RECON: Sizing Up Iowa's 2003 Opponents

HawkTalkOnline.com's exhaustive and unmatched coverage of the Iowa Hawkeye football season continues with a look at how future Hawkeye opponents fared this past week in our weekly ‘RECON' series.

RECON

Buffalo unveiled a new option offense, but the result was more of the same for one of the worst teams in all the land -- a 24-10 loss to the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.

They gained 259 yards of total offense, most of it coming on the ground. Buffalo's chances against Iowa this week are Slim and None, but Slim just left town.

Iowa State won a tight ball game at home against D1-AA Northern Iowa, 17-10. The Panthers had the ball with less than two minutes to go in the game and a chance to tie it up with a score, but the Cyclones denied their upset bid.

ISU started an all-redshirt-freshman backfield, so you have to give them a break there. They are also breaking in a fairly green offensive line as well. The loss of Bob Montgomery up front (broken foot, a week or more ago) is huge for Iowa State, as is the broken leg suffered by Tyson Smith in the UNI game.

Arizona State did not play. The Sun Devils open the season Saturday hosting Utah State.

Michigan State snuck past Western Michigan 26-21 in a game that saw the return of QB Jeff Smoker to the Spartan lineup. He was 21 of 34 for 326 yards with three touchdown passes. But Smoker also threw two INT's, something he did a lot of last year. Western Michigan held MSU under 100 yards on the ground. Look for Smoker to throw for a lot of yards and a lot of INT's this year, as Sparty will not be able to establish a running game ... that is bad news when you play in the Big Ten.

Michigan handled Central Michigan 45-7. The Wolverines were playing their first game on their new FieldTurf, the stuff that is just like what Iowa has on its practice field. They racked up 615 yards of total offense and really called off the dogs late in the game.

The Wolverines are scary good, and some believe this could be their year to return to the national championship game.

Ohio State totally dominated Washington in its 28-9 primetime TV win, limiting the Huskies to just seven yards on the ground. Ouch. OSU's defense was among the nation's best last season and it will be again this year.

That late season battle against Ohio State could see the Wolverines and the Buckeyes both standing at 11-0 and ranked in the Top 3 in the nation with a national title bid on the line.

Iowa fans should hope that happens, as both Michigan and OSU would be BCS selections, opening up a New Year's Day Outback Bowl bid to the fourth place Big Ten team, a slot that Iowa could compete for.

Penn State managed to beat Temple 23-10 in Happy Valley, but the Owls pulled to within 10 points with just under five minutes to go. Temple ‘out-gained' PSU on the day in total offense, 357-310 and they had six more first downs than did the Nittany Lions in a game that was 7-3 PSU at the break. Iowa has beaten PSU in three straight games (two of them at PSU) and this season's game is in Iowa City. PSU QB's were 6 of 19 for 73 yards on the day.

Illinois lost to Missouri in St. Louis…again. But Mizzou is expected to be one of the surprise teams in the Big 12 this season and could possibly win eight or nine ball games, so this loss should not be a huge surprise. This game was ugly from the second Illinois came out of the locker room wearing those hideous orange jerseys to go along with their orange game pants. I needed a No. 5 sun block to counteract the heat coming off of my television.

Jon Beutjer put up big numbers again, going 31 of 44 for 284 yards and one touchdown. But it was not enough to overcome Brad Smith and the Tigers, even though Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel did not turn Smith loose until the game's final drive. Smith might be the most exciting college football player in America, but the game plan did not showcase his abilities. Some of that credit has to go to Illinois, though.

Purdue did not play. The Boilermakers host Bowling Green to open the 2003 season on Saturday.

Minnesota beat Tulsa 49-10. Tulsa may have been the worst team in D1 last season and they are not going to be any good this year either. But that is par for the course for the Gophers -- beat up on the patsies, finish 3-5 in the Big 10 and go to a bowl game.

Wisconsin won a hard-fought battle on the road at West Virginia. The Mountaineers were without their starting QB, but Anthony Davis ripped off 167 yards for Bucky as receiver Lee Evans returned to the lineup for the first time since 2001 and caught seven passes for 70 yards and one score. Nice win for Wisconsin in a very hostile environment for the opener.


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