6 Questions with the HN Staff: Iowa State

Read what Jon Miller, Rob Howe, and Brian Finley are thinking about Saturday's matchup with Iowa State, who is poised for a breakout game, will this defense keep up this pace, and much more in this free preview update.

Do you believe Iowa will give up an offensive touchdown in this game.  If so, when and how?


Jon:  Yes, I think Iowa will probably give up two.  That doesn't mean Iowa State will convert the two extra points, however.  Their kicking game is always an adventure.  Since the question on how it will happen is asked, the easy thing to say would be JJ Bass with a run off tackle in a goal line situation.  But since it's Iowa State, and they have run the Meyer to Blythe fade play numerous times through the years with success, I will go with that.


Brian: Yes, and it will happen early.  But only one.  It won't be Todd Blythe, however.  A 15 yard post, maybe a square in.  One broken tackle, maybe make a safety miss, and they'll be gone.  A slant route from about 30 yards out sounds about right.  From there on out, Iowa will shut the Cyclones down, allowing no further touchdowns.  Maybe a lucky field goal, but that's about it.


Rob: Yes. It will happen in the third quarter. Bret Myer to Todd Blythe, how else?



Will this Iowa team find a way to balance their offense this week, as opposed to relying solely on the run or pass, as they did during the first two games?


Jon:  Balancing an offense happens two ways;  it happens when you can inflict your will on your opponent, such as the 2002 team did, or when you have one facet of your game taken away from you, and you make the opponent pay with the other, and then they have to play honest.  Well, they don't have to; just take a look at Syracuse last week.  They were gluttons for punishment, stacking the box after they were down 28-0.  So you can be stubborn, but you will also get fired that way.  Back to the question;  I think the latter example is what we will see of THIS year's Iowa team.  Next year, I think the Hawks may be able to inflict their will on opposing defenses.  I think ISU, and most every Iowa opponent, will spend more time trying to stop Iowa's running game.  That's just the way it is in the Big Ten.  But I think you will see more sophisticated looks the next two weeks, disguising coverages and stunts, and not broadcasting them the way Syracuse did.


Brian: I believe they will balance the attack, but not because of the "inflicting of the will."  I believe Iowa State will attempt to cover both the pass and the run at the same time, leaving a good amount of success with each.  I think all day long, Iowa will have success with short passes, screens and out cuts.   The running game won't run wild like it did against Northern Illinois, but should have moderate success.


Rob:  I think the Iowa offense will be more balanced because ISU will play more straight up than did Iowa's first two opponents. I don't see the Hawkeyes having as much success as they did last week against Syracuse, but it will look better than they did against NIU. I see decent days from Jake Christensen and the Albert Young-Damian Sims combo, but I don't see Big Ten Player of the Week type of performances.



Do you think this game means more to players from Iowa or Iowa State, or both equally?


Rob:  I'll ride the fence and go with equally for both. I do, however, think it's for different reasons. Iowa wants to beat it's rival in order to continue its climb towards a big season. A loss in Ames greatly changes the momentum heading into the Big Ten. Plus, there still are quite a few members of this Iowa team that remember the trip to Trice in '05. Iowa State is trying to stop the drop. If the Cyclones lose on Saturday, their schedule is brutal enough to point to 0-10 with two to play. I never bought into this game meaning more to Iowa State than Iowa.


Jon:  When Dan McCarney was in Ames, I think it meant more to Iowa State.  I don't say that as any sort of disrespect to Kirk Ferentz.  His mantra has always been that the current team on the schedule is the most important game.  Spin DMC had the Cyclones sky high for this game…they were an extension of his personality, just as Iowa is an extension of Kirk's personality.  The problem for ISU, is that after the Iowa game, after getting up that high, there was no other level to go to.  There were no more pregame talks that could top what Danny Mac brought to this one.  ISU peaked more often than not, against Iowa in this game.  Now, with Gene Chizik in Ames, his approach will be more like Ferentz's, in my opinion.  At least, as long as the fans will allow it.


