I catered to the Iowa State Cyclone faithful so now we can get down to some real football in the state of Iowa that really matters. I Jest! I don’t mean that as far as you know. It’s now time to get down to brass tax and break down the Hawkeyes.
In Retrospect: The 2011 Season for the Hawkeyes:
8/3/11: Defeated Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles 34-7 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
8/10/11: Lost to Iowa State Cyclones 44-41 3OT at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa
8/17/11: Defeated Pittsburgh Panthers 31-27 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
8/24/11: Defeated Louisiana-Monroe WarHawks 45-17 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
10/8/11: Lost to Penn State Nittany Lions 13-3 at Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania
10/15/11: Defeated Northwestern Wildcats 41-31 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
10/22/11: Defeated Indiana Hoosiers 45-24 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
10/29/11: Lost to Minnesota Golden Gophers 22-21 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota
11/5/11: Defeated Michigan Wolverines 24-16 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
11/12/11: Lost to Michigan State Spartans 37-21 at Kinnick stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
11/19/11: Defeated Purdue Boilermakers 31-21 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana
11/25/11: Lost to Nebraska Cornhuskers 20-7 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska
12/30/11: Lost to Oklahoma Sooners 31-14 at the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Arizona
The Iowa Hawkeyes Football Team Itself:
The Iowa Hawkeyes had a whirly wind of a season in 2011 with a lot of wins at home and not a whole heck of a lot of wins on the road. James Vandenberg came into the 2011 season as the clear-cut starter and didn’t get his first win on the road until the Purdue game in late November. The Offense and Defense revamped the coaching staff’s which is unlike anything that Head Coach Kirk Ferentz has done in his 13 year tenure. The revamped coaching staff has led to interesting expectations in Iowa City after what many believe was a disappointing season in 2011.
The Coaching Staff:
It is no secret who the head coach is on Saturdays on the home team sideline. Kirk Ferentz will be bringing in a career 96-66 record with the Hawkeyes with 10 bowl game appearances, winning 6 of those 10, including the 2009 BCS Orange Bowl over Georgia Tech. Ferentz was left with a skeleton of coaches after the 2011 season with long-time defensive coordinator Norm Parker retiring due to medical issues and offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe jumping to the NFL level, coaching WR’s in Miami.
Coach Ferentz had a lot of work to do and the Hawkeyes will have a much different look on the coaching staff in 2012. On the offensive end of things, the new guy at the helm is Greg Davis, who spent 12 solid years coaching in Austin Texas under Mack Brown as the Texas Longhorns Offensive Coordinator. Davis brings a new style of offense in that he understands how to work with more athletic kids and he provides a new in for recruiting purposes. On the defensive side of the ball, the man who will be calling the schemes is newly promoted, loyal Hawkeye, Phil Parker. Parker was the defensive backs coach for the Black and Gold for 13 years, and had plenty of opportunities to leave Iowa City to pursue other coaching jobs, but chose to remain. Fans are anticipating some hopeful changes, but this team is still manned by Kirk Ferentz and that anticipation could all be for not.
The Iowa offense is taking a huge hit in the WR position with all-time leading receiver in yards and scores, Marvin McNutt graduating and there are some questions that will linger throughout the first few weeks at that spot. Keenan Davis, the product out of Cedar Rapids Washington will be the clear cut number 1 receiver after 3 years of solid playing time, but beyond that, there are plenty of unknowns. Kevonte Martin-Manley had a good 2011 campaign and Steven Staggs has had a quality camp, but the others remain to be tested. C.J. Fiedorowicz will be on the end of the line blocking for runs, but more importantly for Iowa, catching passes. Fiedorowicz is an athletic specimen to say the least, standing tall at 6’7, weighing in at 265. The guy throwing them the ball is Senior, Keokuk native, James Vandenberg. Vandenberg had a good Junior campaign, tossing for 3,000+ yards, 25 TD’s, and 7 INT’s. The offensive line will feature a few veterans, a few youngsters, and a lot of Iowa natives. The most recent depth chart has coaches son, James Ferentz snapping the ball, 310 LB sophomore Brandon Scherff out of Denison, Iowa at left tackle, Senior Matt Tobin at left guard, and JR, 2 time letter winner Brett Van Sloten at right tackle, with newbie, redshirt freshman Austin Blythe most likely getting the most reps to start at right guard. All of those starters hail from the great corn state. “Next Man In” is a phrase coach Ferentz likes to use and that will be the case for a lot of these guys after some good one graduated last season.
