5 Questions When the Iowa Hawkeyes Face Central Michigan
The season is only three weeks old and it seems as though it's been a roller-coaster.
In effect, it's impossible to say "never" as it concerns the 2012 Iowa Hawkeyes, or any Kirk Ferentz-coached Hawkeye squad for that matter.
Nonetheless, their opponent this week—the Central Michigan Chippewas—are tied for the 103rd-worst program in the country between 2010-2011, their first two seasons under head coach Dan Enos.
This incarnation of the Chippewas is Enos' best squad yet, but that may not mean much.
In CMU's previous two games, it got shellacked by Michigan State and squeaked by FCS Southeast Missouri State, 38-27.
Of course, that 11 points also represents how many points Iowa beat FCS Northern Iowa by.
Regardless, Iowa should have the decisive advantage over the Chippewas in every conceivable area, though CMU does have a good group of offensive skill position players.
In effect, if Central Michigan wins, it says more about the Hawkeyes than the Chippewas.
Therefore, for the Hawkeyes, this game should be a case of fixing any loose ends and getting ready for the Big Ten schedule.
Central Michigan Facts
Head Coach: Dan Enos
Enos' Record with CMU: 6-18
Returning Starters: Eight on offense, eight on defense and both specialists
2012 Record: 1-1
2012 Offense: 22.5 points-per-game
2012 Defense: 34.0 points-per-game
All-time Record vs. Iowa: 0-2
Last Meeting vs. Iowa: 1998, 0-38
Most Notable Facts About CMU: The Chippewas have yet to draw a penalty in 2012. They will also be coming off a bye week.
Will Iowa's Defense Show Up in the 1st Half?
Much has been said about new defensive coordinator Phil Parker's halftime adjustments.
Thus far this year, his first-half defense has allowed a total of 32 points. The second-half defense has allowed only 10 points.
Furthermore, the first-half Iowa D has allowed 3.87 yards-per-carry (YPC) and 8.19 yards per pass (YPP).
Comparatively, the second-half Iowa defense has allowed 2.62 YPC and 4.52 YPP.
The Iowa defense has also forced two first-half turnovers to go with four second-half turnovers.
Parker deserves credit for making the necessary changes, but in the first half against both Iowa State and UNI, the defense looked lost in the first quarter.
Can the Iowa D—a much better-than-expected Iowa D—show up out of the gate?
Who Will Be the Starting Tailback?
True sophomore Damon Bullock has started all three of Iowa's games in 2012. However, after suffering a concussion last week, according to Kirk Ferentz at his weekly press conference (via the Cedar Rapids Gazette), he will likely miss this week.
True freshman Greg Garmon has been Bullock's backup, but he injured his shoulder on the series right after Bullock went out. Ferentz is more optimistic with Garmon, but he still won't know until later in the week.
That leaves sophomore fullback Mark Weisman, who took over the tailback job against UNI after Bullock and Garmon went down. He had a solid day, rushing for 113 yards and three touchdowns, but he is still green and still a fullback.
The only other options are backup fullback Brad Rogers, who missed a lot of time with various injuries, and third-string tailback Michael Malloy, who is a true freshman and has yet to play a snap.
Also, true sophomore Jordan Canzeri has been cleared to play. He tore his ACL in the spring and was thought to be out for the year, but he is apparently a miracle of modern science and could see the field as early as this week (per the Quad City Times).
Can the Hawkeye Pass Catchers Go a Game Without a Dropped Pass?
The NCAA doesn't keep official stats for dropped passes, but my unofficial count has three dropped passes against Northern Illinois, seven against Iowa State and two against UNI.
Each game featured one dropped pass in the end zone.
As the above indicates, they seem to be working towards cleaning up their act, but the question is if they can play one drop-free game.
Can James Vandenberg Continue to Improve His Play?
Meanwhile, quarterback James Vandenberg has borne the brunt of the receivers' poor play, but he hasn't performed as one would hope from a fifth-year senior.
However, last game, his play improved dramatically.
Against a defense as weak as CMU, his improvement should be a matter of course. On the other hand, against such a defense, he should be done for the day by the fourth quarter.
Will Iowa Clear the Bench?
Speaking of which, the schedule will only get more difficult following the Central Michigan matchup.
If Iowa is going to empty the bench and give Hawkeye fans a look at such heralded underclassmen as quarterback Jake Rudock, linebackers Quinton Alston and Marcus Collins and strong safety Nico Law, this is the most likely game for it to happen.