Iowa Football: Previewing the Tennessee Tech Game
Football season is less than a week away, and in Iowa City fans are getting pumped up for the big matchup on Saturday against...
While it's great to have football back, the downside to the beginning of the season is that the overwhelming majority of BCS conference teams will play cupcakes.
Iowa is one of those teams, as the Hawkeyes typically open the season against an FCS team, and after beating Maine, Northern Iowa and Eastern Illinois in the past three seasons, Kirk Ferentz and company will look to win their tenth straight season opener and fourth in a row against an FCS opponent.
Check out a preview of this year's Hawkeye season opener.
When Iowa Has the Ball
The Iowa offense will look a little bit different this year, as the Hawkeyes will be breaking in new quarterback James Vandenberg. With a strong offensive line and a full stable of running backs, including emerging star Marcus Coker, the Iowa offense should be very run-oriented.
However, Ferentz is very comfortable with Vandenberg, who he said could have started last year had Stanzi not been in front of him. So although the Hawkeyes should be a run-focused team in 2011, expect them to take some shots in this tune-up game to get Vandenberg comfortable.
Tennessee Tech has an experienced defense that should be good in the Ohio Valley conference, but this is a whole different ballgame.
When Tennessee Tech Has the Ball
Tennessee Tech runs a fast-paced offense, which should be a good way for Iowa to get experience against that type of team.
More and more Big Ten teams are going with fast-paced offenses, and it will be good for the Hawkeyes, who still employ an old-school, pro-style set, to see that type of set against an inferior team.
Iowa has had mixed results against fast-paced offenses, struggling against Northwestern, but relatively containing Denard Robinson. It will be interesting to see how this inexperienced defensive front deals with the fast-paced game.
Tennessee Tech should be good offensively in the Ohio Valley, but it won't be able to keep up with the physical play of Iowa.
Iowa still has more talent than Tennessee Tech on special teams, but this could be a weakness for the Hawkeyes this season.
The kicking game was inconsistent last year and sophomore Michael Meyer needs to improve in his second season. Iowa also takes a big hit at punter, with the loss of Ryan Donahue. To put it in perspective, third-string quarterback John Wienke is the second-string punter.
Perhaps the biggest hit will be in the return game, with the loss of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Colin Sandeman.
It will be hard to gauge the punting and return games, but Meyer should have a chance to showcase his improvement.
It's been well-documented that Kirk Ferentz is one of the most well-respected coaches in college football.
He's known for coaching up players who come out of high school as unheralded recruits, and with a number of unheralded players returning after losing loads of talent, Ferentz's reputation will be put to the test.
Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown is the brother of Texas head coach Mack Brown. He has built a solid program, but still isn't of the same caliber as Ferentz in the coaching ranks.
Iowa loses its largest senior class in Ferentz's tenure and leaders will need to emerge on both offense and defense.
However, after enduring a number of off-field setbacks, this team claims those obstacles helped bring it together.
Tennessee Tech returns 21 starters and should improve on last year's 5-6 campaign, so don't expect them to be in awe when they run into Kinnick Stadium.
However, since this game is at Kinnick and it's an FBS team vs. and FCS team, Iowa should have the intangible advantage.
Don't be surprised if Tennessee Tech moves the ball on Iowa early. This will be a fast-paced offense that Iowa isn't used to and the Hawkeyes will be breaking in a new front seven.
However, the Iowa offense should have its way and the defense will settle in and overmatch Tennessee Tech with its physical play.
This will be a good chance for Iowa to experiment at running back and on the defensive line, plus James Vandenberg will be able to build confidence at quarterback.
In the end, Iowa should come out of week one 1-0 and Tennessee Tech will get a nice paycheck to bring home to Cookeville.
Prediction: Iowa 41, Tennessee Tech 6