Does God hate Iowa Runningbacks?
Iowa has dealt with Runningback issues yet again. For starters, after Marcus Coker left the team, Jordan Canzeri looked to be the starting guy. That was all until Canzeri tore his ACL. Highly recruited Greg Garmon will start the season on the field and get some reps, but that wasn’t before he got in a little trouble with the law in his hometown Erie, Pennsylvania. That is just a blip on the radar with the most recent RB going down. Barkley Hill, the true freshman from Cedar Falls, Iowa injured his knee in the waning moments of the second open practice for the Hawkeyes and he will be shelved for the entire 2012 season. This leaves the Hawkeyes with the most experienced player in sophomore Damon Bullock, who has only carried the ball a handful of times for the Black and Gold early in the 2011 season. Behind Bullock will be Garmon, and another true frosh in Michael Malloy, from Bishop Heelan in Sioux City, Iowa. Brad Rogers is the veteran at FB, but the most recent two-deeps have The Sophomore, Mark Weisman etched over Rogers.
There are a ton of question marks and fill-in-the-blanks that need to be addressed for the Iowa offense, but they will all come in good time.
The Iowa defense comes in with a different coordinator at the helm. Phil Parker was the defensive backs coach for the Black and Gold for 13 seasons and with the retirement of long time coordinator, Norm Park, Phil(No Relation) takes the reigns. One thing is for sure, and that is that the linebacking core has some veterans coming back. James Morris, the stud out of Solon has plenty of reps in the middle and Christian Kirksey, who broke out in 2011 will look to continue his success. The defensive backfield will be full of experience with Micah Hyde who will be hearing his name called in the Spring by an NFL team, a very serviceable and quality corner on the other side in Greg Castillo, and Tommy Donatell at safety who will be fighting for a spot with Nico Law, who has made a real impression on the coaches and the media. The kid from Mid-Prairie, Tanner Miller will have a starting job, opening the season against Northern Illinois as well. The biggest question mark on defensive side of the ball will be the defensive line. Steve Bigach, Joe Gaglione, and Dom Alvis all return on the defensive line, but because of injuries and quality guys in front of them, their experience is not necessarily there. Carl Davis is a different type of defensive line guy, weighing in at 300+ lbs, but still has speed and athleticism. The defense will have a lot of learning and catching up to do and Phil Parker has a lot of work to do, but with good leadership and some experience, the defense could prove to be surprising.
The 2012 Schedule:
9/1/12: Northern Illinois at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois:
Northern Illinois is a very formidable opponent in week 1 for the Hawkeyes. The Huskies come into the season boasting the longest winning streak in FBS. After losing star QB Chandler Harnish the Huskies will be handing the offensive reigns over to Junior Jordan Lynch. THe offensive side of the ball will have it’s struggles with the entire offensive line being green and inexperienced. This is good for the Hawkeyes at Soldier Field because of the defensive line questions. The Huskie defense brings back an experience group of starters, 8 to be exact. The defending MAC Champions should bring a tough game for the Hawkeyes, but the strength and size of the Hawkeye offensive line should prove to be too much for The Huskies. New Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis should get a good feel for how things are going to go with Vandernberg and the RB situation, and they should be able to figure things out by the second half for a Black and Gold victory.
Iowa 24 NIU 10
9/8/12: Iowa State Cyclones at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
The Cyclones took down the Hawkeyes in 2011 in an incredible triple overtime thriller. The Hawkeyes will have a chip of their shoulder going into this match-up, and although Iowa State is a quality opponent with returning QB, RB, and LB core, the Cyclones will have a tough obstacle to overcome at Kinnick. In reality, the Hawkeyes will need to improve a great deal from week 1 to week 2 to take on the Cyclones. AJ Klein and Jake Knott will have their hands full with a big offensive line for the Hawks and exceptionally deep TE core with CJ Fiedorowicz and Zach Derby. The defensive secondary struggled mightily in 2011 and they will be slightly better in 2012, but with Keenan Davis and hopefully another guy in Steven Staggs, Kevonte Martin-Manley or Jacob Hillyer emerging in week 1 they will probably get lit up a bit by James Vandenberg.
