Iowa Football: Will the Real Hawkeyes Please Step Forward?
Before every Iowa game for much of the season, I have put together a slideshow highlighting some of the more intriguing matchups we were likely to see in the upcoming game.
However, at this point, that seems futile. After all, how can one predict matchups when one doesn't know which team will show up?
Will it be the Iowa team that decimated Iowa State and Michigan State? Or will it be the team that squeaked by against Indiana and lost an ugly game to Northwestern?
I'll go more into that later. For now, I will say that despite the Hawks' poor performance over the last two games, I still believe they can beat Ohio State (let alone Minnesota). In fact, I believe they could beat Oregon, Auburn, TCU, or any team in the nation.
It just depends upon which team shows up.
In the end, no matter how good the Hawks are on paper, their record will say whether they were a 9-3 team, an 8-4 team, or a 7-5 team. In other words, history will ultimately determine how good this team is.
Nonetheless, right now, there are still so many questions that surround this bunch.
The following slideshow will attempt to address some of them.
Oh Ricky, Where Art Thou?
Heading into the Indiana game, Ricky Stanzi was second in the country in quarterback efficiency rating. He was the most efficient quarterback for teams that don't play a junior varsity schedule.
He seemed to have erased all his past demons. In eight games, he had thrown exactly two interceptions, one of which was off his receiver's hands. His decision making was at an All-American level, and his accuracy was as good as any Hawkeye quarterback in recent memory.
Then, he had his worst game of the season at IU; it was his "worst" both statistically and in all other ways. He threw one awful interception that Kirk Ferentz later confirmed was due to a receiver running the wrong route. However, Stanzi had to react to his receiver's flub better than he did.
Still, Iowa won and when a quarterback rating of 144.43 for the game is your worst of the season, you know you are having a great season.
Stanzi followed that up by having an even worse game—again, statistically and otherwise—against Northwestern.
This time, he threw a pick that was reminiscent of last season. Moreover, Iowa lost, and we are left to wonder if the Americanzi has somehow regressed?
And remember, these games were against Indiana and Northwestern, the ninth and tenth best (or worst) passing defenses in the Big Ten.
After those games, he's still third in the country in passing efficiency, but for the last two weeks, he has been sinking fast.
This week, he'll be going up against the best pass defense in the Big Ten, and we are left to wonder which Ricky will show up.
Did The Receiving Corps Flash Back To 2006?
It goes without saying Iowa's passing woes can't all be blamed on the quarterback.
Over the past two weeks, the receivers have resembled 2006's receiving crew. Remember that mess?
The top receiver for the year was true freshman Dominique Douglas; a player who would go down in Hawkeye legend for what he did off the field rather than on it.
That being as it were, the 2006 Hawk receivers were pretty awful. I think they almost singlehandedly caused former Iowa quarterback Drew Tate to have a brain aneurysm.
Over the past two games, the 2010 receivers haven't quite been that bad. However, they haven't been too sharp either. Certainly, they haven't played like the upperclassmen most of them are.
There have been missed routes, blocking penalties, and a lot of dropped balls. I didn't keep a tally against Northwestern, but there were at least six drops.
It is true that it was raining, but the rain was just as wet for Northwestern as it was for Iowa.
Hopefully, they will leave all of that behind them, because in Ohio State, they will be playing playing the second best pair of cornerbacks they will have played all year (Arizona being the first).
Don't You Practice The Two-Minute Offense During Every Practice?
Okay, the Hawkeye two-minute offense has gotten ridiculous.
As hard as it is to do, let's forget the four straight sacks that the two-minute O gave up against Arizona. Let's forget the spike-that-never-was against Wisconsin.
Let's just concentrate on the most recent unpleasantness: Northwestern.
Iowa ran two two-minute offenses against NU: One before the half and one to finish the game. Although the one before the half ended with three points, it could have ended with more.
With 39 seconds left in the half, Iowa had a running clock and a first-and-ten at the Wildcat 15. Stanzi spiked the ball in order to stop the clock, despite the fact he had two timeouts in his pocket.
With one down sacrificed, the drive stalled, and Iowa wound up kicking a field goal with 28 seconds still on the clock, and one timeout still remaining.
As for the final two-minute offense, at one point, Iowa burned seven seconds for a three-yard gain (a gain that was not for a first down).
They later took a false start and a sack. They had to burn their final timeout after the sack, which left them with 3rd and 16 at the Northwestern 45. There were 25 seconds to play. What did Stanzi wind up throwing? A seven yard dumpoff to Adam Robinson right in the middle of the field.
It was a good thing A-Rob dropped the ball, because a catch would have probably been followed by an immediate tackle. That would have meant one more (probably rushed and confused) play left in the game anyway.
In short, there are a lot of upperclassmen on this offense. The Iowa coaches and players have been through this before. The two-minute drill is run in pretty much every practice.
What is the problem?
Can Somebody Let The Pass Defense Know The Game Is Four Quarters Long?
David Purdy/Getty Images
Blackheartgoldpants crunched the numbers much better than I could, so I'll just post the link and reiterate the most important parts.
In six meaningful fourth quarters, Iowa's pass defense has given up a quarterback rating of 137.76. If the pass defense put up those numbers over the entire season, Iowa's pass D would rank 88th in the entire country.
Moreover, in those fourth quarters, Iowa's opponents have converted 56 percent of their third downs. Again, if the Iowa defense performed like that throughout the year, they would rank second-to-last in the nation in opponents' third down conversion percentage.
Now we've got the numbers, but what is the solution?
Blackheartgoldpants hypothesized that the problem is a lack of depth everywhere but on the line. However, I don't buy it. Iowa has always played with minimal substitution to no notably ill effect. In fact, this season, they're substituting more than I can recall them previously doing in any season.
Is it the injuries? Is it the three NFL draftees that graduated from last year's defense? Is depth really the issue? Is it the absence of their defensive coordinator?
Is This What Football After Norm Parker Is Going To Look Like?
With that said, we are left to wonder if Norm's career is over, and if so, is this what future Hawkeye defenses will look like?
It is hard to say any which way, because nobody knows what Norm will do.
Moreover, the coaches that are handling the coordinator duties—linebacker coach Darrell Wilson and defensive backs coach Phil Parker—were thrust into this. There was obviously no plan for them to assume these roles.
Nevertheless, perhaps some older Hawk fans remember when Bill Snyder left his offensive coordinator position at Iowa under Hayden Fry. He did this to assume the head coaching duties at Kansas State.
Many people point to that as the point when Hayden's teams began to decline a bit.
Certainly, there was still one Rose Bowl in the post-Snyder era, as well as a few notable seasons. On the other hand, there is no denying that when we think of Fry's most dominant teams, we think of Snyder as the man calling the plays.
Will we say the same thing about Norm Parker?