Pasadena didn’t go well. And now, in this, his 18th campaign, he has the Hawkeyes poised for a similarly gratifying season—if he can hold off the Badgers of Chryst, who’s set to make $2.3 million this year and the Cornhuskers of Mike Riley ($2.7 million).

Ferentz is reserving the right to exit before 2025.

``I’m not sure I want to put a cap on anything,’’ he said Tuesday. ``I’m just really thrilled to get it done. I feel very fortunate and very honored to be the head coach at Iowa.’’

Now he can turn his attention to beating Iowa State on Saturday at Nile Kinnick. Everyone assumes that’s a given even though the Cyclones, who are now rebuilding under first-year coach Matt Campbell, have gone home with a victory in their last two trips to Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have returned the favor in this series, which has been won by the visitor the last four years.

NOT A BIG WEEK IN THE BIG TEN

Iowa State-Iowa is of note because this is a pretty slow week in the Big Ten.

In its first meeting with Pitt since 2000, Penn State faces an uphill battle for Pennsylvania bragging rights. But that’s not a big deal around the Big Ten.

Ohio State and Michigan are expected to treat under-nourished visitors roughly for the second straight Saturday. This week’s Washington Generals are Tulsa and UCF, respectively, and in many ways, disrespectfully.

Wisconsin’s shocking defeat of LSU contributed to an alarmingly long holiday weekend in the South. The Southeastern Conference went 7-7, including Tennessee’s escape from Appalachian State. The SEC still has five teams in the top 25, but one of them is shaky and two of them lost.

The mighty Big Ten, meanwhile, has five teams in the top 16, and at least four of them are full of themselves.

The one exception might be enigmatic No. 12 Michigan State, which is taking the week off to brace for Notre Dame and Wisconsin after a lackluster opening win over Furman.

If No. 4 Ohio State or No. 5 Michigan lose a game before they meet on Nov. 26, please hide the Thanksgiving Day carving knives from their fans. No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 16 Iowa complete the Midwestern quintet.

THE LOVIE CHALLENGE

One game that stands out on this week’s Big Ten schedule is North Carolina’s trip to Illinois. This will be the first big test for the Illini under their new coach, Lovie Smith.

Illinois, which is a seven-point underdog, doesn’t have to win this game. But it needs to show better than last year’s sour-tasting 48-14 trip to Chapel Hill.

The surprising and uplifting hire of Lovie Smith was a terrific move by Illinois’ energetic young athletic director Josh Whitman, who also was an excellent hire.

I knew Josh as a sharp and talented tight end on Illinois’ 2002 Sugar Bowl team. And he took all the right steps to become a Big Ten AD at 37.

He’s young, but he knows his stuff.

And Saturday night in Champaign, Illini Nation will learn a little more about the Lovie Smith rebuild.[/membership]

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