August 30, 2012

2012 Iowa Football - Week 1: Iowa @ Northern Illinois


2012 IOWA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE*

September 1st @ Northern Illinois 3:30 pm, ESPNU
September 8th v. Iowa State 3:30 pm, BTN
September 15th v. Northern Iowa 3:30 pm, BTN
September 22nd v. Central Michigan TBD
September 29th v. Minnesota 12:00 pm, BTN/ESPN/ESPN2
October 13th @ Michigan State 12:00 pm, BTN/ESPN/ESPN2
October 20th v. Penn State 8:00 pm, BTN
October 27th @ Northwestern 12:00 pm, BTN/ESPN/ESPN2
November 3rd @ Indiana TBD
November 10th v. Purdue TBD - Silver Pro Combat Unis
November 17th @ Michigan, TBD
November 23rd (Friday) v. Nebraska 12:00 pm, ABC

*Times Eastern

Scouting Next Opponent: Tulsa @ Iowa State, 3:30 pm, Fox Sports
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September 1st, 2012.  Iowa @ Northern Illinois Huskies (at Soldier Field)
Previous Meetings: 8, Iowa leads 7-0
Last Meeting: 2007, at Soldier Field, Hawks 16, Huskies 3

Current Line: Iowa -10

Turnover Margin:

Current Week 2 Deep:

Hawkeye Stat Pack (2011 final)
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Offense
Total   372.5  Pass  234.8  Rush 137.7  Scoring 27.5
B1G    #7                 #3                #12                    #6
FBS    #76               #59              #79                    #58   
Defense 
Total   378.9  Pass  222.9  Rush 156.0  Scoring 23.9 
B1G    #7                 #11               #7                     #8
FBS    #76               #58              #62                    #46  
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The 2012 Season

TICK TICKTICK!

Like that other countdown clock that runs out on December 21st*, Iowa Football will be back in mere hours.

Hello again Hawkeye fans!  Hope the first 8 months of 2012 have been treating you well!  Yeah, it kind of started with a thud after falling to Oklahoma, but the hoops team made strides, we just saw the USA win the medal race at the Summer Games, and as I begin these Notes, the new season sits just 18 days away.

And, there are plenty of good seats left on the Hawkeye Bandwagon.  

(*Nope, we don’t believe the world is ending on the winter solstice.  That would kind of screw with our bowl travel.  And that - would have Hawkeye fans rather…ticked off.)

Yup, the experts are not thinking much of the 2012 Hawkeyes.  With 11 returning starters (only the Mildcats have fewer), we have a lot of young, or unproven players, who will be in key roles this season.  

Iowa is a rebuilding team, not a reloading one.  That’s what the experts say.  Actually, have we not been rebuilding for the past couple seasons?  

Look back to 2009.  9-0, on the way to blowing out the Mildcats, and Stanzi goes down.  James, with no real snaps of consequence under his belt, struggles.  But the next week, anemic play calling, drops, and clock follies keep us from beating Ohio State by 10 and winning the Big Ten title.  Then we would have faced Oregon in the Rose Bowl, and probably topped them by two touchdowns.

Had Stanzi not gone down, we beat the Cats by 17, crush OSU and the Rodents, and still probably play - in the Rose Bowl.  But, after winning that, we finish 3rd in the country.  We lost guys from that team, and some of that has showed in the results from 2010 and 2011.  

So now we have lost more guys, but we still are working to get back to that high of competing for the Big Ten title, and then winning our 4th BCS level bowl.  Maybe some of the problems that past two seasons were the result of how things almost went in 2009.  Maybe not.  But most of the new starters were not part of that team, and so they are most likely driven to make a name for themselves - by getting Iowa back to where it belongs.

As much change as we find on the field, there is just as much when it comes to the guys calling the plays.

 Kirk enters his 14th season, and with him in charge, you don’t expect much in the way of change.  But there will be some.

First, like so many Iowans, KOK went off to retirement in Florida.  Wait, that’s a job with the Dolphins.  In his place steps Greg Davis, who ran the offense in Texas from 1998 to 2010.  This offense was, at times, prolific.  

In the defense optional Big 12 of course, but who can forget that epic title game between Texas and USC that ended when Vince Young strode into the end zone as play expired.  That Texas offense averaged 50 points per game and 512 yards of offense.  Granted, we don’t get nearly as many 4 and 5 star athletes as the Longhorns do, but with a mind like this running the offense, we have reason to be optimistic.

Vince Young aside, Davis actually seems to prefer more pro-style QBs who can throw first and run second,   10 of the best 11 passing seasons in Texas history all occurred under his watch.  

He also likes to run the ball, consider the college careers of Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson, both Longhorns.

And Davis likes to do all this under the no huddle, or at least hurry up, style.  

