2007 Out of Conference Provide Challenges

As the 2007 season draws near, we begin to take a look at some of the finer points that are now at hand. Today, we offer a snapshot view of Iowa's 2007 non conference opponents; Northern Illinois, Syracuse, Iowa State and Western Michigan

As we get closer to the season, we will begin to take a more indepth look at Iowa's upcoming 2007 football opponents.  We'll scratch the surface of that here today.


First up for Iowa is Northern Illinois.  They return six starters on offense and seven on defense.  But QB Phil Horvath and RB Garrett Wolfe are gone, and that's a big deal for the Huskies, especially in their first game in front of what will be a very pro-Iowa Soldier Field crowd on September 1st.


Also gone is Doug Free, who was a two-time All-MAC tackle the last two years in addition to being a four-year starter.  He was drafted in the fourth round by the Dallas Cowboys.


NIU was 107th in the nation against the pass last year, but were decent against the rush.  Jake Christensen got the start against the Huskies and was 19-30 for 256 yards.


Likely QB Dan Nicholson has a much bigger arm than Horvath, and can do a lot with the ball.  Horvath was a steady player, and made solid decisions; Nicholson, who has started, tends to force the action and is prone to the turnover.  Eddie Adamski is a very, very good cernter….


Iowa needed a heroic and historic goal line stand against Syracuse last year to win in overtime.  I don't think it will be that dramatic this year.  The Orange went 4-8, 1-6 in Big East play, after their solid start to the year. 


They return 6 starters on offense and just four on defense.  They have just 12 seniors among their 44 players on their post-spring two deep roster, and they will be without the services of their leading rusher from last year (hip injury, and 4.6 yards per carry).


QB Perry Patterson is gone, and this will be the first year in nearly two decades where Syracuse will have a pocket passer under center; they have been an option team for a long, long time…and last year, Patterson was an option QB who played in a system that did not suit his strengths.  He still hurt Iowa, but last season was not a stellar year for the Hawkeye D.


Andrew Robinson will be the QB, and he is the kind of player that Coach Greg Robinson prefers.  He might need to run for his life, as Syracuse allowed 45 sacks last year, and Patterson could move a lot better than Robinson can….


As I looked at the Big 12's preseason voting from 24 of their media members, I was surprised to see that Iowa State had just one player on the All Big 12 first team; LB Alvin Bowen.


Bowen was a tackling machine last year, so it's a worthy nod.  But missing were 2006 preseason first teamers Bret Meyer and Todd Blythe.


Meyer went from being the preseason 1st team quarterback last year to not even getting a nod on one of Phil Steele's first four teams in his magazine!   I know that Bret had a rough year last year, as did most of his Cyclone teammates, but that is a precipitous drop.  Colt McCoy is back at Texas (he's just a sophomore), Chase Daniels is firmly entrenched at Mizzou, Stephan McGee is under center at Texas A&M, so it's understandable to a degree. 


Todd Blythe didn't make Phil Steele's Top Eight receivers in the league.  Meyer didn't find Blythe enough last year, a point of contention amongst Cyclone Nation.  Blythe didn't do himself any favors, either.   He has all the ability in the world, but he might have needed an attitude adjustment.  The double heaping of humble pie he has had to eat this offseason might be the trick.


For whatever reason, ISU went away from their first half spread attack against Iowa in last year's second half, they ran some option on third and fourth downs, and Iowa came back and won the game.


If their offensive line is decent by the time Iowa comes to town, it could be a hornets nest for the Hawkeyes.  Don't sleep on the Cyclones; Robert McFarland is a much more imaginative OC than was Barney Cotton….


Western Michigan is Iowa's fourth and final non-conference foe, and they will bring a solid team into Iowa City for the final game of the regular season.  They return 8 starters on both offense and defense, and they won 8 games last year and made it to a bowl game.


Even though they return a bunch of starters, the losses of QB Ryan Cubit, guard Dominic Mora, LB Ameer Ismail and kicker Nate Meyer are huge losses, according to those that follow WMU football. 


At QB, 2005 MAC Rookie of the Year Tim Hiller will be in the mix, as he missed last season due to injury.


They were 6th in the nation against the run last year (76.08 yards allowed per game) and they were first in total defense in the conference, and 11th in the nation in that category.


When you put Northern Illinois, Syracuse, Iowa State and Western Michigan next to one another on a line, it sounds like a great opportunity for four wins, which is two-thirds of the requirement to be bowl eligible. 


When I tell you that this is one of the four or five strongest out of conference schedules being played by any Big Ten team, it tells you the league is loading up on the cupcakes this year.





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