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Closing Arguments: The Iowa Hawkeyes

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With a "manageable" schedule, nearly every skill position player returning and a stout defensive line, Iowa is primed to make a run at the West.

It's time.
It's time.
Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports

And like I said, it was a systematic failure. There was no singular root cause to the problems. This season is a fresh slate for Ferentz. He has new coaches, talented young players and a green quarterback. Outsiders and "experts" are claiming that Iowa is trending down as a program and has been for some time. As skeptical as I am about Ferentz, I simply don't believe that he's phoning it in. He's very aware of the criticism he faces as Iowa's highest paid state employee and the fanaticism of the fanbase that fills Kinnick every Saturday. He's hoping, planning and preparing for that third run at a BCS game or a Big Ten Championship. And while he's certainly not going to accomplish it in 2013, he's building for it in the immediate future.

Iowa: Searching for a Third Run, August 26th, 2013

Well then. It appears the future is here. The pieces are there for Iowa in 2014. They return nearly every skill position player on offense, have depth at running back and are anchored on the offensive line by All-Big Ten left tackle Brandon Scherff. The defensive line doesn’t feature stars like Adrian Clayborn or Christian Ballard but it is loaded with experience. Drew Ott, Louis Trinca-Pasat and Carl Davis are seniors with over 10+ starts under their belts and junior Mike Hardy started the second half of 2013. Plus…there’s that schedule.

That isn’t to say there aren’t concerns. Iowa lacks a big play receiver and while their offense is primarily in-tact, the Hawkeyes have never been an explosive/high-scoring bunch. On defense they lost three brilliant linebackers: James Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens. Plus, cornerback B.J. Lowery and safety Tanner Miller graduated. The big question is: Will the defense be ready by the time conference play begins? My answer?

Opening Statement:

Yes.

Yesyesyes_medium

via media.giphy.com

I’m all in. Listen, Iowa has never been the sexiest horse in the stable. It’s often ugly, difficult to watch and slow moving. It’s sort of like watching The Artist. But they get the job done and they’ve got what they need on offense. Relatively speaking, Jake Rudock had a solid first year. 2,383 yards, 18 TDs, 13 INTs and 14 sacks. Admittedly, he turned the ball over too many times when he forced it into coverage but that was to be expected from a first year starter. He’s more mature. He’s healthy. And he’s got his backs (again).

It seems like Mark Weisman has been around forever. He rushed for nearly 1,000 yards last season despite only (ONLY) averaging 4.3 YPC and scored eight touchdowns. He was the same blunt instrument he’d always been. From time to time they’d switch it up by putting in Damon Bullock but I think Hawkeye fans are the most excited about Jordan Canzeri. He’s the change of pace back Iowa needs and most importantly he looked healthy and held onto the football. Kinda. Iowa even has a fourth stringer that they like: LeShun Daniels. It appears that he diets solely on protein and punishment. He’s big.

Kevonte Martin-Manley and Damond Powell will be putting on the Iowa uniform for the last time in 2014. KMM will fill the role as Iowa’s "go-to" guy, while Powell hopes to be the type of player who can stretch the field. We saw flashes of brilliance last season:

But Powell never saw the field enough (or got open enough) to turn into a legitimate threat. There’s a lot of hype surrounding 6’4, 210 redshirt freshman Derrick Willies, who is being touted as the next Marvin McNutt, but when was the last time Kirk Ferentz fielded true freshman wide receivers when he didn’t have to? Fortunately, if the wide receivers can’t get separation Rudock will get plenty of help from his tight ends. Jake Duzey, Ray Hamilton and Henry Krieger Coble are fast, talented and can apparently break off 85 touchdown yards when needed.

Brandon Scherff. Brandon Scherff. Brandon Scherff. He’s arguably the best left tackle in the conference, if not the nation and has juniors Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh at C and RG, respectively. Iowa’s offensive line shouldn’t have any problems keeping Rudock on his feet. The question is: can they push down the field for Weisman and company?

The most glaring issue on defense is the defensive backfield. And hey, it’s not something I can just gloss over. At linebacker the depth chart only features one upperclassman (Quinton Alston) and free safety is up for grabs. If there’s any silver lining it’s that Alston has seen consistent action for over two years and can provide leadership from MLB. Cornerback Desmond King was also nothing short of lock down last season, morphing from what I thought was an absolute tire fire into Amari Spievey.

