Iowa CITY, Iowa - Sports fans crack me up sometimes. The line between reality and dreams often is blurred. Perhaps it's the tailgating.
Iowa's faithful could not wipe the smiles off their faces after watching the guys go no-huddle, winging the ball all over the field in an amazing comeback versus Pittsburgh. They deserved it after watching the first three quarters of hapless play.
Then, they must have allowed themselves more party during the postgame. The celebration apparently lasted through the week.
There's no other way to explain why sane people would expect to see a wide-open, no-huddle offensive attack from the Hawkeyes going forward. It has to be inebriation.
"We're going to do whatever we have to do any given season to win, that's our plan," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said on Tuesday.
Here's where things get blurry between coach and fan.
The fan saw what worked against Pittsburgh and thinks he's found the recipe for success. He somehow forgot (perhaps the hooch) that the coach has a preferable system that focuses on limiting mistakes on offense and special teams and a bend-but-don't-break defense.
The only time Ferentz really has strayed from that was in his first two seasons as head coach (1999-2000) and in '04, when his running backs were demolished by injury. Quarterback Drew Tate was freed up to make plays and the team's defense was loaded with future NFLers. It's also the last time Iowa won the Big Ten.
Last week, down 24-3 at home to Pittsburgh with very little signs of a pulse, Ferentz's hand was forced. It became no-huddle green light or blowout.
We'll do whatever it takes at any given point to try to help our football team," he said. "At one point, that was the best thing to do."
Ferentz referred to things that can go wrong with a no-huddle, hurry-up attack a few times in this week's press conference. Translation: Put down the bottle. It's the Power-I and huddles going forward.
TELEVISION: The game will be televised to a national audience by BTN. The announcers are Kevin Kugler, Danan Hughes and Stacy Paetz.
Check out thislink to find the game in your area.
RECORDS, RANKINGS: The Hawkeyes hit Week 4 at 2-1 after last week's comeback win against Pittsburgh. Louisiana Monroe comes into Iowa City at 1-2 following losses to No. 5/6 Florida State (35-0) and No. 23/23 TCU (38-17). The victory was against Grambling State (35-7).
Neither team is ranked. They didn't receive any votes in either major poll.
HISTORY: This is the first meeting between the schools in football.
THE LINE: The Hawkeyes opened as a 17-point favorite at the Las Vegas Hilton. It was bet up to 17.5 within an hour. It dropped back to 17 on Thursday afternoon.
It appears that Vegas set the number right with such little movement. It also benefitted from people scratching their heads over these two teams.
I've got no read on Iowa. After three weeks, we can expect the unexpected.
The Hawkeyes failed to cover the number as favorites the first two weeks. Last Saturday, they brought home the bacon in a very improbable comeback. If you watched it, you might want to reconsider taking risks with your hard-earned cash. (If you're independently wealthy, have at it.)
The total at Cover.com opened at 50.5. It remained there on Thursday. Take the over.
I can't, in good conscious, recommend Iowa minus 17. As I said above, I can't figure out what Iowa is on either side of the ball and we might not know for a few more games. I'd take the the 17 with ULM, but I don't like it.
You also don't know if the Warhawks come in battle-tested from playing at FSU and TCU or just worn out. Stay away. If you need action, take the over.
Here are a some interesting trends:
-Hawkeyes are 6-2-1 Against The Spread in their last 9 home games.
-Hawkeyes are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 non-conference games.
-Hawkeyes are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games as a home favorite.
-Hawkeyes are 5-12 ATS in their last 17 games as a home favorite of 10.5 or greater.
-Hawkeyes are 4-11 ATS vs. a team with a losing record.
-Hawkeyes are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games as a favorite.
-Warhawks are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games following a S.U. loss.
-Warhawks are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games as a road underdog.
-Warhawks are 2-6 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
-Warhawks are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games as a road underdog of 10.5 or greater.
-Warhawks are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
Iowa WR Marvin McNutt vs. ULM CB Vincent Eddie - With 18 receptions through three games, McNutt is living up to expectations and then some. You'd have to think the Warhawks lend safety help to Eddie, but Iowa's other pass receivers, Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley, are burning teams that try this approach.
Eddie needs to play bigger than his 5-foot-8, 155-pound frame. The sophomore won't win many jump balls, so he needs to get his work done before it comes to that. He could be aided by teammates blitzing if they can get to Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg.
