Iowa/ISU: 6 Questions with the HN Staff

Each week, the HN staff sits down to talk about this week's game. See what Jon Miller, Rob Howe, and Brian Finley had to say about the big matchup between Iowa and Iowa State this week.

1. Will the likely return of Trey Stross and Tony Moeaki be a big factor against ISU?

Jon:  Yes and No.  I don't know that Moeaki and Stross will show up in a big way in the stat sheet, but I think Tony's return could help take some attention away from Brandon Myers.  I love Tony, always have and from the day he walked on campus, he was one of the most physically ready to play college football players I have ever seen.  But here is a question for you; which Hawkeye has scored the most touchdowns over Iowa's last 14 games?   That would be Brandon Myers, who is a pretty darn good athlete.  He has been been building a very solid resume, a resume that I think will land him in the NFL.  So Tony might attract just enough attention to free up Myers even more.  Iowa might have two of the three best tight ends in the Big Ten.

Rob: It never hurts when you get back two veterans that are proven producers. That said, this is the opener for both guys while most everybody else on the field will be playing Week 3. In addition, it's probably a stretch to say that either guy is 100 percent healthy. Yes, it will be a boost, particularly with the way that Moeaki blocks, but I think we're a few weeks off from them being big factors.

Brian: I think it will have more of an effect if Stross is able to play effectively than Moeaki. I haven't been impressed with Chaney thus far this season, and I think there's room for Stross to make a big impact in this game. Having a target that's 6 inches taller (6'3" vs 5'9") is a big difference for a young quarterback facing a pressure defense. Jon's always talking about throwing it into the basket (or breadbasket, or something like that.) Stross' basket is much bigger than Chaney's, giving Stanzi an easier target.

2. Has the Iowa staff been "saving" part of the playbook for Iowa State, or have we already seen everything we're likely to see?

Jon: I usually get suckered into thinking we might see some new wrinkle for the ISU game, and I am usually wrong.  But this year, I think there may be some differences.  I don't know what they will be, but I don't think they showed that tight end screen last week by accident.  They didn't need that play to win the game.  Makes me wonder what they could counter it with.  Iowa knows that ISU is going to sell out blitz.  Last year, there wasn't enough time for Jake to make them pay.  Rick should have more time this year, and I think the general health of the offense and the fact they have been able to work together more should help.  When ISU blitzes this year, can Rick go over the top to make them pay?  Will he have the time?  I think so...and I think (hope) Iowa will be ready. 

Rob: No way have we seen everything we're going to see, but I'm not sure I would say the coaches have been saving much, either. This admittedly conservative bunch lets out the lease as it becomes more comfortable with the players' ability to handle more. In 2002, with that O-line, they let it roll early in the season. The one area where I could see them straying from the norm would be on defense against spread formations. I think it's been obvious that the coaches have been getting a lot of young DBs reps in the first two weeks and Ferentz has more than once joked about playing more nickel and dime. I think we could see it this week. I also wouldn't be surprised to see more 3-4 alignments up front.

Brian:Whenever anyone complains about a lack of imagination on the part of the Iowa playcallers, I point to 2002, 2003 and 2004 where Iowa had great playcalling, with some imagination. What's the difference, you ask? Execution. Kirk Ferentz talks about trust a lot, trusting a player to make the simple plays, the smart decisions and take care of the ball. In 2005 through 2007, Iowa had trouble executing the simple stuff, which didn't lead to much confidence in pages 2 through 200 of the playbook. This year, Iowa came out and executed plays cleanly in Week 1, and we saw some more creative wrinkles in week 2. TE screen, counter trap, double moves, etc. As long as there wasn't a re-run of a bad Three Stooges film in practice this week, I expect to see the next page of the playbook opened up, with some more new and different plays.

3.Is this one of the most important games of the Kirk Ferentz era?

Jon: Yes, because its the next one.  Sorry, I had to write that.  But I honestly think that it is one of the most important games.  I believe Iowa needs to be at least 3-1 after their first four games.  I didn't think much about that before the season, but now, after seeing Pitt struggle to start the year, I feel that is possible.  And to be 4-0, you have to be 3-0.  Plus, I think the infusion of good will that would come in winning this game would be enormous, but perhaps not as significant as the grumbling that would take place if Iowa lost.  I just think there is so much riding on this game, and this is a crossroads season for this program.  I am not saying if they lose, its the end of the world.  2002 showed us that it isn't.  But this team isn't as good as the 2002 team.

