The Iowa Hawkeyes came into the season with National Championship aspirations and despite a loss on the road to No. 14 Arizona two weeks ago, Iowa has a team that can still make it to the BCS Championship game.
If Iowa, however, is going to fulfill its BCS Championship dreams, the Hawkeyes are going to have to earn it the old fashioned way, by beating several quality opponents.
Iowa plays four ranked teams in October. The Hawks play No. 22 Penn State this weekend in Iowa City. Iowa then travels to No. 21 Michigan before ending the month hosting No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 24 Michigan State on consecutive weekends.
In watching Iowa’s first four games of the season, here are the five observations concerning Iowa:
First Quarter: Quarterback Ricky Stanzi has significantly improved his game from last year. Stanzi is making better decisions as to when to throw the ball and when to get rid of the ball to avoid an interception. Last year, Stanzi had 17 touchdown tosses but had 15 interceptions.
This season, Ricky has nine touchdowns against only one interception, and that one interception came on a deflection created by his receiver. Last year, Stanzi connected on 56% of his passes, this year he has connected on 66% of his passes. Stanzi is also doing a much better job of selling fakes early in the game to allow him to set up play action later in crunch time.
Second Quarter: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos has decent numbers with 17 receptions, 270 yards, and three touchdowns because he is running solid routes. However, DJK’s numbers should be much better because he is dropping too many passes.
The most crucial drop by Derrell occurred right before halftime of the Arizona game, in which he dropped a sure touchdown against Arizona that would have cut the lead to 21-14. DJK is too good of a receiver to allow this to be a chronic problem; Iowa will need Johnson-Koulianos to have a big October if they are going to go 4-0 in the month.
Third Quarter: Running back Adam Robinson is not going to get the headlines in the Big Ten with the many prolific offensive weapons in the conference, but he is really developing into a good running back and he is a joy to watch.
Robinson has great vision and he is very patient, allowing plays to develop. Adam always allows his offensive lineman time to create running lanes for him. Robinson also understands the importance of running hard on all fakes, even when he is just a decoy on the play.
Fourth Quarter: Adrian Clayborn is playing at a high level even if he is not racking up a bunch of tackles for loss or sacks. The same can be said for the rest of the starting defensive line of Karl Klug, Christian Ballard and Broderick Binns.
However, the guy raising the most eyebrows among fans and around the country is super sub Mike Daniels. Daniels has made the most of his teammates drawing double-teams, freeing him up to beat only one offensive lineman.
Daniels has 7.5 tackles for loss, which is more than the entire starting defensive line combined. Iowa’s defensive linemen may constitute the best defensive line in the nation. Iowa will need the defensive line to come up big in October to take pressure off of their secondary.
Overtime: Special teams play needs to improve. Iowa has a tradition of having exceptional special teams play, yet this season, instead of making big plays on special teams, Iowa is giving up big plays on special teams. Iowa has already fallen prey to a fake punt, has had a punt blocked and had a kickoff returned for a touchdown in just four games.
If Iowa had better play on special teams against Arizona, the Hawkeyes would be undefeated. You can’t change the past. You can, however, learn from your mistakes.
If Iowa improves upon its special teams play, the Hawkeyes just might get a chance to make some history this October by defeating four ranked teams.