Iowa Football: 7 Bold Predictions for 2012
It's a pathetic feeling to be a grown man scolded by his wife for not mowing the lawn because BTN replayed Iowa vs. Indiana from 2006, but that's what happens on a Saturday afternoon during the college football-starved dog days of summer.
Watching the ineptitude of a disappointing team from our past unfold on television is a novelty in the offseason survival kit. More time is spent obsessing over the depth chart, dissecting intrasquad scrimmages from the spring and summer, collecting game-by-game projections to develop comfortable expectations, then disregarding those and gearing up for what you decide can only be an 11-1 regular season and BCS appearance after beating Wisconsin for the conference title.
That confidence usually lasts until the second three-and-out against a MAC defense.
A Big Ten title may be highly unlikely for this team, but with the information collected over months of avoiding household chores, there are seven bold predictions I am willing to make.
Iowa Will Be First Team to Pull a Running Back from the Stands
To say Iowa has a difficult time keeping running backs on the field is like saying the past 10 months have been less than ideal for Penn State.
Freshman running back Barkley Hill suffered a torn ACL in a scrimmage last weekend, which prompted the national media to report an awful phenomenon known to Iowa fans as ''Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God'' (AIRBHG). Injury, arrest and academics are the primary tools AIRBHG uses to dismantle the Iowa backfield. If you'd like to vomit, HawkeyeNation.com has documented AIRBHG's reign of terror in excruciating detail.
It is naive to believe AIRBHG can be reasoned with, and even more naive to expect the slightest degree of mercy. By the time Iowa opens Big Ten play against Minnesota, it is increasingly likely the coaching staff will have to pluck someone from the student section to carry the ball.
Unfortunately, it is the student section, and Princeton Review recently named Iowa the nation's No. 2 party school, meaning the fan-acting-as-running-back will be in violation of the team's substance abuse policy, leading to his immediate dismissal.
Well played, AIRBHG. Well played.
C.J. Fiedorowicz Will Inspire a 'Yo Soy Fiesta' Sign Behind the Gameday Desk
The Iowa staff is probably in no rush to discover photos of junior tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz with an adult film star, and they would absolutely hate to see cell-phone video of him dancing on a bar after a loss. But beyond that, I'm sure they would love for C.J. to be as Gronk-like as possible.
With a veteran QB delivering the ball, Fiedorowicz should break out the way Rob Gronkowski did in the NFL last season. He is a walking matchup problem at 6'7'' and 265 pounds. It also can't hurt that Gronkowski's position coach from last season, Brian Ferentz, has joined the Iowa staff.
It would take an epic showing on the postgame interview rounds for C.J. to close the meathead gap, but catching touchdowns should be no problem.
Phil Parker Will Be Called Norm Every Single Day of the Season
Have you ever made the mistake of calling your current girlfriend by your ex-girlfriend's name? Well, Kirk Ferentz will be having a variation of that conversation every single week of the 2012 football season.
I'm sorry, it was a meaningless slip. You're awesome and we're having a great time. No, of course I don't wish you were him. Well, yeah, he left us, but...
It will be more difficult to tell Norm and Phil Parker apart than many fans would like. After 13 years of a consistent approach that bordered on stubborn, the promotion of an assistant who was on the staff for all of those years makes it increasingly likely the new defense will do little to distinguish itself from the previous incarnations.
There will be slight adjustments to the overall defensive scheme, but they will be motivated by personnel, not a philosophical shift.
Speaking of which...
By Mid-October Norm Parker's Political Endorsement Could Swing the Election
You can't overstate the value of an influential political endorsement for a presidential candidate in a potential swing state like Iowa. What is the most important issue to you—job creation, taxes, education? Or are you waiting for Dan Gable's signal? Be honest.
Iowa fans have been clamoring for a more aggressive defensive scheme for years. Norm Parker's bend-don't-break defensive philosophy is designed to minimize risk, which is just as exciting as it sounds. It is a safe, pragmatic way to slowly die, unless you have three or four future NFL players on the defensive line.
Defensive line is going to be a major work-in-progress for the Hawkeyes this year, which should lead to more aggressive use of linebackers and defensive backs to take some pressure off the group up front. More blitzing will lead to more isolation in coverage, which naturally opens the defense up to the big plays Norm spent the last 13 years trying to avoid.
Phil Parker is a good coach, but we fans are a fickle crowd and misplaced nostalgia is always within reach. Around the fourth time Michigan State beats the Hawks deep, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will make one final Iowa stop on the bus tour just to be seen with a pragmatic risk-reducer like Norm.
Someone Will Miss an Away Game When They Forget Their Permission Slip
This team is sippy-cup young.
The Hawkeyes two-deep depth chart for Northern Illinois revealed only seven senior starters, which HawkeyeNation.com reports is the fewest in the Ferentz era, and 25 of the 47 position players are sophomores or younger.
Anyone who has traveled with a child knows how difficult it can be. I can't imagine how Ferentz is going to handle getting all these kids to Chicago next week. As the newest members of his coaching staff, Brian Ferentz and LeVar Woods will no doubt be in charge of making sure they stay out of the hotel pool after hours.
There are bound to be blown coverages and missed assignments, but the schedule is forgiving early in the season and there should be time to work out the youth-driven issues before conference play.
Nico Law Will Expose Your Friend Who Doesn't Actually Watch the Games
Every group of friends has that guy who exaggerates his passion for the team. Thanks to preseason media hype, he typically identifies a "player to watch." But because he fails to watch, he dramatically overrates that player's performance eight weeks into the season.
Iowa safety Nico Law was minding his own business at the spring game when some overzealous running back had the audacity to carry the ball across the line of scrimmage. Law's hit left the ball-carrier picking both himself and his helmet off the turf.
That type of intensity has drawn comparisons to Bob Sanders, a former Hawkeye, NFL Defensive Player of the Year and human wrecking ball.
Sanders was a game-changer the moment he stepped on the Kinnick Stadium field. Law is an exciting player with a high ceiling, but he's not Sanders.
If your friend says Nico Law has done a great job against the run for the first eight weeks of the season, he's probably correct. If he calls him the next Bob Sanders, he doesn't actually watch the games.
Iowa Will Finally Sit at the Cool Kid Table in November
Never underestimate the power shiny things hold over 16-year-old kids, and never underestimate the power 16-year-old kids hold over the decision-making process in big-time college football programs.
Embracing a nationwide trend, Iowa will jump on the Nike Pro Combat uniform bandwagon. And not a moment too soon. Tradition is great, but the cool teenagers don't motion you to their lunch table if you show up dressed like your dad.
Details are limited, but the Hawkeyes will wear the uniforms for their November 10 showdown with Purdue.
Over the years, Kirk Ferentz has said his team's style of play is not sexy. The schemes may not be flashy, but for at least one day, it looks like the uniforms will be.