Preview: Iowa v Ball State

IOWA CITY, IA - The Iowa Hawkeyes will host their second open practice of the year on Saturday, September 3rd when they scrimmage Ball State University. OK, we had better stop right there before someone gets confused. The point being that Iowa is a dead cinch lock to start the 2005 season 1-0 and Ball State will be the sacrificial breaks down the Iowa-Ball State game in our first Iowa Football Opponent Preview of the Year!

I am sure that the coaches would cringe if they read this, but the chances of that happening the day before the game are slim. The staff made sure to let the Iowa players know that the MAC has beaten its fair share of Big Ten and high-major conference teams through the years, including Western Michigan knocking off the Hawkeyes 27-21 in Kinnick Stadium in 2000, which is also the year that Iowa lost its last season opener (27-7 against Kansas State in Kansas City.)

Iowa IS 14-1 against the MAC, but has never played the Fighting Letterman's of Ball State.

Iowa in Openers

Iowa is 83-31-2 (.724) in season-opening games and 85-29-1 (.743) in home openers. This is the fifth consecutive year the Hawkeyes open their season at home against a Mid-American Conference school. Iowa averaged 42.0 ppg and a winning margin of 34.3 in its last four season-opening victories (Kent State 39-7 in 2004 and 51-0 in 2001; Miami, OH 21-3 in 2003; Akron 57-21 in 2002).

Note from Jon: The point spread is up to 39 points for this game. We do not condone gambling and none of us affiliated with our website or magazine bets on college sports, period. Our advice to those of you that do this sort of thing is to stay away from this one, as the Hawkeyes are sure to run the ball quite a bit in this contest.

Hawks Rolling in Kinnick

Iowa's win over Wisconsin on Nov. 20, 2004 extended its home winning streak to 18. The 18-game streak, dating back to 2002, is a Kinnick Stadium record. The active streak ranks fourth nationally among Division I-A schools. Boise State (25) ranks first, followed by USC (21) and Oklahoma (19). The Hawkeyes' last loss in Kinnick Stadium came against Iowa State (36-31) on Sept. 14, 2002. Overall, Iowa's longest home winning streak is 20 games, dating from Nov. 19, 1918 to Oct. 20, 1923. In Big Ten games only, Iowa's current streak of 13 straight home wins is also a school record. The current 13-game home win streak in league games began with a 42-24 win over Minnesota in 2001. Moreover, Iowa did not trail once in its six home games in 2004. The last time the Hawkeyes trailed in Kinnick Stadium was 6-3 in their 2003 regular season finale vs. Minnesota (Nov. 15, 2003). Iowa downed the Gophers 40-22. Note: Look for Iowa to run its home win streak to 22 games prior to hosting Michigan on October 22nd.

In the Red Zone Iowa scored on 40-of-49 drives (81.6%) that reached the red zone in 2004, collecting nine rushing TD's, 13 passing TD's and 18 field goals for 208 points last year. Hawkeye opponents scored on 22 of 34 possessions (64.7%) inside the red zone, posting five rushing TD's, nine passing TD's and eight field goals for a total of 122 points. Note: Touchdown efficiency in the Red Zone is something Iowa will have to improve this year. When 45% of your scoring trips in the RZ are field goals, you definitely need a 2004-like effort from your defense to balance that out. Will Iowa get that type of effort this year? It's something they cannot count on, and better touchdown efficiency in the RZ will lessen the load on this year's defense.

Points off Turnovers

Iowa scored 86 points after obtaining 32 turnovers (17 interceptions and 15 fumbles), plus an additional 12 points following three blocked punts in 2004. The Hawkeyes tallied 58 of their 86 points off turnovers the last seven contests in 2004. Hawkeye opponents scored 50 points following Iowa miscues in 2004. The Hawkeyes' last six regular season opponents failed to score any points off turnovers. Note: The italicized sentence at the end might be one of the most amazing stats from last year, and one of the most obscure. We all knew that Iowa had a national championship caliber defense last year, and that sentence nails it. Also, Iowa scoring 67-percent of its points over the last seven games coming off turnovers tells you how fortunate a season last year was for the Hawks. You don't want to rely on something like that, combined with the touchdown efficiency in the Red Zone we discussed earlier.

Did you know…

…Saturday's home opener will mark the 41st consecutive game the Hawkeyes have been selected for television. The last Iowa contest not televised was against Minnesota on Nov. 17, 2001.

Drew Tate's 2,841 career passing yards ranks 10th all time at Iowa and his 21 career TD passes ranks seventh all time.

…Iowa is 12-10 in the month of September under Kirk Ferentz at Iowa…the Hawkeyes have won their last six games decided by four points or less, dating back to 2001…Iowa posted the fourth best graduation rate of teams that finished the 2004 season ranked in the top 25.

…In the last three years, Iowa is 27-1 when leading at the half and 30-0 when leading after three quarters…the average Hawkeye is 6-foot-2, 233-pounds. That is the same height as one year ago, and two pounds heavier…Iowa joined Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin as the only Big Ten schools to play in three straight January bowl games.