Iowa 35 Iowa State 17
9/15/12: Northern Iowa Panthers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
The Panthers had a very good offensive scheme in 2011 with Tirrell Rennie at the helm, but he is gone. UNI gets a great game in week 1 at Camp Randall in week 1, which they should get some good experience in. The last time a Mark Farley coached team travelled south on I380 to Iowa City, it took 2 blocked field goals for the Hawkeyes to get past the pesky Panthers, but this time the Hawkeyes should be firing on all cylinders and won’t overlook a tough Panther program. Iowa will look to solidify the defensive line and continue the growth in a nice week 3 match-up. The Hawks should not have a problem getting past Northern Iowa.
Iowa 35 UNI 7
9/22/12: Central Michigan Chippewas at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
This game will prove to be the final tune-up game for the Hawks before what should prove to be a grueling Big Ten schedule. The Chippewas had a tough go of it in 2011, with only 3 wins, but they did beat NIU. They played Thursday in week one and they took down South East Missouri State. RB Zurlon Tipton had a field day, with 180 yards on the ground, but he should be slowed by the defense of Iowa. This will be the final week for the offense to get to the high octane level with Vandenberg and the defense to get a good look at a decent offense, but the Hawks should prevail pretty easily.
Iowa 45 Central Michigan 10
9/29/12: Minnesota Golden Gophers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
Revenge will be the name of the game for the Hawkeyes in this one. The Hawks traveled to TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis the past 2 seasons with not so great results. The Gophers have a very good QB in Marquis Gray, who will try and scramble the Gophers past the Hawkeyes to open the B1G season. The defense will be lead by Keanon Cooper at the WIll LB position. Between the inexperience behind him and the struggles that Minnesota had last year on defense, and the home-field advantage the Hawkeyes should be able to get past Minnesota.
Iowa 28 Minnesota 13
10/13/12: Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State lost it’s starting QB that drove the 2011 Spartan offense in Kirk Cousins to the Washington Redskins, but the Spartans bring Junior Andrew Maxwell in the mix. Le’veon Bell had a disappointing 2011 season, as MSU was one of the worst rushing teams in the B1G, but he put up 210 yards against Boise State with a couple scores in the win. Bell will look to lead an offense that has a lot o questions. What does not have a lot of question marks is the Spartan defense. The defense led by Max Bullough will be one of the best in the country coming into the season. Michigan State took it to Iowa in 2011 at Kinnick, and the result will more than likely not be the same in 2012. Although that may not be the case, after a big win against Boise State in week 1, the Spartans will look to be back in Indianapolis upon seasons end, and it is very difficult to see the Hawkeyes getting in the way of that with a weak defensive line. This one should prove to be a battle in the trenches and a low scoring affair, but Sparty should come out on top. This game will be a highly showcased game if the Spartans get past Notre Dame and both teams end up undefeated going into the contest.
Iowa 13 Michigan State 17
10/20/12: Penn State Nittany Lions at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
It’s an understatement to say that Penn State dealt with some off the field issus in the offseason. They lost players in masses and should have a tough go of it in 2012. THe good news for the Nittany Lions is that each player that returns should have a chip on their shoulder against Iowa. This rivalry has budded nicely and the Nittany Lions will be no roll-over in week 7 for the Hawks. Iowa should be ready to rock and roll on offense with the emergence of a RB, whether that be Bullock, Garmon, Malloy, or another guy and should have a very formidable offense to put up against the Lions at Kinnick. Iowa should be victorious, but the game could be interesting.
Iowa 24 Penn State 17
10/27/12: Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois
NOrthwestern brings a tough challenge to the Hawkeyes year in and year out, especially under Coach Ferentz. The Hawkeyes got a win against Northwestern in 2011 at Kinnick in a hard fought game and Northwestern will look to get back on track against
the Hawks in 2012, but it will be tough for them. Dan Persa has been a Black and Gold killer, and he is gone from the QB position in Evanston. Kain Colter will be the guy at QB in 2012. He is a very talented athlete and can really play any skill position on the field. Colter is the biggest unknown for the Wildcats coming into this season and if he can play well, they could prove a tough opponent for Iowa. The Hawkeyes coming into this contest should be favored, but it will be close and the Wildcats could end up being right there at the end. I see Iowa as struggling in this game on both sides of the ball, but overcoming the mid-season angst of being ranked (probably at this point if things go the way I have them) should happen in this game.
