Will Orange Bowl Experience Help Iowa Stop Michigan's Denard Robinson?
Following the BCS selection show last December 6, Iowa's coaching staff started a month long preparation to try to become the first team to stop Georiga Tech's rush offense, which was arguably the best in the country.
The prep time paid off, as Iowa completely shut down the vaunted Yellow Jacket rushing attack en route to a convincing 24-14 win and an Orange Bowl title.
Just like the game last January, Iowa has had an extended preparation time to prepare for another rush offense--the Michigan Wolverines.
But that is where the similarities end.
The Georgia Tech offense was characterized by a number of very strong rushers, while this week, Iowa will focus on stopping only one player--quarterback Denard Robinson.
The triple option was a rare offense, but a player like Robinson is even rarer in college football. Iowa has never seen such a dynamic player, let alone quarterback, in Kirk Ferentz's tenure. Ferentz compared him to former Indiana quarterback Antwan Randel El, but Robinson might be even better.
So while Iowa has experience containing a strong running game, it's back to the drawing board against this rushing attack.
Iowa's plan against Georgia Tech was to use its strength and speed up front (which will still be a factor against Robinson). The Hawkeye defensive line needed to penetrate through the Yellow Jacket offensive line and crush run plays before they even began. Without time to decide what to do with the ball, Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt was unable to make plays for Tech. If a player did get through, the strong linebacker corps, led by Pat Angerer, was able to finish the rusher off after only a minimal gain.
But Robinson adds another threat. He is very agile and fast, as evidenced by his place on the Michigan track team. Unlike the Georgia Tech rushers, he has the ability to get outside and make some damage.
Unlike last year in the Orange Bowl, Iowa's secondary, particularly the corners, will need to be involved in the run game. Shaun Prater and Micah Hyde have both shown promise at corner, but they need to mature for Iowa to have success in stopping Robinson.
The secondary has had too many missed tackles this season, and Robinson is very elusive and must be wrapped up better than the Hawkeyes have done against their first five opponents.
Another way of containing Robinson is maintaining a team-oriented unit. Many teams will put a spy on Robinson, but that's not the Iowa way. Expect the Hawkeyes to gang tackle Robinson much like they gang-tackled the Georgia Tech backs.
In short, the experience at the Orange Bowl last year will help Iowa prepare for Robinson, but the Hawkeyes face a much bigger test on Saturday.
But if any team is up for the challenge it's Iowa, which ranks second in the nation in rush defense, first in the nation in scoring defense, and is the only team in the country to have not given up a rushing touchdown.
And if the defensive line can stay strong and the secondary steps up, expect Iowa to contain Denard Robinson enough to leave Ann Arbor with a win.
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