Breaking Down Ball State

This team lost its top four pass catchers from one year ago, they lost nearly half of their rushing production (963 yards for last year's frosh Adell Givens, who was kicked off the team) from a team that finished 95th in the nation running the football and they only returned 13 punts all of last season.

Why does that last bit matter? It would mean that their defense didn't force many three and outs or many outs whatsoever. Iowa returned six punts against both Ohio State and Kent State last year.

Ball State was dead last in the NCAA last year in Pass Efficiency Defense, and do not look for them to be much better this year.

They were also 100th in rushing defense last year, allowing 197.36 yards per game on the ground. The Hawks need to show up strong on the ground in this game and this is an early litmus test. Certainly not the test they will face on September 10th in Ames, but we will have an entire week to discuss that game.

Ball State may start two true freshman offensive tackles in this game. Now, if Matt Roth and Jonathon Babineaux were still at Iowa, can you imagine how many sacks the Hawks would record? Can you imagine Ball State gaining anything positive running the football?

This will also be a test for the young Iowa defensive line…not so much a test in the win-loss department, but one would hope that the Hawks would hold BSU to under 100 yards on the day, or at least as long as the first team defense is in the game.

Rob Howe's Take: The school most famous for claiming David Letterman as an alum will not add an upset to a ranked opponent to its resume. The Cardinals ranked 96th nationally in total offense a year ago and lost their best weapon, receiver Dante Ridgeway, to the NFL. On defense, they rated 112 among 117 Division I-A schools allowing an astonishing 458 yards a game. Hawkeye fans will be feeling pretty good after this one. Take the win and the gaudy stats with a grain of salt. This is a lay-up: IOWA 56, BALL STATE 0.

Brian Finley's Take: Iowa's offensive line and backfield come into the 2005 season with a chip on their shoulder. Kirk Ferentz and his staff will want to show not only the media but the players as well that they have the ability to run the ball. Look for Iowa running backs to get 60+ carries, but improve on last year's opening average of 3.6 YPC. Hawks dominate early; 2nd-teamers allow a late TD. Iowa 51 Ball St 10

Useless Fact: This will be the first time since 2001 that Iowa does not open the season against a team from the state of Ohio (2001: Kent State, 2002: Akron, 2003: Miami (OH), 2004: Kent St).

Jason Miller's Take: As I have stated all week, I feel there are 3 keys to the game: 1) Score more points than Ball State, 2) Avoid injuries, 3) If you still want a key, read #2 again. Seriously, I feel this game will be a great gauge of what we can expect from Albert Young this season. Regardless if it is Ball State or Ohio State, I am anxious to see him full speed again. Ball State emplores a 5-2 shade defense, and that should open up large holes for AY (and committee) to run through. Additionally, should allow Drew "BIG man" Tate to loosen the ball in his shoulder socket a lot. Dave Letterman will not be in attendance, but should have 10 great Iowa plays for his list on Monday...Hawks 45, Ball State 10.

Jon Miller's Take: The last time I wrote one of these things back on January 1st, here is what my crystal ball told me:

Drew Tate finds a way, and he is immortalized in Hawkeye lore. Matt Roth and Jonathon Babineaux go out in All American-snubbed fashion, while Iowa scores a touchdown on special teams. Kyle Sclicher kicks four field goals, equaling Nate Kaeding's output in Iowa's 19-16 Alamo Bowl win against Texas Tech in 2001.

Well, the Hawks did not need four from Schlicher, but they did score a TD on special teams, Tate found a way and will forever be etched in our memories. Babineaux played one of the best games of his career and Roth fought through a painful hand injury he suffered early in the contest.

Back to Ball State….As I said in the open, this is going to be a glorified scrimmage in front of 70,500-plus. If the game reaches a sellout, and there are only a few hundred tickets remaining, it will be the largest crowd to ever watch the Hawkeyes at home. This one is not about the final outcome, as I feel that is a given. It's about Iowa doing what it wants to do on the ground as well as controlling both lines of scrimmage. Since I think Iowa is going to run the ball 50+ times, I don't think the score will get too out of hand. Iowa 38, Ball State 7

Jon's Game Week predictions since the start of the 2001 season: 44-6 (88.% accuracy) The Misses: 2001: Iowa State & Michigan; 2002: USC; 2003: Michigan State & Ohio State, 2004: Penn State.

Tune into 1040 WHO after the game for ‘Soundoff' with Jim Zabel & Jon Miller. Also catch ‘Cy-Hawk Talk; State of the Nations', and hour long television show on Mediacom Connections Channels throughout the state. Jon Miller and Steve Deace break down the week that was as well as the next game on the schedule. Next week's show should be a good one, as it will be Iowa-Iowa State week. The program will air at 5:30pm on Thursday, 8:30pm on Friday and 10:00am on Saturday. Check your local listings for the channel in your area.

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