The Great Debate: The Iowa Hawkeyes

With Michigan Football just weeks away, the guys at Maize n Brew are getting a little antsy for the season to start. The only way around it? Argue about football. Argue a lot. Each of us have already gone through Michigan's 2009 Football Schedule with a fine tooth comb half-assed glance and come out with completely different opinions on games, wins, losses, and season outcomes. Take a look for yourself, here are Beauford's, MnB Dave's, and SCM's

predictions.

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With the exception of Delaware State, every game is a bone of contention between us. Especially the Iowa game. So rather than duel it out with pistols at dawn or get our brawl on, fight club style, we engage in The Great Debate. Five to six questions on the team in question. Five to six in-depth mediocre answers. You get content, we get to look like complete and total idiots geniuses in a few months. Sounds like a plan to us. We've already covered Notre Dame, so it's time for Iowa.

So, without furhter ado:

The Great Debate: The Iowa Hawkeyes

1. Shonn Greene is thankfully gone, but Ricki Stanzi returns... thoughts on the Iowa signal caller?

SCM: Well, hmmm.  Iowa returns most of what was the 90th ranked passing attack in the country last year (8th overall in the conference). Including the vast majority of their receiving corps.  That's certainly a bonus for Iowa, and something to beware of with a young secondary (ahem...).  Stanzi remains to be a bit of an unknown to me at this point; he had the obvious final drive heroics against Penn State along with the pension to provide a few STANZIBALL tosses a game as BHGP would say.  Part of me wishes he had thrown a hail mary in their bowl game to win so he could be wildly overhyped for the remainder of his career.  It's particularly tough to gauge any young QB who had someone like Shonn Greene standing behind him getting the ball the majority of the time.  14 TDs against 9 picks on 254 attempts pretty much backs that up if you ask me (Greene had 307 rushing attempts), though do note that he did come in 4th in the conference in pass efficiency.  Of course, behind Stanzi is... well pretty much nobody, which is a less than ideal situation (trust me, we can attest to that).  I don't think Stanzi is the type of QB who's going to tear a defense to pieces with his arm,  but he does look to be a guy who's consistent and with an experienced group to throw to, that's more than enough to put him at "credible threat" level for our tilt.  How he does being the offensive leader and "go-to guy" remains to be seen.

Maize n Brew Dave: Based on what I saw at the end of the season, Stanzi's probably the best passer in the Big Ten right now. He split time last season because he got injured in spring practice, allowing Christiansen to take some early snaps. But by mid season it was all Stanzi. Lest we forget, so was the Iowa upset of Penn State:

"Faking the hand off, Ricky Stanzi rolled to his left on what looked like a designed QB run. Three steps in, Stanzi cocked his arm back and fired a strike to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, 11 positive yards away on the left sideline. While the throw is only measured north-south, the distance was considerably longer and that ball was in the air a long time. But it got there. All of a sudden a 40 plus yard field goal was transformed into a chip shot game winner that needed only one real run to set the ball in the middle of the field."

One of the things I think that will get lost with all the preseasonn discussionn about how "Shonn Greene is gonn," is that Iowa's Offensive line is going to be really, really good. Stanzi's going to have all day to throw the ball, and his blind side is protected by arguably the best left tackle in the Big Ten. Sure the running game wonn't be what it was whenn Greenne was there. But it'll still be pretty good, good enough at least to keep the pass rushers semi-at bay. Don't be shocked if Stanzi leads the Big Ten in passing and passing yardage this season either, especially since his top pass catcher and 6 of the top eight receivers return.

Beauford Bixel: Ricki Stanzi would have been a quarterback that I would have respectfully mocked under the old rules where Michigan was just better than everyone else (except Ohio State...stupid Ohio State).  But after going through last season and learning that, indeed, some teams don't get to have 6'5" laser-rocket arms every single year, I've readjusted my scale for ranking quarterbacks.  Stanzi was ranked 8th in passing yards per game in the Big Ten, which is ok because he also had the best running back in the big ten to turn and hand the ball to.  With only 19 attempts per game - downright Threetian - it's hard to get a good bead on him.  It will be very interesting to see what happens this year when he doesn't have Shonn Greene to turn and hand the ball to.  It's a question mark on the offense, to be sure, albeit not nearly as big as the one looming for Michigan at the position.  That one, my friends, eats puppies.