Which surely makes him happy to be arriving at a place with a senior pro-style QB, who has himself looked very good in the no huddle.  Usually it was because we were trailing, of course.  To see us run it from the beginning should be fun to watch.

Then, there is the issue of the tailbacks.  Certain the QB would be happy to throw it 65 times a game, but the head coach will demand some degree of balance.  There will be tailbacks, but with 18 days to go, I’m not sure if anyone knows who is going to start the season. Or even if it might be the fullback in the tailback spot.  I hope not, we need him blowing people up in the holes.

One other part of this offense that Hawk fans should find noteworthy is the frequent use of tailbacks in the passing game. Swing patterns, lining them up in the slot, etc.  More than just dumpdowns for broken plays.  Get the ball to your best players, in space - and let them run.  In this offense, we should see more of that.

So the Hawkeye offense should have a lot of chances with the ball.  The question is, will they have to do something with it most of the time, or just some of the time.

Based on last year, and the scarcity of defensive returning starters, most would think we are going to have to put up 40 points per game to have a shot.  But we also have change on this side of the ball, and we already know some of what he wants to do.

That’s Phil Parker, new defensive coordinator.  But not new to Iowa - it’s also his 14th season, having coached the defensive backs from 1999-2011.  Parker took over after Norm went off into actual retirement, and we hope he is able to devote more time to getting better.  For most of the past decade the Iowa defense was one of the best in the nation.  Norm lead it, and Phil was a part of it.  Now we see if the understudy can get us back to where we should be.

We saw bits of Phil over the past two seasons, running the D when Norm’s health would not allow him to be there.  Phil runs the same base defense, but he also is more likely to switch it up as down and distance require.  With him calling the plays, the Hawkeye defense would often switch into the 3-4 on 3rd and long.  They were a little more likely to blitz.  To run nickel, and sometimes even dime, coverages. Now that the defense is his, I wonder if the Iowa defense will change throughout the game as the situation dictates.

Some of our youngness may flat out require it.  

It’s no secret that the biggest challenge for the Hawks is to rebuild the defensive line.  We are not putting bad players out there, just young and or new ones, who combined have 11 total starts among them.   Some need to get bigger and stronger as they learn the defense.  I’m sure all of them are tired of hearing how they are the weak link to the Iowa defense.  And as such, I think they will improve week after week, and soon enough, we’ll be reminded of the Roth/Babs D lines of years past.  

The back 7 of the defense is one of the strongest parts of the team.  How can you help a young defensive line?

Many ways, but all of them kind of put the old Iowa ‘keep everything in front of them’ defense at risk.  Then again, based on the past couple seasons, that defense didn’t always work.

The most interesting way is this: bring the strong safety right down into the box, and bring the corners right up to the line to bump and run on the outside.  That helps shore up the run defense, and hopefully, wreck the timing patterns that QBs were able to kill us with lately.  You know, those 3rd and 6 downs with the corners playing 10-12 yards off the line - and quick passes of 7 yards to the sideline, 1st down.  

Having those corners close to the line can also help with all these running QBs we see these days.  

The danger is obvious...with a single high safety, they must guess left or right, and if the receiver is able to get off the line with minimal distress, the advantage shifts to the offense.  

That is, unless your defensive line gets kind of tired hearing about how raw they are, and find their way into the backfield much more like we are used to.  That’s the other upside to bump and run on the outside - the QB can’t make his hot read if his wideouts are messed up, and in the interim, the defensive line arrives - or maybe a blitzing linebacker - and the QB must run or die.

That’s the way they draw it up on paper.  Two days ago, the Hawks had their annual Kid’s Day practice.  All the Iowa media and bloggers were there.  In the beginning, they were all commenting on how the Iowa offensive line was pushing the defensive line 5 to 6 yards off the ball.  But as the day wore on, the D line seemed to find their footing a bit - and Phil unleashed some new blitzes that caught the attention of the Iowa media - for they didn’t seem like any blitzes we have used recently.

This was all up agains the Iowa offensive line - which many are regarding as another one of the strengths of the team - we could in fact start 5 Iowans across the line, so you would expect they know the history and the expectations.  And just maybe, this will be one of those Iowa lines that is among the best in the nation.  We’ll see.

So, same basic structure to the offense, but with a quicker pace, and more variations.  Same basic structure for the defense, but don’t expect it to stay the same for play after play.  

Our kicker returns, (sorry Tara), Meyer is now a junior.  We must find a new punter, and once again a freshman is in the mix, and once again, he is a beast - 6’6, 215.  That’s number #98.  Clearly, for Iowa to be an elite team, we must dominate the special teams.   I’ve seen it before and keep asking for it again - multiple punt blocks, multiple penalties for clocking the fair catch return man.  A young team must find some advantage where they can - perhaps this will be the place.