Iowa 17 Northwestern 14
11/3/12: Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana
Kevin Wilson has a lot of rebuilding to do with his Hoosiers and 2012 should be a launching off point for that. The biggest issue that Indiana is going to run into in the 2012 season, especially against Iowa. Tre Roberson will be the man at QB and The Junior Little Rock, Arkansas native Stephen Houston should get the bulk of the carries. Facts need to be faced in Bloomington though. Indiana could be there in the next few seasons, but right now the Hoosiers have a lot of work to do. Iowa should get a nice road victory prior to coming home against a tough opponent in Purdue.
Iowa 27 Indiana 7
11/10/12: Purdue Boilermakers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
After a 2-0 road trip for the Hawkeyes, they come home to a quality opponent in Purdue. The Boilermakers return 19 starters and will be the most seasoned squad in the conference. Caleb Terbush is a pro-size QB and he will be running plays on the offensive front for Danny Hope’s offense. This Purdue is a darkhorse to say the least right now and many are calling for them to compete for the leaders division with the Badgers of Wisconsin. Iowa will need to have its A game firing for this game, and it is not out of the question to think that the Hawkeyes will be on a slight hangover after a 2 game road trip. The Hawkeyes have a very touchy match-up with Purdue this season. The Boilers proved to be a problem in 2011 and in 2012 I see them taking the Hawks down in Iowa City. Barring injury the Purdue Boilermakers have an extremely legitimate chance to be one of the premiere B1G teams and get a possible Capital One or Outback Bowl berth.
Iowa 17 Purdue 21
11/17/12: Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium (The Big House) in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Brady Hoke is doing exactly what a second year coach at an elite program should be doing. He has Michigan in a legitimate spot to contend for not only a B1G title, but a National Title. Denard Robinson is one of the most explosive players in the country and even thought Fitz Toussaint is missing the Bama game in week 1, Michigan will have an explosive offense. WR Roy Roundtree is the most seasoned and experience pass catcher in the conference and the offense is going to be a force. It’s interesting because Brady Hoke is a defensive minded coach. The Hawkeyes strength in 2012 should be the passing game and Michigan returns a quality defensive backfield. Losing defensive tackle Mike Martin and 2 other starters will hurt, but by this late in the season, another group will emerge, probably including Craig Rog, Will Campbell, and Nathan Bring. If Iowa’s season goes how I project it will go, this game will be a huge match-up, and the Big House will be rocking. Michigan will win the game and be one game closer to playing in the Big Ten Championship game.
Iowa 17 Michigan 27
11/23/12: Nebraska Cornhuskers at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa
Nebraska embarrassed the Hawkeyes in Lincolin in the inaugural rivalry game in 2012. Both squads will be playing for a potential B1G Championship berth at Kinnick. It is an extremely tough pick in this game because Iowa is going to take leaps and strides as the season progresses into a very good team, but Nebraska should have the “Black Shirt” defense mantra back and the combo of Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead in the backfield will make Nebraska exceptional in 2012. I have criticized Bo Pelini for his style in the past, but after 1 season in the B1G Pelini should be able to have a much better understanding of what it takes to win in the B1G and they should be able to get it done in Iowa City with a questionable defensive line and young receiving core for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa 24 Nebraska 27
Recap: 8-4 Overall, 4-4 B1G
Iowa has a lot of question marks coming into the season and they will have some early success against teams that lack the talent and experience to make any noise, but down the stretch the Hawks have a tough go of it. James Vandenberg has a very good chance of being an all-conference QB and Micah Hyde has 1st team all-conference honors to lose this season, but the key losses on the defensive line and receiving core leave Iowa with many interesting storylines. 2012 will be a typical Iowa Football year under Coach Ferentz, in that a few plays could make this team 10-2 or 7-5. If everything comes together for the Hawkeyes, Indianapolis is in their future, but more than likely, they will end up with 8 wins and an Outback Bowl or Buffalo Wild Wings (Formerly Insight Bowl) berth and Hawk fans will be disappointed.
Biased Opinion: Iowa can realistically win every contest they have. Michigan State, Michigan, and Nebraska are formidable opponents, but they could do it. If this happens, I have no problem with being completely and totally wrong with my picks.