The Great Debate Continues After the Jump....

2. Iowa held a 22 game home winning streak from 2002-05, and you may have heard that their visitors locker room is pink!  We travel to Iowa at night for their homecoming this year... toughest road game on the schedule?  If not, who is?

SCM: I don't quite understand why everyone goes into this defacto "fear of playing at Iowa" mode.  Michigan has been for the most part successful in their trips to Kinnick over the years.  A loss in '03 was their first there since back to back losses in '84 and '85.  Iowa has been a tough but not invincible 13-6 at home over the past three seasons.  In fact, the Wolverines ended the Hawkeyes' home winning streak back in 2005... Stevie B and Jerome Jackson you say?

That is not to say I am not concerned about this game, but I just don't see it as being our toughest road test of '09.  Right now, I think the trip to East Lansing is the toughest road contest for us this year.

MnB Dave: It's between Kinnick or Camp Randal for the title of this year's toughest place to play, but it's not like East Lansing's going to be a walk in the park. Michigan State's going to be a tough, bitter contest; but it's a game I think Michigan has a chance to win. Sure State will be pumped up, sure it'll be hostile, but East Lansing is a place Michigan is used to winning. And as good as the Defense is supposed to be, I can't see State replacing Hoyer and (more importantly) Ringer without a massive drop off. It's going to take more than one loss to erase a decade of ass whuppins the other way. Honestly, I think State's a bit of a paper tiger this year. I've still got Michigan pegged for a loss in East Lansing, but it's a game the Wolverines could pull out and it's also a place where the crowd is used to getting into the "Oh Christ, here we go again" mode when things go poorly.

If I felt the Badgers were going to be a decent team this year, I might be tempted to put Wisconsin as our toughest road contest. But the Badgers are really in disarray, at least from an outside perspective. No QB. Awful Defense. Questionable line. Even so, Camp Randal is easily one of the loudest venues in the country. Come on, "Jump Around"? Awesome. But they don't have it this year.

No. For pure nastiness, situational awareness, and creepiness...it's Kinnick. The students know the game. They drink heavily. There's a certain, as the French say, I don't know what, about Kinnick. It scares me. At night. I said it before:

"It's an 8 p.m. start. It's at Kinnick. More importantly, the BHGP tailgate will be having their tailgate."

Plus, Iowa's the best team we play on the road. That factors into it a tad.

BB: In terms of atmosphere, yes, it will be the toughest road game.  However, I'm not entirely sure that Iowa is going to be the best team we face on the road this year.  As Dave pointed out, we do travel to Michigan State this year which, lest we forget, is a rivalry game and also has a big fat TBA next to it for the time.  My guess is that it will be a night game, making East Lansing every bit as hostile as Kinnick.  Dave also mentions that East Lansing is a place Michigan is used to winning at, to which I respond Michigan ain't used to winning anywhere.  Maybe we could play that card if Carr was still pacing the sidelines with his hands in his back pockets, but this Michigan team is completely different.  On top of all this, Michigan State is the first game for which UM leaves the friendly confines of the Big House.  First road game + rivalry game + freshman QB + overall young team = tough game.  I give the edge to Michigan State.

3. Iowa possessed a downright stellar defense last season. Most of that group returns. Where, if anywhere, does Michigan have a mismatch they can exploit?

SCM: The only spots I see on the Iowa D that can be listed as "questionable" are the interior line and possibly the safeties.  I'm no X's and O's wizard, but my quick summary of how I think we approach this one?  Wee spread wee!!  Iowa had 23 (!!!!!!) picks last year as a defense.  If there's a game where I am going to be really looking for us to pound the football (spread style) this will be it.  This is counter-intuitive as Iowa possessed the 9th ranked rush D last year, but I think we have to play to our strengths on the road: O-line and RBs.  Spread that excellent defense out across the field and QB read them to death.  We are fortunate to have the players to present a number of different looks in the rushing game and I think we're going to have to use all of them to move the ball in this one.