Yes, I feel like I keep typing this, but the season - well, it sets up for something good.  No Buckeyes, no Badgers. Nebraska must visit Kinnick, so do the Clones, and if we lose to the Rodents three times in a row, I’m not sure what I’ll do. Sure we visit both Michigan teams, but it’s the Big Ten.  It won’t be a cake walk every week.  To shock and surprise, we must beat someone no one thinks we can beat.  

Breaking news as I finished that paragraph, the Hawks had so much fun practicing before the fans on Kids Day, they are going to do it again this Saturday (the 18th).  Not another Kids Day, but an open practice in Kinnick.  Nope, you can’t tailgate.  All the Iowa media and such will be there, so we will get deatiled recaps on how the team has progressed from last Saturday to this one.  Course, by the time you read this, that will be in the past, and we will be just hours away from kickoff.  And this will be the last time the public sees the Hawks until we take the field in Chicago, I’m sure.  

This Week - Northern Illinois

These are not the same Huskies that the Hawks have met in the past.  In fact, last season, they won the MAC conference for the first time in 28 seasons, with an 11-3, 7-1 record, and they then won the GoDaddy.com bowl, 38-20, over Arkansas State.  

Yes, that’s the same Arkansas State that Missouri scheduled to avoid playing Iowa.  And you recall how that came back to bite the Paper Tigers when we finally met.  But I digress.

The 2011 Huskies averaged 38+ points per game, on the strength of 234 rushing yards per (12th in Div. 1), and a senior quarterback who passed for 3216 yards (28 tds, 6 picks) and ALSO rushed for 1379 yards, at 7.1 per clip, and 11 tds.  That, awesome, at any level.

But being a senior, he is gone, as are 8 other offensive starters.  A young offense against a new Iowa defensive line.  Hopefully, this will be a case where the size and strength of a BIg Ten team wears down the smaller MAC team and we will be able to get into the backfield and cause havoc.

They do return their top tailback (but 2nd best rusher, after the QB), Hopkins, who had 956 yards - at 5.1 per carry, and 15 rushing tds.  The Iowa defense of old would take this away and force the QB (Lynch, a junior) to beat them.  As you might expect, he has only seen late game duty so far.  So we’ll see if playing in an NFL sized stadium with a large Hawkeye majority rattles him.  

Check that, Soldier only sits 61,500, but it will still be mostly Hawkeye fans.  Anyone wonder why NFL tickets cost so much?

The Husky defense were themselves very young at the start of 2011, but improved throughout the season - although the average for points allowed was a tick above 30.  In 2011, NIU brought the Badgers into Soldier, and Wisconsin put up 49 on the Huskies, winning 49-7.  We may not be the Badgers when it comes to the running game, but we do sport a senior QB who has a cannon for an arm.  

James will be looking to establish his next goto targets early.  Davis and KMM seem to have nailed down the top two wideout spots.  Both have showed flashes of greatness, and some less than stellar moments.  If both can step up their games to be more consistent, they could have excellent seasons.

But the Hawkeye that is expect to explode out of the box is CJ Fiedorowicz.  Now a junior, he has patiently bided his time behind the older tight ends, learning how to play the pro-style position, proper blocking being the main part.  Now he has that knowledge, and no one in front of him on the two deep.  And a new OC that likes to attack downfield when he has the right weapons.  At 6’7, there is still no linebacker, no safety, that can regularly cover CJF.  16 catches for 167 and 3 tds a year ago - assuming James has the time, I think that could hit 50 for 800+ and 13-15 tds.  Marvin, look out!

And he is just one of what could potentially be 3 or 4 excellent tight ends.  Just think of it - 5 wide, Davis and KMM on the outside, with 3 tight ends streaking down the hashes and middle.  The Hawkeye Run and Shoot!

Yes, there will be a running game, and as of the 2nd public scrimmage, it seems many are starting to feel a bit better about it.

We are certain that sophomore Damon Bullock will start, but the Iowa boards seem especially intrigued at the prospect of freshman Greg Garmon, #4.  Based on what he has showed so far, some think he could be the fastest tailback we have had in well, a very long time.  It should be very interesting when Canzeri returns (possibly late season, but I hope they redshirt him and he returns next year fully ready) to have two tailbacks that can take it the distance on any touch.  Regardless, tailback will surely be by committee during the non-con season.   But with this Iowa line, and the threat of a dangerous passing game, we will run the ball.

Of particular note from all the recaps from the media and bloggers - that this freshman class may be the fastest that many Hawk fans can remember - on both sides of the ball.  I know we all want to win right now, and try they will - but the next few seasons are already starting to look very interesting.

How should this one play out?  Think back to your days at Iowa.  Whenever you met someone new, and asked where they were from, they said ‘Chicago.’

