Iowa/Minnesota: 6 Questions with the HN Staff

Each week, the HawkeyeNation staff sits down to run over some important question about each week's game. Read what Jon Miller, Rob Howe, and Brian Finley had ot say about this week's game in Iowa City against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Will Minnesota stack the box? Can Iowa's offense find an early rhythm?

What do you believe to be the best coaching job in the Kirk Ferentz and where would you rank this one, assuming the Hawks take care of business the next two weeks?

Rob: Personally, the 2004 campaign turned out to be the best coaching performance in my mind. Iowa was without a scholarship running back for a good part of the season and the coaches broke away from the script, which we know isn't easy for them to do, and let Drew Tate make plays with his arm and feet. But that team did have an elite defense, which the current team does not. It's very good, but not in the elite class. With the injuries and the inexperience on this year's team, this group of coaches deserves the most credit for keeping the team together through some major speed bumps. If it can win out and beat a Florida State in a bowl, that would be pretty special considering the obstacles overcome.

Jon: I have to go with 2004. It's my all time favorite Iowa season for the simple reason for how remarkable it was and how the team overcame the injuries and its own deficiencies on offense. Iowa made some offensive tweaks to play to its remaining strengths. That being said, I might say to wait and ask me this question on January 1st. If Iowa can get to eight wins this year, that would be pretty salty, even if the Big Ten is having a less than stellar year on the whole. And though Iowa was without a scholarship running back for most of 2004, Drew Tate was throwing to Scott Chander, Ed Hinkel and Clinton Solomon that year. I still believe being down those running backs is better than being down all of the playmakers in the passing game that Iowa had this year

Brian: Yeah, I'm a sheep. 2004. All the attention goes to the fact that Iowa lost offensive starters, but that was also a hard personal year for the Hawkeye coaching staff. Ferentz losing his father, Parker losing his son. To be able to push through that season and find the results they did, amazing. There also wasn't any spot for this staff to get 'comfortable.' At least this year, Iowa's injuries (at least offensively) have happpened early on in the year, giving them time to adjust and find a rhythm with this new group of starters.

If Iowa wins, who gets to Floyd first?

Rob: I'll go with a senior because it's going to be most on their minds. It will be the traveling trophy they recaptured before leaving the program. I'll go with Mike Klinkenborg. How great would it be to see him holding that thing up with a big club on one hand? After what this kid has been through the last two years, he sure as heck deserves as much as anybody else.

Jon: Great question. I remember Robert Gallery making a beeline to get that pig back in 2001, when Iowa beat Minnesota in the regular season finale. I was on the field, and behind the Minnesota bench. It helped the big fella that the Iowa offense was on the field for the end of the game. I think the offense will be on the field to end this game as well, so I will go with Albert Young or Tom Busch. Since Young is faster, I will go with him.

Brian: Emotionally, Albert Young would probably be the pick, but if the game goes anything like most think it will, with Iowa running it all day long, he may not have any juice left to get there. I'll go with Charles Godfrey.

Who is your pick to click?

Rob: I'll go with Albert Young. Minnesota is dreadful against the run, and I could see the Hawkeyes pounding it with Young and Damian Sims. Young might end up with a day like Ed Hinkel enjoyed against the Gophers a few years back.

Jon: I hate to piggy back, but Rob makes a great point and brings up the great Ed Hinkle senior day. Illinois put up nearly 500 rushing yards last week against Minnesota. Iowa is not built like Illinois on offense, but Minnesota's defense is challenged right now, to say the least. Albert Young makes a lot of sense here.

Brian: The offensive line. I think Jake will find time, Albert and Damian will find holes, and the Gophers will find themselves in the backfield very rarely this week.

If you are coaching Iowa this year and you win the toss, do you defer or take the ball?

Jon: I like deferring when your defense is your strength. Iowa has had the ball after the half in each of the last two weeks, and they have scored touchdowns on their opening drives of the second half. I think it allows the offense to get settled down, to see what will work for them on the given day and make those adjustments. Iowa's defense had a rough first drive last week, but at home these next two games, I think the defense can feed off of that energy, especially with the emergence of Christian Ballard and Adrian Clayborn along the defensive line. I hope to see the Hawks defense on the field first. If Minnesota wins the toss, their defense probably would rather see their offense on the field first anyway.

Rob: Northwestern won the toss and took the ball last week. The Wildcats drove the ball 73 yards on seven plays in a 2:31 to take a 7-0 lead. That said, you have to defer if you're the Hawkeyes. The defense has been the strength of this team and will continue to be. This might be a week when I take the ball first if I'm Iowa because Minnesota's defense has been easier than Paris Hilton. But overall, I would defer if I'm Iowa this year.

Brian: Easy there, Robbo, with the cracks, don't hurt yourself. I'll go with defer on this one as well. It's worked the last few weeks, at least in the final result.

After Jake Christensen put up 300 yards against Northwestern, will Minnesota still stack the box to stop Albert Young, even with two freshman DBs (at FS and RC)?

Jon: I don't think there is any doubt about it. That is the only chance they have to win, to take away Iowa's running game and hope that the Iowa passing game doesn't click the way that it did last week on the road. The bad news for Iowa is that I don't think Minnesota will bite on as many double-cuts on the outside as Northwestern did. But if I am playing against Iowa, and I said this back before the season began, I would stack the box and throw a variety of looks at the Hawks. Pre-snap fake formations, sometimes blitz, sometimes look like you are blitzing and back off, etc. If they don't make a concerted effort to stop Iowa's running game, they have no chance. Being that they are the worst defense in the nation, stastically, I hope it doesn't matter.

Rob: Stacking the box probably still is the Gophers best chance to win, but they knew Illinois was going to run it, albeit in an option attack, and still couldn't stop it. Minnesota is allowing a Big Ten worst 238 yards a game on the ground, and even if they stack, I would expect Iowa to find success in the running game. Plus, with the way Jake played in last week's second half, teams will have to play a little more honest and think twice about bringing the safety down.

Brian: I think they will early on, but if Jake can hit a few open shots early in the game, it'll push them back toward honesty, opening up the balanced attack Kirk likes to use. The inexperience in the deep middle at FS should open up the deep ball, and everything will unfold from there.

Will this be the week that Iowa starts fast? Why?

Jon: It would be another step in the evolution of this offense. I don't think Iowa has scored a touchdown on any one of its opening drives this season. If they have, it might just be once. If the Hawks can score six on their opening possession, that would be a huge confidence builder and might lead to an opening of the floodgates on the scoreboard. I just don't know that they are ready, because Jake, much like Drew Tate was when he was a sophomore, gets pretty amped up early on. Perhaps someone needs to tackle him in pregame warmups to get that adrenaline out of his system. Read this week's Monday Morning Quarterback to get an idea of what I am talking about here.

Rob: Relatively speaking. It probably will take the offense some time to settle in, but they'll score early and often. Minnesota's defense has been putrid. This young Iowa group has matured throughout the season and improved in areas in which it had previously struggled. I expect starting fast on offense will take a step forward the next two weeks, thanks in part to the competition. .

Brian: I don't see Iowa marching down in 5 plays to score, but I could see a fieldgoal drive to open this game, yes. A methodical drive, similar to Iowa's final scoring drive in regulation against Michigan State to set up a Daniel Murray field goal. That said, I don't see Iowa going into halftime with less than 14 points this week.

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