RECON: Sizing Up Iowa's 2003 Opponents

HTO's Jamie DeMoney provides a look at Iowa's future opponents in this edition of RECON. What started out as a serious look at the next nine games on Iowa's schedule quickly deteriorated into a bout of comic relief. But don't blame Jamie, blame the rest of the Big Ten.

Here is how Iowa's future opponents fared on Saturday, September 13th:


The Sundevils beat Utah State 26-16, marking the second straight week where ASU sputtered against an inferior opponent. ASU scored just 27 points against D-1AA Northern Arizona in week one.

The Sundevils are surrendering 311.5 passing yards per game, a stat that has them ranked 111th out of 117 teams overall. But Iowa fans should realize that those numbers can be misleading, as ASU has the 11th best rush defense, allowing less than 62 yards per game.

But at least the 2002 Hawkeyes were whooping up on the patsies.

ASU's fine quarterback Andrew Walter has 501 passing yards in two games to go with six touchdowns with just one interception. But that has been the lone bright spot for their offense, which was expected to be one of the most dangerous attacks in the country prior to the start of the season. They are averaging less than 149 yards per game on the ground against two very weak opponents, a stat that looks even worse considering the defense that awaits them in Iowa City.


Things have gone from bad to worse in Spartyland, as MSU lost to La. Tech, 20-19. After a lackluster opener against Western Michigan that saw the Spartans win by five points and a bit of an improvement against Rutgers in game two, though the Scarlet Knights scored 28 points, Gang Green (or should we say, gangrene?) laid an egg this week.

La. Tech gained 485 yards of total offense compared to just 340 for MSU. QB Jeff Smoker missed most of the game with an injured toe, but it is going to take a lot more than just his arm to keep the Spartans out of the Big Ten cellar.

The best thing that MSU has going for it the rest of the season is that they play Indiana. Next week, they play at #24 Notre Dame before hosting #14 Iowa. Then come the Hoosiers. After that, they go on the road at Illinois and at #24 Minnesota before returning home to face #5 Michigan and #4 Ohio State. They close out at Wisconsin and home against Penn State.

Were it not for the lowly Hoosiers, the Spartans might be the worst team in the Big Ten. Should MSU manage just three wins this season, they would be paying head coach John L. Smith $566,000 per victory. I gotta find a gig like that.


Big Blue looks like a serious national title contender this year after dismantling Notre Dame 38-0 at the Big House.

Running back Chris Perry is the runaway Heisman frontrunner at this time, amassing 549 yards on the ground through three games. John Navarre is having a solid year as well, but that usually means nothing when Michigan hooks up with the Hawkeyes, as Navarre typically makes like Houdini and pulls a disappearing act when he sees the black and gold.

But Michigan's defense is just awesome this year, as evidenced by holding the Irish to 140 yards of offense. Don't confuse Notre Dame's offensive arsenal to that of great Irish teams gone by, but still, Michigan is the class of the Big Ten thus far in 2003.

Iowa will have to play mistake free football to win on Homecoming in Iowa City. And make no mistake, Michigan has the Hawkeyes circled on their schedule after Iowa handed the Wolverines their 2nd worst home defeat in the history of that fine football program.


Ohio State's luck has to run out sometime, right? The Bucks pulled out a triple-OT thriller against NC State on Saturday a week removed from narrowly escaping defeat against the ‘mighty' Aztecs of San Diego State.

Phillip Rivers picked apart the Buckeye defense for 315 yards and four touchdowns, but in the end, play calling may have done in the Wolfpack.

NC State had the ball first and goal at the OSU five in the third OT, and OSU was unable to convert on their two-point conversion. After two OT's, teams must try for two in college football.

NC State called a QB keeper on first down for little to no gain. After getting nothing on second down, NC State called a timeout and came back on the field and sent four wide to the left. With one of the best quarterbacks in the nation under center, NC State ran another QB sneak that gained one yard. A sweep left on 4th down was stopped at the one and OSU's win streak continued.

Teams are having luck passing against OSU, but will Iowa have the horses to do that? NC State also held the Clarett-less Buckeyes to just 44-yards on the ground. The most average QB to ever win a national title, OSU's Craig Krenzel, threw for more than 270 yards and four TD's, but he was picked off three times. Those were his first four TD passes of the year to go along with four INT's and a mundane 117.6 QB rating.

No way do the Buckeyes repeat as Big Ten Champions this year. Felix is going to give up the ghost at some point.

PENN STATE continued it's descent towards mediocrity in the college football landscape, losing 18-10 to Nebraska one week after losing to Boston College and two weeks after beating Temple in less than impressive fashion.

When was the last time that Penn State fielded a team that was anywhere near the reputation their fans seem to boast about? 1997, when they lost just two games in the league? When fans bring up tradition and past glory, that is a sure sign that things are not so rosy in the here and now, which is the case at PSU.

