Monday, July 21, 2008

Big Ten Football Previews – Part II

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of my annual summer Big Ten football previews. Check back often to see who’s next...

Team: Iowa Hawkeyes

Tidbits ... Iowa's six-year bowl run - the second longest in school history - ended last season thanks mostly to a shocking, season-ending loss to Western Michigan. The Hawkeyes are a stingy 32-7 in their last 39 home games but included in those losses are Western Michigan, Northwestern and Indiana. Over the last five years, Iowa has the 17th best winning percentage at home in college football.

Past Predictions/Results:
2007 Prediction/actual: 8-4, 5-3 (T-4th), Champs/ 6-6, 4-4 (T-5th)
2006 Prediction/actual: 11-1, 7-1 (T-1st), Rose / 6-7, 2-6 (T-8th), Alamo
2005 Prediction / actual: 9-2, 6-2 (T-1st), BCS / 7-5, 5-3 (T-3rd), Outback
2004 Prediction / actual: 9-2, 6-2 (3rd), Capital One / 10-2, 7-1 (T-1st), Capital One
2003 Prediction / actual: 6-6, 3-5 (T-7th) / 10-3, 5-3 (T-4th)
2002 Prediction / actual: 8-4, 4-4 (T-6th) / 11-2, 8-0 (T-1st)
2001 Prediction / actual: 5-6, 2-6 (T-10th) / 7-5, 4-4 (T-4th)

*Note, bowl shown only from 2004 on as I did not predict the bowl berths prior to that season.

Returning Starters: 8 offense, 5 defense, 2 kickers

Key Returnees: QB Jake Christensen, WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, TE Tony Moeaki, DT Mitch King, DT Matt Kroul, LB A.J. Edds

Key Losses: RB Albert Young, DE Ken Iwebema, DE Bryan Mattison, LB Mike Humpal, DB Charles Godfrey

Looking Back ... Last season was a roller coaster ride, with two wins, followed by four straight losses, another win and loss, an overtime comeback win for the ages that revived the season and led to three straight Ws before a total collapse against MAC foe Western Michigan to close the season and even .500 and home for the holidays. Youth, injuries and off-field trouble were the headliners all season long. It was the second straight sub-par season for an Iowa program that had been on fire of late...

Outlook - Offense ... The Hawkeyes return eight starters on the offensive side of the ball, but none of them represent the sort of sure thing coaching staffs like to have in their back pocket heading into a season. There is experience, but the overall talent is in question and depth at quarterback and tailback is in critical mode. Jake Christensen looks to make strides after an up and down 2007 but there is no one of note behind him. 97% of Iowa's rushing yards from last season are gone, leaving it to Nate Guillory and Jevon Pugh to carry most of the load. Wide receiver is a deep position for the black and gold and when is the last time Iowa didn't find a way to put together a very good offensive line? Iowa will need to be more consistent on offense in order to improve, and that's in the hands of Christensen.

Outlook - Defense ... Iowa hopes it begins and ends with its pair of four-year starting tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul. If everything could just be forced to go inside to this duo, send the Hawkeyes to the Rose Bowl! In all seriousness, the Iowa defense could be good. There is just enough senior leadership to match with a lot of youth. A.J. Edds is the next in a long line of great Hawkeye linebackers. Sophomore safety Brett Greenwood is also a rising star. Success will come down to the emergence of a play maker at cornerback and support on the outside of the defensive line and at linebacker.

Outlook - Special Teams ... Iowa returns all of its kickers and while strong at punter, the place-kicking needs to improve on four, yes FOUR, missed PATs last season. The return game is also longing for a game breaker. It's been since the 2003 Orange Bowl that Iowa has returned a kickoff for a score.

8/30 - MAINE
9/20 - at Pittsburgh
10/4 - at Michigan State
10/11 - at Indiana
11/1 - at Illinois
11/15 - PURDUE
11/22 - at Minnesota

Key Games:
9/13 - Iowa State, 10/18 - Wisconsin, 11/8 - Penn State, 11/22 - at Minnesota

Prediction ... Many are predicting a turnaround for Iowa. While part of me wants to believe that, I have not read enough to convince me. The running game is a huge question mark, the defense has some stars but is overall quite youthful. It helps to avoid Michigan and Ohio State, but then again, Michigan is due for a down season. Kirk Ferentz might be kicking himself after this season for continually turning down offers from the NFL...

OOC: 3-1 (only loss to Pittsburgh)
B10: 2-6 (win over Northwestern and Purdue)
Overall: 5-7, T-9th in the conference

1 comment:

BruceS said...

sounds about right Andy, Lots of turmoil in Iowa City during the off season, which surprises me. Is Ferentz recruiting questionable "character" players. I wouldn't think he would have to resort to that to win there. Pretty soft OCC schedule and missing the "Big 2" would normally signal an easy trip through the B10season.