Iowa LT Riley Reiff vs. ULM DE Ken Dorsey - For a second week in a row, Iowa's star tackle will see a smaller, fast end across from him. It's not the easiest match-up, especially with the Warhawks multiple 3-3-5 defensive alignment that disguises itself well.
Reiff did do a nice job against Pitt's Brandon Lindsey last week, limiting him to five tackles (one solo). Lindsey has earned all-Big East recognition in the past.
Dorsey is all-Sun Belt. He'll need to be for LMU to get after Vandenberg. If Iowa's signal caller has time on Saturday, it could be a long day for the visitors.
ULM WR Tavarese Maye vs. Iowa CB Shaun Prater - Maye has shown up as the Warhawks big play guy in the passing game with 14 receptions for 213 yards and two scores through three games. He hauled in four balls for 72 yards and a catch at TCU last week.
Prater has become very reliable through the years. Last week, however, he and some of Iowa's young defensive backs were beat when signals got crossed up. More responsibility has been placed on the senior than it has previously in his career.
Prater might benefit from playing physical with the 5-11, 171 true sophomore.
The Warhawks go four-wide with a single-back and Leonard runs the middle of the field searching for soft spots. Against Iowa's Cover-2, they're often there.
Leonard caught 13 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown at TCU last week. He finished fourth in the country and first in the Sun Belt last year with four first-down receptions on fourth down.
Iowa's bend-but-don't-break defense could allow Leonard to succeed.
Iowa WR Kevonte Martin-Manley vs. ULM H Darius Prelow - Despite two big touchdown receptions last week against Pitt, Martin-Manley won't receive as much attention as will McNutt and Davis. He could take advantage.
Prelow is a hybrid who can outmuscle smaller receivers. He's athletic enough to run with them for a while as well.
I can see Martin-Manley gaining an advantage if Vandenberg gets time to throw. The Iowa freshman might be able to find some openings in the middle of the field.
ULM - Otis Peterson (out, upper body).
Iowa - Tyler Nielsen (probable, ankle), Nolan MacMillan (out, hernia), Brad Rogers (out, heart), B.J. Lowery (out, wrist), Mika'il McCall (leg, out) , Shane Dibona (out for season, achilles), Dakota Getz (out for season, knee).
-Twenty freshmen and sophomores are listed on ULM's offensive and defensive two-deep heading into the game at Iowa. Nine of them are listed as starters; last season ULM started 10 freshmen and sophomores
-Sports Illustrated picked the Warhawks to finish 8-4 overall and 7-1 in the Sun Belt Conference; SI prognosticated a three-way tie for the Belt crown with ULM, FIU and Troy
-ULM has the second best winning percentage in the state of Louisiana among FBS schools over the past six seasons.
-ULM has led the Sun Belt in rushing defense for the last two seasons.
-Iowa has not played football against a school from Louisiana since a last-second 30-25 win over LSU in the 2005 Capital One Bowl. Iowa's only other contest against a team from Louisiana was a 19-12 loss to Centenary College in 1930.
-ULM has played just one BigTen opponent, holding a 0-3 record vs. Minnesota.
-Iowa lists 15 freshmen and sophomores on its depth chart this week, with five of those listed as starters.
-ULM linebacker R.J. Young is in his first season with the Warhawks after pre- viously playing and graduating from Arizona. Young recorded one solo tackle and two assists when Arizona defeated Iowa 34-27 last season in Tucson.
THE PREDICTION: Another Sun Belt team, Arkansas State, gave Iowa all it could handle two years ago in Kinnick. A season earlier, conference member Florida International took it on the chin, 42-0, in Iowa City.
I think this ULM team is closer to the Arkansas State level than that of FIU in '08. The Warhawks are among the favorites to prevail in the Sun Belt this fall.
ULM employs some unconventional schemes on both sides of the ball. The 3-3-5 defense shows a lot of looks. It won't be a lay-up that Iowa can run against it.
I'm really interested to see if Iowa can clear up some glaring areas of weakness and build on the Pitt comeback. Starting fast would be the best way to keep that momentum going.
I'm looking for a methodical Iowa win to get to the bye week at 3-1.
IOWA 35 , ULM 17