As the final season of the Big T1e1n comes to a close, it means that we’ve only got two more blog brothers-in-arms to get to know
Iowa has bounced back from several tough losses already this season. Do you think they have it in them to bounce back again against Ohio State?
I’d like to say yes. Thus far this year they have responded well to losses. After Arizona they came back and pounded Ball State (admittedly a terrible team) 45-0 and after Wisconsin they can back and destroyed Michigan State 37-6. The team has 26 seniors, who will be honored on Saturday, and these guys have been through the tough losses before. I doubt Iowa will respond with a 30 points victory on Saturday, but I also doubt that Ohio State win by 30 either.
This game feels a little bit like the 2008 Penn State game when Iowa was a heavy underdog to the #3 Nittany Lions. Iowa had already lost a handful of close games earlier in the year. The game featured a lot of defense and was close the whole way. Iowa was able to win on a field goal with seconds left.
How is this team different than the one that opened the season with wins over EIU and in the CyHawk game? What things have improved?
Improved? Hm. Usually a trademark of Kirk Ferentz’s team is a steady improvement throughout the season. This year I am not really seeing it. The last two games were as bad as Iowa has played all year. I think it is partly due to injuries that set some of the progress back.
I’d say the one area of improvement has been special teams. There are still struggles from time to time, but the kickoff coverage has been much improved and PK Mike Meyer (9/11 FGs) has been pretty decent for a true freshman.
After the tough loss to Northwestern, do you feel that the team’s goals for the season have changed? What do you believe should be the goals going forward?
The team’s goal every year is a Big Ten Championship. That for all intents and purposes is now out the window (there is an unlikely 4-way 2-loss tie scenario). Of course they want to win the next two games and a bowl, but I think now the goal has to be to play good, clean football the next two weeks. Iowa’s losses have all been the result of some poor execution in some phase of the game (special teams, clock management, 3rd downs). So I’d just like to see Iowa play a complete game (win or lose) this weekend.
Just like Wisconsin seems to be an unexplainable thorn in the Tressel’s side, Northwestern always seems to find a way to get it done against the Hawkeyes. Why do you think that is?
There are a couple factors here I think. First, is just the fluke factor. Iowa has been a better team much of the past decade and yet Northwestern finds a way to win. In 2008 and 2009 they injured Iowa’s star offensive player with Shonn Greene and Ricky Stanzi. They have been on the receiving end of a ton of turnovers. They have had a lucky on-side kick. Etc… Also factor in the fact that Iowa is Northwestern’s biggest rival, though Iowa doesn’t return the feelings. They put way more importance on this game than Iowa from an emotional stand point.
Those are all really just excuses though. Northwestern does have an offensive scheme full of quick passes that is difficult for Iowa to defend with its base 4-3 defense. Last weekend Iowa was trying to defend those quick passes with a depleted linebacking corps. Iowa has tried to mix things up defensively some against the Wildcats. More blitzing, 3-4, nickel, etc…but that’s all out of their comfort zone. I really can’t explain Iowa’s lack of offensive production against Northwestern. Part of it has been due to injury, part of it is that Pat Fitzgerald is a good defensive coach, and part of it is just poor execution.
Jim Tressel has had great success during his time at Ohio State, but still takes heat from the fan base almost constantly, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Kirk Ferentz has similarly had tremendous success at Iowa and is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the country. Is the Iowa fan base ever critical of him or his decisions? If so, how?
This is a very timely question considering Iowa’s loss last week. I think most fan bases get irrational with their criticism following a bad loss, but some of the things Iowa fans throw out there are ridiculous. Iowa has had one of the nation’s top defense year in and year out. And yet, fans constantly clamor about the conservative nature of the defense and that Iowa doesn’t blitz enough. I have seen Iowa blitz. More often than not it ends up in a big play for the opponent when the QB connects with a wide open man-covered receiver.
Fans complain about the conservative nature of the offense too, particularly around the play calling. Again, I’m not really sure what all the fuss is about. An offense doesn’t need to be run out of a shotgun, with a bunch of motion and a lot of trickeration to keep a defense off balance. Iowa keeps a defense off balance, by being balance itself. A solid running game sets up a very effective play-action pass game.
The only legitimate gripe fans have is with clock management. That has been an issue for Ferentz and his staff forever and it hasn’t ever really gotten better.
What should Ohio State fans be more concerned about: Stanzi passing the ball or Robinson running the ball? Who are some other play makers on offense that Ohio State fans should know about?
Robinson is an extremely underrated running back. Even I often underestimate his rushing ability. However, if Iowa is going to challenge the Buckeyes defense, it is going to be with Stanzi and the passing attack. Stanzi’s numbers have been stellar this year. He’s 3rd in the country in passer efficiency and has for the most part solved his interception problem. He has two excellent receivers, Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, that both are big play threats but very competent on shorter routes too. Iowa’s bread and butter will always be the tight end, and Allen Reisner is a good one.
Iowa’s front four on defense is one of the best in the country. Who are some other players on defense that Ohio State fans should know about?
Iowa is pretty depleted at linebacker right now, so I can’t really chose anyone from there as a real impact player. Both safeties, Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood, have had some buzz. I think as the biggest impact player, CB Shaun Prater has been having a solid year. He’s not a lockdown corner and has been beat from time to time, but he in general does a great job of keeping the play in front of him where he can make a play. He has 3 interceptions this year and returned one for a TD to seal the game against Penn State back in October.
Buckeye nation wants to know- How do Hawkeye fans feel about James Vandenberg’s mom?
Look up James Vandenberg on Google Images and you probably wouldn’t expect much from his mother. (No offense to James, but he looks like a goofy 12 year old, not like a college quarterback.) Mali note: You know what? Eric’s right.
I have never been able to find a great picture of Mrs. Vandenberg, but I think her fame comes from a short video of some of the players’ mom from last year’s Parents Weekend. But yeah, she’s easy on the eyes. Mali note: Of course we’re posting it. You’re welcome.
What’s your take on conference expansion and division alignments?
First off, I love the addition of Nebraska. They haven’t even played yet and are already Iowa’s biggest conference. These two fan bases are extremely antipathetic towards each other. It is going to be great for that game to be played the last week of the regular season too. Image, Iowa-Nebraska in the morning followed by a OSU-Michigan afternoon. That will be a great way to spend the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
In terms of the division alignment, I can’t complain too much. I would have preferred to have Wisconsin and Michigan flipped. Or, at least have had Iowa’s protected crossover as Wisconsin. Iowa versus Purdue is not and will never be a rivalry. Other than that, it worked out pretty well. Iowa will play Minnesota and Nebraska every year, the Michigan schools and Northwestern. The way things are sitting right now, too, I like Iowa’s chances of winning the division every few years (of course depending on Michigan’s progress).