Brian: For certain players *cough* Julian Vandervelde *cough* it may mean more, but as a team, I'm not sure.  This game in particular might mean more for Iowa than it does for Iowa State, but that's only because of the schedule, at this point.  If Iowa wins, they're 3-0 heading into a top-10 road game, and confident.  If Iowa State wins, they're still 1-2 with not much hope of winning more games this year.  Iowa needs to win this game more than Iowa State, but only for the outlook on the season.


Is the defensive performance from the first two weeks close to what we will see all season, or an aberration due to the opponents Iowa has played?


Rob:  I'm not sure we'll see as dominant a performance from here on out just based on the fact that the competition is going to improve. But I certainly wouldn't call it an aberration. You look at the experience of the unit, especially in the front seven, what's happening certainly makes sense. I'm certainly interested to see how it performs against some of the more impressive spread offenses like Purdue, Indiana and Northwestern.


Jon:  I think this Iowa defense, if it stays healthy, will fall somewhere in between the 2001 and 2002 clubs.  The 2001 team stopped the run to the tune of 117 yards per game.  The next year was one of the best run stopping defenses in school history.  Actually, the next three years.  I think Iowa will wind up allowing about 100 yards per game before its all said and done, if they stay healthy.  So they won't be this dominant much longer, as there are no easy outs on the Big Ten schedule, in my opinion, and the Iowa State Cyclones are always the Iowa State Steelers in this game.


Brian: I don't feel like Iowa should get any worse, but the competition may get better.  I don't think we've seen everything this defense has to offer.  Safety blitz? Corner blitz? Where did those come from?  We have seen very little 4-4 or 5-2 out of this team.  Very little nickel, almost no dime.  I think as this defense spreads its wings, things should only get better.



Can Iowa lose this game and why do you feel that way?


Rob:  Yes. I've been to enough of these things in the last nine years to know records, previous performance and logic matter little. The Cyclones boast players that have stung Iowa in the past, namely Brett Myer and Todd Blythe. Still, it's tough to ignore the different levels at which these teams have played. I've not seen ISU, but I wouldn't be surprised to see parallels to the '99 Hawkeyes when Kirk Ferentz worked to instill his system and beliefs into the program to the tune of one win. Iowa would really have to play poorly for the Cyclones to win this one. I give them a puncher's chance because it's in Ames.


Jon:  You had better believe they can lose this game.  For me, it comes down to playing a mistake free first quarter for Iowa.  That means no turnovers, no stupid penalties that take away a big play.  That means no shanked punts that significantly alter field position.  That means no missed field goals inside of 35 yards.   That means no missed tackles that give up a big play, and no one getting behind the safeties.  And that is asking for a lot of things.   The way that ISU got the momentum going in the first half in 2005 was frightening.  The good thing this year, is that 2005 defensive line, one of the best run stopping lines in ISU history, is long gone.  This year's group is no where near that group.  But Iowa needs to bring it's ‘A' game to this contest.  If they do, they will win.  If they don't, they could lose.


Brian: Any team can lose any game, but I don't feel like this team has bought into any hype.  That was the downfall in 2005.  Iowa has had no hype piled onto them at this point, and nothing to believe.  Iowa will come into this game focused and ready to play, which is the only way I could see Iowa losing this game.


Who is your pick to click?


Rob:  I was a week late on Kenny Iwebema, who I picked against Northern Illinois and then he wins Big Ten Special Teams POW award versus Syracuse. With that in mind, I'll go with Mike Klinkenborg, who I picked against the Orangemen. The senior linebacker has played very well this season, averaging an Iowa best 6.5 tackles a game. He's a Hawkeye State native and wants his last games in Ames to be one to remember. He will.


Jon:  Andy Brodell.  He will be 20 miles from his hometown, he is coming off of a career high seven reception game, where he had 14 touches and produced every time, and that has to be a confidence booster.  Iowa State has a good punter that might outkick coverage at times.  I think Andy takes one to the house in the punt return aspect of the game, and breaks a tunnel screen or a quick hitter ala the Alamo Bowl game.


Brian: Considering I'm 2-for-2 on this one, I've really got to put some thought into this…  Albert Young.  Albert Young put up his first 100-yard game against Iowa State in 2005, despite the lack of an effective passing game.  Look for him to top 150 yards combined and at least one score.  Runner up: Tom Busch, for taking Alvin Bowen off his feet, about 4 feet in front of Albert Young.

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