1. Last season, the Indiana defense sacked Jake Christensen nine times. How many times will that group drop Ricky Stanzi this week?
Jon: I think Indiana is going to stack and attack the box to slow down Shonn Greene. A key in last year's game was that Iowa got behind early against the Hoosiers and had to go to the air quite often. Indiana knew this and they pinned their ears back on the pass rush. They have to respect Iowa's running game first, and they could pay for that. I see three as the max, maybe less.
Rob: I think they probably get him a couple of times. Their defensive ends are as good as any in the conference. They bring it on obvious passing downs and try to rattle the inexperienced Iowa signal caller. The problem last year was that Iowa got behind and the Hoosiers pinned their ears back. The Hawkeyes need to jump on the home team early with a strong running game to neutralize the pass rush.
Brian: Let's go with three on this one. Ricky Stanzi is still a young quarterback finding his way, and I think it'll be tough for him to keep himself upright at least a few times. A lot may depend on the playcalling. If Iowa runs play-action on first down as often as they usually do, defenses may start to pick up on it and play the edge a bit more loosely, hoping to catch Rick in the flat.
2. Throw out the record. Where does Iowa rank among Big Ten teams two weeks into conference play?
Jon: Here is where I would go:
1. Penn State
2. Ohio State
3. Michigan State
If Iowa had taken care of the ball the past two weeks, they would be much higher. I think they are probably the third or fourth best team in the league, if you take away the turnovers.
Rob: As of the midway point of the season, I think you have to rate Ohio State and Penn State as clearly better teams than the Hawkeyes. I'd also throw Northwestern and Michigan State in there because they beat Iowa head-to-head. Illinois played well at Penn State and won at Michigan. I have to put the Illini above the Hawks. Michigan beat Wisconsin at home, but I think they're close with Iowa. I'd also throw Wisconsin in there with those two teams. I'd put the Hawkeyes ahead of Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue. As you can see, I have the Hawkeyes tied for sixth with a chance to move up.
Brian: I think Penn State, Ohio State, and Illinois are the top three teams in the league. Looking back on it, the fact that Illinois hung with Missouri as long as they did seems amazing. After that, I think it's a toss-up. I'll put Iowa being Northwestern, MSU, and Wisconsin. That puts them in sixth, but two or three plays from fourth.
3. Will this be the week that an Iowa opponent holds Shonn Greene to under 100 yards rushing?
Jon: No. Ball State's back went for over 160 yards, and while he might have caught the Hoosiers off guard, Javon Ringer didn't. Indiana loaded the box to try and stop Ringer, and he still racked up 198 yards against them. I fully expect the Hoosiers to be ultra aggressive against Iowa, using run blitzes more often than not, and putting pressure on Stanzi. Screen plays and swing plays should be there this week. But Greene is going to get to the 100 yard barrier. And if he gets off early against eight man fronts, like Iowa did against Northwestern, the Hawks have to hit pay dirt this week in the redzone.
Rob: You're not serious, are you? Greene might pass the century mark in the first quarter of this one. The encouraging thing is that teams have known he was coming and he still has rumbled through them. Maybe the Hoosiers can try 11 in the box. Wisky might get him next week, but it's not going to happen in Bloomington.
Brian: Barring some sort of crazy circumstances (10 in the box 80% of the time), I just don't see it. Ringer, known for his low yards-per-carry, averaged 4.5 against Indiana. (He averaged 3.6 against Iowa). Shonn Greene will hit 100 by halftime, and hit 1,000 yards for the season somewhere in the fourth quarter. Although if he doesn't, it would be pretty cool for him to break 1,000 at home against Wisconsin.
4. Where does Iowa have it's biggest personnel group advantage this week?
Jon: I think Iowa's defensive line could have a big week. Not necessarily in sacks, because Kellen Lewis is elusive. But the Hoosiers start three sophomores on their offensive line interior, and that has been a point of attack for opposing teams this year. Head Coach Bill Lynch voiced this aspect on Tuesday during his Big Ten teleconference. Mitch King and Matt Kroul are four year starters at defensive tackle for the Hawks, and I expect Norm Parker to run a lot of D-Line games at the inexperienced Indiana offensive line. That can also slow down an opponent's ability to run quarterback draws, something Iowa has to watch out for this week against Lewis. The pressure then falls on the defensive ends to keep their outside containment.
Rob: I think it's the front seven. Indiana is pretty green on the O-Line. I'm not sure we'll see a lot of sacks against Kellen Lewis, but he's going to find tough sledding through the Hawkeye's front. If Iowa plays assignment football to contain Lewis and Thigpen, it could be a long afternoon for the Hoosier offense.
Brian: I think the advantage is up front at the DL spot, but it will show up in the stat sheet with the linebackers. If Mitch and Co. can keep the offensive line from reaching the second level on draw plays and sweep plays, it's going to be a great day for the Hawkeyes. I think they will, opening up for..... nevermind, you'll have to wait until my pick to click.
5. Which Tyler Sash is the "real" Tyler Sash, the one we all saw flying around the field against Iowa State, or the one that bit often on play fakes and got burned against Michigan State?
Jon: I think it was easy to fly around against Iowa State, because of the field conditions. That was almost like an extra man on defense, because it took away some of the threats that Iowa State had in that contest. Sash is a young player, and he will not execute perfectly over the course of the game. The good news this week is that I don't think he is going to be needed near the box to help stop the Indiana running game. He can focus on pass coverage, and he will have his hands full there with Indiana's spread. He isn't the first young Iowa defender to get beat a few times and he won't be the last. I like his upside and athleticism.
Rob: It's probably a little of both until he gets more game reps. There's no question the kid can bring it, but he's still in the process of being aware. Shoot, Bob Sanders got sucked into play action in the Outback Bowl and he's turned out to be a pretty good player. As we go forward, we'll see more of the Iowa State Sash and less of the MSU Sash.
Brian: I think the ISU Sash is closer to the truth, at this point. Kirk is more apt to accept mistakes if they're agressive mistakes. Sash has been making agressive mistakes. It's not as if they game is too fast for him, he's just too eager to make a play. I'd be more worried about Sash if he weren't reacting to the play at all, rather than biting on play fakes and the occasional mental lapse. He's not overwhelmed by the game, that's a good thing.
6. Who is your pick to click?
Jon: Rick Stanzi. I think that Rick will show this week that he has learned a few lessons over the past two games against Big Ten teams, and he will come out and execute with fewer mistakes. That doesn't mean he is going to play a perfect game, but Indiana's only chance in this game is to load the box with eight men to stop Shonn Greene. I expect to see Iowa still try to run the ball early, but I think Iowa uses more 3x1 packages this week to lighten the box load, which is more favorable to the passing game.
Rob: I've yet to pick Shonn Greene for this spot. Better late than never, I guess. I think he might run for 300 if the Iowa coaches let him. Better defenses than Indiana's have stacked the box against him and he's just run through them all. This one won't come down to a fourth and short.
Brian: Jon suggested that this needs to become "Who is your pick to click, other than Shonn Greene?" Going with that idea, I'm going to go with Jeremiha Hunter. He's already shown he's got the ability to clean up on the edges, somewhere we'll see IU players all day long. I think he'll end up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 tackles, and a forced fumble (Kellen Lewis is an awfully thin dude...)