Rob: Jon and I spoke about this on his radio show on Tuesday. It seems we've come across these more than once the last few years, but this one is front and center. With some of the disappointments the last few years, I don't know if the fans and players can handle a home loss to their rivals. The backlash would be vicious. It also would be a downer heading into the first road game, a tough one at Pittsburgh. I think this coaching staff, right or wrong, has lost some of the good will it built up earlier in the decade during the last few seasons. The team needs a big win to hammer home the thought that this program is heading back up instead of flat lining.

Brian: I think in the eyes of the fans, maybe, but I would have to imagine the team is in a better place to absorb a loss than in previous years. The team seems to be executing better, the team chemistry seems better, timing, execution and poise (oops, Lickliter's rubbing off...) I don't think a loss in this game would destroy the season, but a convincing win would certainly do a world of good, both nationally, locally, and in the minds of those players.

4. Rain is in the forecast; which team benefits from a wet track?

Jon: I think I will favor Iowa with a wet track, if that happens.  If things get sloppy, that makes for a slick football and the passing game is affected.  Now, my father's voice is going off in my head right now, saying 'Jon, Chuck Long had some of his best games passing with a wet football.'  True, but there isn't a Chuck Long on the field Saturday.  But there is a Shonn Greene, and I think he would be a horse for that sort of course.

Rob: I would say it benefits Iowa more, but maybe not as much as people might think. The Hawkeyes have run the ball better to this point and stopped the run better. But Iowa State has been opportunistic on defense and special teams, and a sloppy surface could play right into that strength. Also, while Stanzi needs to turn and complete the hand-off to Greene, Bates can just grab it from center and cause problems.

Brian: I think it favors the fans. Nothing sounds better to me than watching a knock-down, drag-out (my journalism professors would kill me for using that cliche) rivalry game in the mud and the muck. I think that game favors the Hawkeyes. If you think it's hard to hold your ground against a 235-pound back, imagine trying to do it without solid ground beneath you.

5. Will Rick Stanzi take all of the quarterback snaps in this game?

Jon: As long as he stays healthy, I think Rick gets every snap. I know that might sound like a bit of a cop out, but I think the Hawks stick with Rick unless he takes himself out of the game with several big mistakes (read three or more interceptions) or if he gets hurt. So I think he plays the entire game

Rob: No. I think the Iowa State defense will be good enough to cause the Iowa offense to sputter at times. As a result, Ferentz will look to Christensen for a spark or just to settle down Stanzi. I don't mean this as an indictment of Stanzi, but rather that I think this Iowa offense still has to prove something against a Big Boy defense. ISU will attempt to take away Greene, so the quarterbacks will have to make plays. Notice I used the plural there.

Brian: Yes. When thinking about this, all I can think of is the series against Minnesota in 2006, when Drew Tate was letting his emotions get the best of him. Kirk sent him a message, sat Tate for a series, and Jake Christensen came in, threw for a first down, and then a pick. Kirk was angry at himself for having to do that after the game, and I don't think he'll do it again, barring an injury.

6. Who is your pick to click?

Jon: Brandon Myers:  I am getting to this party one week late it seems, but I just love the kind of career that Myers is turning in.  As I said before, I think he is playing his way into a professional paycheck, and if Moeaki can get in there and perhaps take some of the attention away from Myers in Iowa's two tight sets, Myers could go off.

Rob: I'm going defense here because I have a feeling we're going to see conservative game plans. ISU will not let King and Kroul beat them, probably using double teams and backs to pick them off. I think that frees up Clayborn to continue terrorizing opposing offenses. If he can contain Bates, that would be huge.

Brian: I'm going to go with Jacody Coleman. If he can stay at home in the middle, watching for draws (both RB and QB), Iowa will have a great shot at taking away the QB run game. I'm not concerned about Arnaud or Bates reaching the edge, considering how dominant Edds and Hunter have been thus far this year, but the middle has proven to be a weakness so far this season.

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