B1G 2012 // Iowa Cocktail Party Preview


EIGHTH IN A SERIES: THE IOWA COCKTAIL PARTY PREVIEW

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On last season

The good news is...

Quarterback James Vandenberg engineered the biggest comeback in Iowa history in the second week of the season against Pittsburgh, closing a 17-point gap with just under 12 minutes to play. And despite their ultimate 4-4 finish in conference, the Hawks controlled their own championship destiny as late as the second week in November.

The bad news is...

With the exception of a 41-31 win over Northwestern and a 24-16 upset of No. 13 Michigan, Iowa lost basically every game that mattered in 2011. A painful triple-overtime loss at Iowa State was compounded by disappointing road performances at Penn State, Minnesota, and Nebraska and a home stinker against Michigan State. To top things off, the Hawks -- who can usually be counted on to deliver one of the B1G's two bowl wins each season -- were routed by Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl.

On the offensive side of the ball

The good news is...

James Vandenberg is back at quarterback, giving an embattled (see below) Hawkeye offense some much needed experience. The senior threw for 25 touchdowns and over 3,000 yards in 2011. And although he'll be missing his favorite target (Marvin McNutt), Keenan Davis should provide a steady set of hands in the open field.

The bad news is...

After Vanderberg and Davis, just about everything else related to the Hawkeye offense is a big fat question mark.
The departure of long time offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe (for the Miami Dolphins), and hiring of ex-Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who has a lot more experience coordinating from the shotgun than the pro-set, ensures some growing pains. So does the loss of a first-rounder at offensive tackle (Riley Reiff), and the gargantuan shortage of proven running backs. The bottom line: if the Hawks are going to put together a winning season in 2012 they'll have to rely heavily on their defense.


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Jordan Canzeri...AIRBHG's latest victim


On the defensive side of the ball

The good news is...

The Hawks had a sweet end-game goal line stand against Michigan last year. That's gotta give the defense some momentum heading into 2012, right? Leading tackler James Morris returns at middle-linebacker and up and comer
Carl Davis should help anchor a rebuilding defensive line.

The bad news is...

Legendary defensive coordinator Norm Parker retired after the 2011 season and although his replacement (former defensive backs coach) Phil Parker knows the system after 13 years coaching under Parker, he's a first-time coordinator. The Hawks also must replace three starters up front from a unit that underachieved in 2011 (save for the aforementioned goal line stand), as well as starting cornerback Shaun Prater and strong-safety Jordan Bernstine.

On special teams

The good news is...

All three of the placekickers that were on the roster in 2011 return for 2012, and phenom punt returner Micah Hyde is also back in the fold.

The bad news is...

Punter Erik Guthrie, who averaged 41 yards per punt in 2011 (second best in the B1G) graduated.

On the schedule

The good news is...

The out of conference schedule, featuring a neutral-site dust up with Northern Illinois in Chicago, and home contests against Iowa State, Northern Iowa, and Central Michigan is definitely manageable, and the Hawks don't have to play Wisconsin, the best team on paper in the Leaders Division.

The bad news is...

The Hawks have to go on the road to play early-B1G favorite Michigan State and they'll also travel to Northwestern and Michigan. And with the exception of Indiana, just about every game in conference is a toss up.

If you're talking to an Iowa fan

Don't mention...

The Horizontal Offense. AIRBHG. This.

Do mention...

Black Heart Gold Pants. Ricky Stanzi.

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This week...

MONDAY | Cocktail Party Preview

TUESDAY | The Smartest Guys in The Room

WEDNESDAY | Hawkeye Potluck

THURSDAY | Wildcard

FRIDAY | Keeping the Enemy Close

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