In the past two articles, I looked at the offense, defense, specialists and the team as a whole. In this article, I will look at the incoming freshmen, intangibles, schedule and I will give my final analysis as to how I think things might shake out for the Hawkeyes.
This class is very heavy on "tweeners" or players that could move to any number of positions depending upon team needs and how their bodies develop.
One position that is sure to need immediate help is running back. My guess is that Iowa will burn the redshirts of at least two of the four potential running backs in this class.
A running back that I'm positive will play in 2011 is Mika'il McCall. McCall is a solid 210 lbs. and is physically ready to play Big Ten football.
My second bet for playing time is running back Jordan Canzeri out of Troy, New York. At just under 180 lbs., Canzeri is a bit small for the types of backs Iowa seems to be cultivating these days. I think he will eventually wind up at cornerback.
That said, he is extremely fast, and he could not only serve as fourth or fifth option out of the backfield in his rookie season, but he could also return kickoffs and play as a gunner on the punt coverage.
Lastly, Nico Law is a safety out of the D.C. area in Maryland. He has a good deal of special teams experience, and he played safety in high school. This previous knowledge of the position will help him adjust more easily to the college game. Look for him to get a lot of work on special teams, and possibly pop up on the depth chart as a backup strong safety.
The thing I don't like about this team is turnovers. Iowa was seventh in the country in turnover margin last year. They were No. 2 in turnovers lost. That doesn't happen very often and the Hawkeyes had to take advantage of it when they could. They didn't and that is that.
When one analyzes the reasons for that successful turnover rate, one comes up with the following: Iowa had an experienced senior quarterback that only threw six interceptions on the season. Iowa had a veteran tailback that was known for taking care of the football, and who only fumbled twice in his entire abbreviated career (and he was concussed on one of those fumbles).
Iowa had two opportunistic veteran safeties that were known for their ball-hawking abilities. Iowa had—or was supposed to have—an aggressive, disruptive front four.
Looking at this season, the veteran quarterback is gone, the tailback is gone, the safeties are gone, and much of that defensive line is gone. This worries me.
I am positive the Iowa offense will move the ball, but if they turn it over right before they get to the end zone, what good will the yards be?
Another issue concerns the health of defensive coordinator Norm Parker. "Health" might not even be the right word, as diabetes is not a case of the chicken pox. One doesn't return to full health. Will there be further complications in the near future, and how will that affect the defense?
On the positive side, as mentioned in the introduction, Iowa chokes when the spotlight is on them and does well when nobody is paying attention. It is inexplicable, but it has remained consistent over the years.
This year, very few people expect the Hawkeyes to make much noise. That is a perfect situation for Iowa.
09/03: Tennessee Tech. Iowa is the heavy favorite.
09/10: Iowa State. Iowa is the favorite.
09/17: Pittsburgh. Slight favorite.
09/24: Louisiana-Monroe: Heavy favorite.
10/01: Open week.
10/08: At Penn State. Slight underdog.
10/15: Northwestern. Toss-up.
10/22: Indiana. Favorite.
10/29: At Minnesota. Favorite.
11/05: Michigan. Toss-up.
11/12: Michigan State. Toss-up.
11/19: At Purdue. Slight favorite.
11/25: At Nebraska. Underdog.
Best Case Scenario
Iowa comes out with the running game afire. They steamroll Tennessee Tech and Iowa State to the tune of two 100-yard rushers in both games. Meanwhile, Vandenberg looks solid with limited responsibilities heaped on him.
The Hawks come back down to Earth against Pitt, but they still win by more than one score. The defense, while not the 2008 group (every single starter of which is currently in the NFL in some capacity) plays sound assignment football, stops the run and makes the other team earn all their points.
Iowa destroys ULM and heads into the bye week 4-0 and healthy. They keep the Penn State streak alive and finally beat Northwestern. At this point, it is evident that only a strong defensive line that can go nose-to-nose with the Hawks' offensive front is going to stop the Iowa offense.
That front does not come in the form of Indiana or Minnesota. At 8-0, Iowa fans are beginning to have grandiose thoughts, but those end against one of the two Michigan teams.
Nonetheless, Iowa beats Purdue and heads into the big matchup with Nebraska at 10-1. They lose, but at 10-2, they are an appealing choice for a BCS bowl.
Worst Case Scenario
Iowa comes out and the line looks strong against Tennessee Tech. The problem is Vandenberg looks jittery and all receivers not named McNutt don't look comfortable. Also, the defensive line picks up where last year's line left off. They are taking care of business against the run, but are not getting a consistent pass rush.
Iowa ekes out a win against ISU, but stumbles against a Pitt team that has taken to their new coach. After beating ULM, the Hawks head into the break 3-1, and look to iron out any problems.
They head into State College hoping to extend their win streak over the Nittany Lions to four games. They don't. They also don't end Northwestern's win streak.
At 3-3, they get it going again against Indiana and Minnesota. They win one of the games against the Michigan teams, thereby securing bowl eligibility.
Unfortunately, they drop their last two and finish at 6-6, thereby securing themselves a bid to the Whatever Bowl.
Hey, at least it's a bowl.
If there is anything I've learned about the Hawks over the years, it is that trying to predict how they will do is futile. But here I am, the season is almost upon us and I am ready to weigh in my two cents.
I go back and forth on Iowa. I really like the experience they have on the offensive line. That line coupled with a talented, young running back in Coker should equal a lot of yards. I also like their schedule. About the only things that could be more favorable is if Iowa State were at Kinnick and Michigan were earlier in the season (maybe flip-flopped with Penn State).
Finally, I like Vandenberg. He won't pick up where Stanzi left off, but all indications are that he is ready for this.
On the other hand, I don't like the turnover situation. The Hawkeyes are a team that have to win the turnover battle, and this year, all signs point to Iowa having a problem in this respect. Losing their four-year starting punter also hurts, as Iowa is a team that has to win the field position battle.
Also, I am bearish regarding the defense. Everything I've heard coming out of camp regarding the line has been negative. Also, they had great numbers last season, but Hawk fans know that seventh-ranked in the country or not, the D just didn't have its usual swagger. Will Norm Parker's return spark the necessary change?
In the end, I have Iowa losing to Penn State, Michigan, Purdue and Nebraska. With an 8-4 finish, I have them going to the Gator Bowl where they will play an 8-4-ish SEC squad.
Be sure to check out past installments of Big Ten Breakdown, beginning with the most recent, the Michigan Wolverines.