Every Thursday at AllHoosiers.com we will have a scouting report on the team that Indiana will face that week in the form of a Q&A with a beat writer from that team.
For Saturday’s sixth game of the season against Iowa, Rob Howe, site publisher of Hawkeye Insider, the Scout.com site at Iowa, has graciously accepted my invitation to talk the Hawkeyes by answering the following five questions.
Here is our sixth Scouting the Opponent Q&A with an opposing beat writer.
1. The first thing that jumps out about Iowa is that the Hawkeyes have played five really competitive games. The good news is that they're 4-1. But how would you rank this team against other Iowa teams that you have covered?
HOWE: “I'd say they look similar to many of Kirk Ferentz's teams coming out of September. Rarely do the Hawkeyes shoot out of the starting gate strong. The coach sets up his program to slowly build through the fall in hopes of reaching a crescendo by its end. Last season, when Iowa finished winning four of its last five regular-season games including the finale at Nebraska, serves as a textbook example of the goal.
“Therefore, it's tough to get a real gauge on where things are headed in 2014. I've seen teams take off and others fade from this point. I don't sense this team is close to a special season but it has the makings of a pretty solid one. One thing is for sure, a homecoming loss to the Hoosiers could prove crippling.’’
2. Everyone wants to talk about the quarterbacks. Indiana had a platoon system the last two years and it had mixed results. Talk about both Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard and what each brings to the table. Do you think the platoon system is there to stay this season?
HOWE: “I don't think anyone involved wants to see a platoon lasting more than a few games, tops. Rudock and Beathard share a similar skill set so there really isn't a change-of-pace benefit from it. It's more the case where two guys are pretty even. And one rub is that each retains eligibility after this season.
“As far as what they offer, Rudock holds an edge in grasp of the playbook, although the gap there has closed since the start of last season. He manages the game very well, can make most throws and move around. Beathard's skill-set is louder. He's got a cannon for an arm and can extend plays with his legs.’’
3. An interesting matchup this week will be Tevin Coleman going up against a stingy Iowa defense. Do you think that's the matchup that concerns Iowa the most or are Hawks more worried about Nate Sudfeld and the passing game? What makes that defense so good?
HOWE: “Indiana's ability to run or throw should concern the Hawkeyes. Iowa historically performs well against teams that are one dimensional, especially those that are little or no threat through the air. Pitt's James Connor gashed them in the first half so they loaded up the box and forced the Panthers to throw. They couldn't.
“Iowa's line serves as the unit's strength. Tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat are all-Big Ten caliber. End Drew Ott is emerging. Desmond King is a lockdown corner and opposite him is Greg Mabin, who's delivering big plays as a first-year starter. Strong safety Johnny Lowdermilk is a veteran leader in the back-end and free safety Jordan Lomax is settled in after a rocky start. The soft spot resides at the second level. All of the linebackers are playing meaningful snaps for the first time in their careers. Get them in coverage on receivers or running backs and you can find success.’’
4. The Iowa offense has averaged 22 points per game. Do you feel like they're underachieving or what has held them back to this point. Obviously, you can flip that and talk about how the defense hasn't allowed many points either but are the offensive struggles a concern at Iowa?
HOWE: “Offense has been a concern for the last three seasons, which coincides with Greg Davis' arrival as coordinator. Thirty games into his tenure and the attack still lacks punch. The biggest element missing from it is the big play. Whether it's caused by poor play calling or personnel, fans are frustrated, and rightfully so.’’
5. Finally, we always ask for opposing publishers and beat writers to weigh in with their game prediction. Myself I think it could be a pretty good game. How do you think this one will play out?
HOWE:“I lay out a more extensive prediction explanation with score at the end of my weekly preview, which will be on Hawkeye Insider on Thursday. Without digging in yet, I am most definitely concerned for Iowa. And It's fortunate this game is on Iowa City for Homecoming. The Hoosiers boast the best offense it has seen this season and I'm not sure it's close. While I think the Hawkeyes can make things more difficult for the Indiana charge, the worry is that their offense will put up enough points. That's really where this game comes down to for me.’’
EDITOR’S NOTE: In his prediction column Thursday on Hawkeye Insider.com, Howe predicted Iowa would win the game, 27-23.
Again, thanks to Rob Howe for sharing his expertise today with us at AllHoosiers.com.Depth Chart: Dutra moves into two-deep
Daily Feature: How They Fared
Analysis: How good could IU football be?