Can you smell it? Can you hear it?
It's Iowa football season, once again. I don't know about you, but the first Iowa football game of the year has become one of my favorite calendar year events; almost as good as the bowl games Iowa has once again grown accustomed to attending with regularity.
In Iowa City, going to a bowl game for three straight years is nice, but its not the crowning achievement of a coaching tenure.
Sorry, about that one. Having spent Wednesday night speaking at a Hawkeye gathering with Jim Zabel, Z's shots at the Clones have worn off on me a bit.
We'll save that for next week.
This week, it's the Kent State Golden Flashes who will invade Kinnick Stadium.
Here is a quick look on what to watch out for and what to expect.
KENT STATE has a new head coach in Doug Martin. Martin was the offensive coordinator under the previous head coach Dean Pees. Pees left the program late this spring, leaving the Golden Flashes in the lurch, so to speak.
NO CRIBBS FOR YOU!
Also leaving the team in the lurch was quarterback Josh Cribbs, who will not play against Iowa as he will be suspended for this game. In 2001, Cribbs was the first freshman to ever run and pass for 1,000+ yards in one season in NCAA history, and just the 14th player to ever accomplish that feat at the time. He became the 2nd quarterback to turn that trick twice in his career. He is the career yardage leader in the history of the program.
But enough about him, he will be back in Ohio.
His backup is Antwan Smith, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore who can also run and throw. Don't expect Kent State to deviate from its offense. They will look to balance things out, but Smith will look to get to the edge and work against Iowa's linebackers.
On second thought, maybe Kent State SHOULD deviate from that game plan.
START ME UP
Kent State returns 17 starters this year; nine of defense and eight on offense. So that can be viewed as good news for them. The bad news, is that their defense allowed 201 yards rushing per game last year, and they have allowed better than 190 rushing yards per game in five of the last six seasons. Even though Iowa's offensive line might struggle at times on Saturday, as they are looking to find some continuity and gel, running the football should not be a problem. Thankfully, Kent State does not have anyone like Jack Lambert, who is an alum.
In addition to Cribbs, starting tight end Charles Newton will not play against Iowa, after being suspended from the team for a recent DUI arrest.
BRINGIN' THE HEAT?
Do not be surprised if Kent State brings a lot of blitz packages against first time starter Drew Tate. Not that most teams won't do that this year against Iowa, until Tate and the offensive line prove that they can handle such a front, but Kent State did a lot of that in 2003.
One of the reasons that Tate ascended Iowa's depth chart so quickly last year was for his ability to read the defense and react. Now, with one full year in the program, Tate should be even better prepared for such schemes.
But that does not mean that he won't make some mistakes this year. He is at the age when most players are redshirt freshmen. Tate is a true soph; he is going to have his moments.
But he also put together one of the most impressive high school passing careers in American history.
IT AIN'T FAIR, YO
If you were going to play a game of beer league softball, and the other team had aluminum bats, you certainly would cry foul if you were swinging wooden sticks.
How long do you think it's going to take Kent State's offensive tackles to complain about the beating they are about to get at the hands of one Matt Roth?
What do you think those tackles have been thinking about when they have been studying film of Roth in recent weeks? How can you stop him?
The only way to avoid the pain that Roth can inflict is to just run away from him. Then you will have to deal with Derreck Robinson, a player with much promise and more agile and ‘traditional' than Roth. Meaning, he has the tools that NFL scouts drool over in a man his size. Roth is just one of those lunch pail players whose motor never stops. I think each of Iowa's bookends will end up hearing their names called on the first day of the NFL draft.
Jonathon Babineaux should get drafted, too. In fact, when you look at Iowa's starting front seven for the Kent State game, you could very well be looking at five players who might play on Sunday's.
Doesn't if feel good to have these guys on your side?
BOLD PREDICTIONS, BY THE NUMBERS
2: The number of places that Kyle Schlicher's first kickoff will land: Out of the endzone, or out of bounds.
15: Number of yards in the penalty that Matt Roth gets at some point on Saturday, perhaps for some new sack dance or pose. Since it's the throwback game, and it's in Kinnick, perhaps he could revive the Heisman pose he struck after sacking USC QB Carson Palmer in the 2003 Orange Bowl?
50: Number of plays Roth will be in KSU's backfield.
84: Number worn by Marv Cook at Iowa, who will be handling the color commentary this weekend on ESPN Plus.
12: Marv's high school number at West Branch, in case you were wondering.
24: Number worn by Nile Kinnick at Iowa.
1: Number of Heisman Trophy winners from Iowa (Nile Kinnick, 1939)
65: Number of years since Kinnick and the Ironmen graced the gridiron in Iowa City.
.741: Iowa's winning percentage in home openers.
35.0: Iowa's average margin of victory in their last three season openers, all of which came against teams from the MAC (Miami, OH, Akron and Kent State)
4: Number of senior starters on Iowa's two deep roster for the Kent State game.
3rd: Ok, that is not really a number, but it's where I will be on Saturday watching the game, as in 3rd Base in West Des Moines, South of 25th off of University. I will be handing out issues of the Iowa-ISU Hawkeye Nation magazine.
4pm: The approximate time that Jim Zabel and I will be taking your calls on WHO's ‘Soundoff' on Saturday.
1040: The number on the AM dial to listen to Soundoff.
PREDICTION: IOWA 48, Kent State 10. All of Kent State's points come after Iowa's defensive starters are on the bench. Iowa scores at least two touchdowns from its defense and special teams. Jovon Johnson gets at least one pick, and edges closer to Nile Kinnick's school record of 18 INT's. Johnson enters his junior year with 10.