1. Will Iowa open things up more on offense this week?
Rob: Yes, and Steve Alford is building a national championship contender in Albuquerque. Iowa showed some different looks last week in splitting out Greene in the slot and running some four-receiver sets, but that's about as exotic as it's going to get. I do think it would be smart to move Stanzi around a bit in the pocket, especially on obvious passing downs. Iowa did well last season when it let Jake Christsensen use his feet during the comeback in Evanston.
Jon: I do think that is possible. Now, I am not talking about going to a Missouri Tiger look, but since I brought them up, Iowa can do a few things they did last year with their tight end duo of Rucker and Coffman. Last week, we saw Myers and Moeaki lined up in the slot on opposite sides of the field. That is a formation I have been dreaming about during the off season, and it's the first time we have seen it all year. With Moeaki back, they can get more formations out of the same personnel group, also something you have read from me before. That is so advantageous to an offense, because the defense cannot change its personnel based on tendencies when you are in 3rd and 4 or less and you are not subbing. Iowa doesn't need to sub, because they can go power out of that set, or tey can spread it out.
Brian: I think we'll see things this week similar to what we saw against Pittsburgh, just executed better. Iowa coming with Moeaki and Greene in the backfield, DJK, Brodell, and Myers out wide, then a shift to a five-receiver look. The RB screen disappeared completely last week, I was hoping to see it. That seems to be a play they like to hold for Paki, we'll see if he's out there. I think the Iowa offense will take a step forward, if for no other reason than consistency.
2. Will the coaches continue with a rotation of some sort at quarterback the rest of the year?
Rob: I don't think it will be predetermined, but circumstances will dictate it to go that way. Stanzi will struggle at times, especially in road games the next two weeks at Michigan State and Indiana. It will be too tempting to stay with him through the mistakes if the coaches feel they can get a spark from Christensen. If Iowa makes one more play at Pitt last week, Jake probably starts this game under center.
Jon: I think it's a possibility. Until Jake or Rick comes out and is consistent in a Big Ten caliber football game, the door is open for a rotation back and forth. We didn't see that against Iowa State (are they Big Ten caliber?) or Pitt, and next up is Rick's second chance to take the job and run (throw) with it. Another road game is looming, so it would be good to see him have a solid performance so there is some continuity.
Brian: I doubt it. Before the season started, I felt like this was a week for Iowa's QB (whoever it was going to be) to get a rhyth and confidence heading up to East Lansing. That'll be Ricky Stanzi, and he'll take the job by the... horns... and make it his own. It's beginning to be a distraction. When you're winning, two quarterbacks is fine, but last week showed just what a rigamarole it can be to have two quarterbacks, especially if it's not a publicly-known pre-determined rotation.
3. Do you believe it's time to pick one quarterback and go with it?
Rob: No. I've not seen anything that tells me that either guy is ready to take over this offense and run with it. Both QBs are prone to mistakes and will make them going forward. I still think you go with the hot hand until somebody emerges, which I don't think will happen.
Jon: I side with what I think Kirk sees on this; it will be time when's it's time. Sorry if that is a bit too Yoda, but I understand it. Neither player has given Kirk a reason to pick one and go with them, by my account. They are going with Rick this week, according to Kirk, because they have 30 more minutes of film they have evaluated since the halftime decision to go with Jake last week. They will keep evaluating this thing until someone takes the reigns and wins the job.
Brian: Only if one of them proves they can do it. I don't want the staff to pick a quarterback to pick a quarterback, but I can't see these quarterbacks alternating good/bad weeks all season long.
4. How many more games will Shonn Greene continue his 100-yard streak for?
Rob: I think he eeks out 100 this weekend, but the run comes to an end at Michigan State. I think the carries and the hits are going to begin taking their toll on Shonn. Iowa needs to give him some rest during the games.
Jon: Barring injury, I think Shonn will crack 100 until Iowa gets to the Penn State game. I think he can hit that mark in every game this year, but there is bound to be one where he doesn't. Tavian didn't do it back in 1997, either. Perhaps Wisconsin, or maybe even Illinois. A lot of this will depend on whether or not the passing game has gotten its act together. Can you imagine how devastating Greene could be with a consistent passing game?
Brian: I think, with the stipulation that Paki and Jewel get more first-half carries, Shonn will be able to carry the 100-yard mark the entire year. I know that's crazy to say, but the only people I see challenging that number are Penn State, but they've gotten so far ahead so early in games that nobody's been able to commit to the rushing game, and Wisconsin, who have had the fewest rushing attempts against them in the Big Ten (84) and are still giving up 87 rushing yards a game.
5. Will the Iowa DL see an uptick in production, as they (finally) face a pocket quarterback?
Rob: I think it's been pretty productive to this point even though it hasn't shown up in sacks. The spread is a quick-release offense, so Bacher is going to be tough to get. If they can pressure him and the defensive backs bump off some of the smaller Wildcats receivers, Iowa will succeed on that side of the ball.
Jon: Pitt had a pocket QB, and I liked the pressure they put on him in the second half. He wound up going 11-25 with an interception. That's good production for the defense. But Pitt didn't run a spread offense, and Northwestern will likely get the ball out of C.J. Bacher's hands faster than Bill Stull of Pitt. He is not a drop back guy per se. Iowa did record six sacks against him last year on 54 pass attempts. Iowa is also playing better in the secondary this year, and I could see them throwing more blitz looks at Bacher due to better back end coverage.
Brian: Pitt may have had a 'pocket' quarterback, but he very rarely stayed there. They had him moving a lot, they had a lot of misdirection with the RB, and (at least early) plenty of receivers to help him get the ball out early. I think the Northwestern offense is going to keep CJ back there much longer, and Adrian Clayborn's not going to need to worry about his containment issues.
6. Who is your pick to click?
Rob: Ricky Stanzi. I just have a feeling here. Northwestern has been pretty salty run defense, allowing just 2.9 yards per carry. The Wildcats also will be looking to stack the box and take away Shonn Greene. If you're a defensive coach right now, you don't let Iowa's running back beat you.
Jon: Why mess with a streak? I know that Northwestern has been doing a good job against the run statistically, but they have played Syracuse, Duke, Southern Illinois and Ohio. Those teams don't conjure up images of Iowa's #23. Greene tops the 100 yard mark in the third quarter again this week…just don't leave him on the shelf come the fourth quarter this time around.
Brian: I'll go with a defensive player. I think Tyler Sash comes away with at least one, maybe two picks in this game. Norm Parker seems to be plenty comfortable with the nickel and dime this year, and Sash is going to be roaming around back in a cover 1 look, ready to snag one. Let's just make sure we don't step out at the 1-yard line this time, k?