MnB Dave: Any match up against Iowa's defense is going to be tricky, but I think the interior of the Hawkeye line is going to be a major problem for them this year. You can't replace to senior starters (especially a starter like Mitch King) in the middle of the line and not have a drop off. Michigan's interior offensive line will be solid this year with Schilling, Moosman, and Molk at center. I think they'll be able to get some push and I really like their mobility off the ball. Molk especially seems to delight in getting to that next level and burying some poor sap helmet first into the carpet. However, while Iowa isn't strong up the middle, they have all three starting Linebackers back. If Michigan can't get to the second level of blocking, I guarantee those 'Backers will be able to plug the gaps after a couple of yards. But, if Michigan can control the LOS in the middle and send Molk or Schilling or Moosman to the linebackers then the Wolverines are really in business. There aren't a lot of running backs in college football I'd put money on in a head to head collision with a linebacker, but Brandon Minor is one of them. I think the mix of Minor and Carlos Brown this season is going to be just awesome (provided they can both stay healthy). But if either of them go down, Rodriguez has stockpiled a cadre of backs that can easily handle the load.

BB: I think the biggest factor here isn't necessarily one key matchup to exploit, but rather keeping Iowa off balance enough to where their very good linebacking corp has to think twice before reacting.  This means, in all likelihood, that two things will have to happen that I'm not sure ever happened last year:

1)  We are going to have to show diversity within the spread look.  Swing passes, read-option, read-keepers, screens; they're all going to have to be utilized in some way out of the same look.

2)  We can't turn the ball over.

As SCM mentions, Iowa had an astounding number of picks last year and Michigan had an astounding number of fumbles.  The Rodriguez offense is pretty much designed to keep defenders off balance, so there is hope here.  I just remember what happened as soon as defenses figured out that Threet wasn't ever going to keep the ball, and well, it didn't work out.  Like, at all.  Having a QB that has a modicum of accuracy will help, IMO.

4.  Can't talk about Iowa without mentioning Tim Dwight... one sentence please.

SCM:  The single scariest moment of '97 bar none was Dwight stunning a Big House crowd right before halftime, here it is at 1:18

MnB Dave: Are we talkin' about Vanilla Chocolate? The fastest white man that ever lived. I hate him for the reasons stated by SCM.

BB: Freshman year of college, SCM and I were in a hall-wide Madden dynasty complete with fantasy draft, etc.  My roommate is remarkably good at Madden to the point where I'm sure if he were so inclined he could enter tournaments and probably place very respectably.  During the draft, he selected Tim Dwight with his 2nd round pick, to much mockery and scorn.  He killed us with a team built around sheer speed at every position.  Tim Dwight returned punts and kicks, and caught little Wes Welker-esque (white!) first downs, much to the infuriation of the competition.  The super-bowl of that league was watched by all who participated, and even some who didn't.  It was an epic battle that saw my roommate - undefeated at the time - get beat by a lucky string of plays and the computer going into f-you, you're not winning this game mode.  The victor was the RA on the hall, which turned out to be a good thing as we were never busted for any subsequent parties we had because, um, the RA was there too.  There was much celebration.  My roommate still won't talk about it.

5. Amount you are willing to wager that they run a piece where they interview Rich Rodriguez and ask him his thoughts about the pink locker-room during the game?

SCM: My entire future earnings.

MnB Dave: There's a suckers bet. That's like asking "Will Stevie Brown miss an assignment or tackle that directly leads to a touchdown?" or "How many Iowa players were arrested in the offseason?" (answer: all of them). They'll run the pink locker room piece right after some jackass declares without support that Rodriguez is on the hot seat because the fan base and the bloggers won't tolerate losing games. At which point I will throw things, scream obscenities at the television, consume my 14th beer and watch as my wife rolls her eyes and tells me I'm sleeping on the couch.

BB: I will stake a great deal of cash, meats, and various sundries that he will be asked.  I will also stake a great deal of sundries on him responding with "well, it's something I've not seen before, but we're playing a real good half here, just trying to maintain focus and be strong all 4 quarters."  It is the classic non-answer redirect to another...non-answer.  Halftime interviews!  Love 'em!

Next up in the Great Debate? Michigan State.

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