Yet, as much as I’m all in…special teams. Reports (Twitter) were that they were atrocious at Iowa’s last "practice" and every spot is up for grabs. The writing was on the wall when Iowa brought in JUCO Dillon Kidd to compete with Connor Kornbrath at punter. Marshall Koehn is listed as Iowa’s starting kicker but he’ll be joined by incoming freshman Mike Ellis this fall. That lack of certainty raises doubts in an Iowa fan’s mind because the Hawkeyes have such a slim margin of error when it comes to points. Special teams issues could very well win or lose (probably lose) Iowa a football game.

Discovery: What We’ve Written About Iowa This Offseason

B1G 2014 // Iowa Cocktail Party Preview

B1G 2014 // Fiedorowicz and Beyond

B1G 2014 // Iowa's Smartest Guys In The Room

B1G 2014 // The Iowa Potluck Brings the Fair Food

B1G 2014 // I Wish I Could Hate Iowa, but I Don't Know How (JESSE LIKES CATS)

What We Can Learn From Pop Culture:

Just read here and you’ll understand.

Pending Docket:

Date: Opponent:
8/30 vs. Northern Iowa
9/06 vs. Ball State
9/13 vs. Iowa Stater
9/20 @ Pittsburgh
9/27 @ Purdue
10/11 vs. Indiana (HC)
10/18 @ Maryland
11/01 vs. Northwestern
11/08 @ Minnesota
11/15 @ Illinois
11/22 vs. Wisconsin
11/28 vs. Nebraska

Emotional Plea:

So. The schedule. Iowa plays exactly three top 50 F+ teams before they get Wisconsin and Nebraska to close out the season at home. Arguably, their only difficult road tests are at Pittsburgh, Maryland and Minnesota. I’ve seen people (who aren’t complete homers) saying that Iowa could take on Wisconsin at 10-0.

The problem is that history is against Iowa. They’ve never started 10-0. Ever. That non-conference slate that seems so easy? Well, Kirk Ferentz has gone undefeated in non-conference exactly three times: 2003, 2006 and 2009. UNI and Iowa State always give Iowa their best shot, Ball State is coming off a 10 win season and Pitt isn’t going to be a walk in the park at Heinz Field. Well, to be fair…they play at Heinz Field but it isn’t like anyone is ever there…

Also: There's the Wizgerald. Damn you Wizgerald. Though it appears that your magic is running out. /transfers

A quote that’s stuck with me over the years, possibly said by a one StoopsMyAss is that "Kirk Ferentz isn’t exactly good at new things." I don’t think that could be more appropriate when looking at the Maryland game. Iowa has never played Maryland. Hell, have they even played a game in DC? The slate the seemed so easy prior to November is anything but. It's full of traps, pitfalls and people who can't have nice things waiting to surprise the Hawks.

On the other hand I can’t help but think of 2009. Coming off a surprising year, having a reliable quarterback, wide-receiver(s), tight end(s), strong offensive line and defensive line? If Iowa can manage to survive the non-conference schedule they should have the defense jelling by the mid-point of the season and can feel confident heading to College Park. The pieces are there. The schedule is there. If the Hawkeyes focus on one week at a time instead of waltzing through September and October because they're looking ahead to November, all will be well. Cliche, but true.

The Verdict:

The consensus is that Iowa goes 8-4 (5-3) with almost everyone (I'm assuming) having the Hawkeyes losing to Wisconsin and Nebraska. Yours truly and Aaron Yorke are the highest on Iowa, while Jersey Shore himself and Mr. Astronaut are the biggest naysayers around. I DON'T CARE HOW BIG YOUR DRUM IS BABA YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE MAD WE AREN'T PROTECTED RIVALS ANYMORE.

Writer

W

L

CW

CL

Aaron Y

10

2

6

2

Aaron R

8

4

5

3

Green Akers

9

3

6

2

Brian G

8

4

5

3

GoAUpher

8

4

5

3

Ray Ransom

7

5

4

4

MNWildcat

8

4

5

3

DJ Carver

8

4

5

3

MC ClapYoHandz

9

3

5

3

Candystripes

9

3

6

2

Eric S

8

4

4

4

Graham

8

4

5

3

babaoreally

7

5

4

4

Jesse C

9

3

6

2

Mike Jones

10

2

6

2

GoForThree

8

4

4

4

Average

8

4

5

3