Even if they lived in Illinois, about 12.3 miles across the Mississippi river.

And so, with all those 2nd City Hawkeyes back in their home ‘town’, and all the other Hawkeyes (from Iowa, and other spots) that have moved to Chicago, there are more than enough Iowa alumni there to fill up Soldier Field.  

That’s not counting all the other Iowa fans that will stream into Chicago for the Cubs/Hawkeyes double. 

NIU is 65 miles west of Chicago - i.e., not in Chicago.  So while there will be Husky fans - they will be in the distinct minority. 

Upside to Soldier Field for NIU and Iowa fans - everyone can have a beer, not just the fat cat alumni up in the suites.  Or if you prefer, a Coke.  

With a 2:30 (central) start, those Hawk fans are going to have about, 7 hours of tailgate time to get warmed up.  And loud, they will be.

So, when the Hawks are doing well, it’s going to sound a lot more like Kinnick than any other road game we will play in this year.  And Hawkeye fans could have quite a bit to be excited about.

You can probably guess that with the running game as our biggest question, NIU will likely sell out to stop it.  Or try, anyway.

But while the Iowa philosophy is to have balance, it’s entirely possible that to start this season, James is going to come out firing from the start, and use the threat of the pass downfield to give the line and tailbacks some breathing room.  And with our weapons on the outside, and the prospects of tight ends you can’t defend running around in between the hashes - well, the Iowa passing game should come out in mid-season form.  And though they are the question, the tailbacks will then be able to lay down the answer.

James will top 300 yards and have 4 tds, two to CJF, and the tailbacks will get 1 to show they do exist.  Meyer gets one shot and nails it, and the Hawks put up 38.

The Huskies may be able to get a big play, or a couple, but the Iowa D line is going to quickly answer the critics.  And the back 7 will be who we think they are - all over the place.  This QB might be a threat on the ground, but putting it up will be a mistake.

Hawks 38, Huskies 13.  

The Hawks will do this with a fair amount of no huddle, and they will use some different defensive sets as the down and distance require.  But it’s game one, and the Iowa brain trust is not going to give much to the scouts for week 2.  The real interesting new wrinkles will be saved for Kinnick.

2012 marks year #8 for Sedge’s Hawkeye Game Notes.  Thank you to those that allow my vodka Kool-Aid infused Notes into their email boxes every week!  If you were here in the beginning, you may recall how we had Notes, and regular game watches, for Iowa Basketball.  But then, most people stopped caring.  Now, they care again.  Iowa Hoops game watches, and Notes (don’t worry, they are much, much shorter for basketball) will return in November.

It’s almost here.  By the time these Notes reach you, it will only be a matter of hours.  The experts are not thinking much of Iowa Football.  Perhaps they will be right.  But I don’t think so.  In the past we have snuck up on people when they weren’t thinking about Iowa.  It can happen again.

GO HAWKS!!!

SEDGE

DAVE SEDGWICK
VP, NY Metro Iowa Alumni Club
Iowa class of 1995


And now, as a public service, how to cram as much football into this long holiday weekend!

It all begins (real games) Thursday night.  You could hang out in sports bars all weekend, but what fun...hell yes, that’s fun!  Anyway, a more logical breakdown.

Thursday Night, 7:00 pm Eastern:
South Carolina @ Vanderbilt, ESPN
11:00 pm:
Minnesota Golden Rodents @ UNLV, CBS Sports Network
There are about 9 other games on ESPN3 that night - multi monitor setup heaven.

Friday Night, 7:30 pm Eastern:
Tennessee @ North Carolina State, ESPNU
8:00 pm:
Boise State @ Michigan State, ESPN
10:00 pm:
San Jose State @ Stanford, PAC12 Network

Saturday 9:00 am Eastern:
Notre Dame @ Navy, CBS from Dublin, Ireland
12:00 pm:
Miami (Ohio) @ Ohio State, Big Ten Network
Northwestern @ Syracuse, ESPN2
3:30 pm:
Iowa @ Northern Illinois, ESPNU
7:00 pm:
Clemson @ Auburn, The Tiger Bowl, ESPN
8:00 pm:
Michigan @ Alabama, ABC.  Game of the night. From Cowboys Stadium
10:30 pm:
Oklahoma @ UTEP, Fox Sports

Sunday 3:30 pm Eastern:
Kentucky @ Louisville, ESPN (not a hoops game).
6:30 pm:
SMU @ Baylor, Fox Sports

Monday 8:00 pm Eastern:
Georgia Tech @ Virginia Tech, ESPN

Some of this will require picture in picture, but it’s into the back half of 2012, so you should have a tv that can handle that.  Even better, PIP with a few computers or monitors.  Invite your friends with laptops over.  Football overdose.

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