The Nittany Kitty Cats racked up a whopping 204 yards of offense against a Cornhusker program that is one year removed from its most disappointing team in nearly four decades. PSU gained just 44 yards on the ground against the ‘Blackshirts'.

It is always sad to see athletes hang onto their careers long after their prime, and the same can be said of coaches. I think that more than a few PSU fans share my sentiment when I say that the game seems to have passed Joe Paterno by. That starts with recruiting, and though the national pundits seem to love Penn State's recruiting classes each and every year, they are just not living up to the hype.

But then again, those are the same experts that rank Iowa's recruiting classes near the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. Iowa has won 17 of its last 20 games while PSU has won just 12 of it's last 20 contests. Since joining the Big Ten conference in 1993, PSU has won but one league title. Every other team in the league has at least had a share of the title since then, save Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan State. How long will that continue to cut it in Happy Valley, an oxymoron if there ever was one?


ILLINOIS dropped to 1-2 after losing to powerhouse Cal-State Fullerton 6-3. A late inning grand slam sealed the Illini's fate…oh, wait. This was a football game? Against UCLA?

Former Hawkeye Jon Beutjer was 26 of 42 for 216 yards and three INT's to lead the Illini to…well, to a 1-2 record.

The good news for Illinois is that their defense might be good enough to steal a few wins in the Big Ten this year. The bad news is that their offense is sputtering.

Illinois hosts Cal next week in Champaign, and it is a football game. After a solid opening loss against Kansas State, Cal beat Southern Miss handily, the same Southern Miss team that beat Illinois last year. But they have since dropped two in a row to Colorado State (no shame there) and Utah (plenty of shame there). If Illinois does not whoop up on the Golden Bears, it is going to be a longer than normal year in Champaign for a team that is not yet two years removed from a Big Ten title and Sugar Bowl appearance.

PURDUE got back on the winning track, defeating a solid and ranked Wake Forest team on the road. That is a solid win for the Boilermakers who were coming off a stinging home loss at the hands of Bowling Green the week before. FEAR THE MAC!

Purdue held the Demon Deacons to just 56 yards on the ground as their defense kicked it into a higher gear, which is to be expected from such a veteran unit. They should still make some noise in the Big Ten this year, even with their difficult league schedule. Home games against Arizona and Notre Dame the next two weeks will tell us more about the Boilers.

MINNESOTA won another game against a bad opponent. So what is new?

This week it was against 103rd Ohio, which came on the heels of beating 89th ranked Troy State and 109th Tulsa. Up next? 112th ranked Louisiana Lafayette.

Glen Mason has to have a huge bonus clause in his contract for bowl appearances.

And Iowa fans were complaining about a pre-season schedule that included Buffalo with regards to buying tickets?

Just think if you were a Gopher fan? OK, I know that is impossible to do, but just for two seconds, think about paying for a home schedule that included Tulsa, Troy State and La. Lafayette?

But Mason did coach at Kansas prior to taking the Gopher gig and he guided the hapless Jayhawks to a 10 win season in 1995. They played Cincy, North Texas, TCU and Houston in that year, winning all four of those games and beat just one league foe with a better than .500 record.

This year's Gopher schedule might even make KSU head man Bill Snyder wince…or become green with envy.

Speaking of Snyder, Kansas State beat Massachusetts last week in Manhattan. The previous week, they beat McNeese State in Manhattan. The week before that, the beat the aforementioned Troy State in Manhattan. For those keeping track, that is two D1-AA teams and one of the worst teams in D1. I know that KSU plays in a tough league and all, but for the love of Benji, that is worse than Minnesota!

WISCONSIN laid the egg of the week in the Big Ten, losing to the Runnin' Rebels of UNLV 23-5.

Sure, their star running back Anthony Davis had just a few carries before leaving the game with an ankle injury, but come on. We are talking about UNLV here, the same team that lost to Kansas the week before, allowing 46 points to the Jayhawks.

Am I to believe that Wisconsin loses its #1 tailback and that is goodnight Irene? Wisconsin has had a tailback rush for 1,000 yards in a season for the last 300 years. It says so right in their media guide.

There is no excuse for such a weak effort, unless you mention the name Jim Sorgi. That would be a good excuse. He was 11 of 25 with no TD's and two INT's on the day. Wisconsin also fumbled the ball four times, losing three of them.

But still, there is no excuse for the Badgers losing this football game to a team that gave up 46 points to Kansas the week before. That is also a Kansas team that lost to Northwestern in week one on its home turf.

If the Big Ten season keeps up at this pace, there might be reason to believe that Iowa can repeat as champions.

Hawkeye Insider Top Stories