Iowa/Illinois Preview: 6 Questions with HN

Each week, the Jon Miller, Rob Howe, and Brian Finley sit down to talk about this week's game. See what the HN Staff had to say about Arrelious Benn, Shonn Greene, Jason Ford, Ron Zook, and more in this week's installment of 6 questions.

1. Who will have more yards, Arrelious Benn or Shonn Greene, and why?

Jon:  I will go with Shonn Greene.  I think that he will top 125 yards again, and I think Benn winds up with about 95.  Benn might break one for 40 or more, however.  I just hope he is held in check on kickoff returns.  If we were talking all purpose yards, I would take Benn.

Rob: It will be close. And the only reason it will be close is because Benn gets return yards. I still will give the edge to Greene. I don't think the Illinois defense is physical enough to stop him. Benn's production is predicated on what his quarterback can do and if the offensive line can block the Iowa rush. Greene just has to take the ball and hope the O-line can give him some cracks. Once he gets to the next level, he can do some serious damage.

Brian: I'm going to go with an exact tie, but with the same logic Rob uses. I see Benn getting around 70 yards through the air, but toss another 80 in returns, with Shonn Greene piling up exactly 150 on the ground.

2. Will Ron Zook make it through this game without a questionable coaching decision (similar to last year's gift of an extra third down)?

Jon: As much as I like piling on The Zooker, and you know that I do, he isn't the one making all of the decisions.  The declining of penalties and the such, I guess that falls under his control.  But I will look forward to several Zook cutaways on TV Saturday, and place the over/under on how many times he jacks with the microphone of his headphones at 6.

Rob: I think there are questionable decisions made by coaches every weekend. Some of the ones made by the Iowa coaches at Pittsburgh remain head-scratchers. The ones from Zook just seem to stick out a bit more, especially against Iowa. I find it hard to believe that he'll go an entire 60 minutes without someone questioning one of his decisions. And it's probably likely that a lot of people will question at least one. 

Brian:I'm just going to paste in a quote from my pre-season magazine prediction. "I think they'll come into Champaign and do what Kirk Ferentz does to Ron Zook, just find a way to win. Zook will do something that boggles the mind (turn down a penalty, bench press a referee, something to give the message baorders a kick.) My money is that Zook will go for two in an effort to 'win the game' and fail."

3. Eight games into the season, what are your opinions of Iowa's play at the wide receiver position?

Jon: This hasn't been an area of great strength for Iowa during the Kirk Ferentz era, but in most years they are serviceable.  I would use that term again this year; serviceable.  Their lack of consistent big playmaking ability has been offset with exceptional blocking.  It's easier to block to the whistle when your offensive line is clicking and you have a Heisman caliber running back.

Rob: It's better than last season and still improving. They haven't been asked to do a lot with the unrest at QB to start the year and the emergence of Shonn Greene. Also, Iowa is gifted at tight end, which pushes the receivers down the list of options. They have made plays when they've had to in the passing game. I think their biggest improvement has come in blocking. They've done a nice job there and it's been important in springing Greene for bigger runs.

Brian: Catching the ball has certainly improved a ton. It seems that route running has improved, but Ricky Stanzi might be able to attest to that more than myself. The biggest area has been down-field blocking, that's improved a ton. Even thought DJK may not be getting as involved in the passing game as some would like, he's constantly feeling Shonn Greene running up his back 15 yards down the field, and that's great to see.

4. If Saturday's game comes down to special teams, who has the advantage?

Jon: Illinois has missed four field goals this year, and Trent Mossbrucker has been more consistent.  Iowa's punting game is better than Illinois' but the Illini have a big advantage on kickoff returns with Benn.  That being said, Illinois' kickoff return team has not been stellar.  I call this one even, with the slight nod going to the Hawkeyes for being a more disciplined team.

Rob: There's no doubt in my mind that this game could come down to this phase. Iowa ranks second in the conference on kick coverage, Illinois rates third in kick returns. The Hawkeyes are fourth in punt returns. The Illini are ninth. The visitors definitely have an advantage at punter with Ryan Donahue and kicker with Trent Mossbrucker. Illinois has the most dangerous return man in Arrelious Benn. I think it's close only because Illinois is home, but I give a slight edge to Iowa. 

Brian: I'm going to go with Iowa here. Illinois has a terrible kick return defense, giving up almost 25 yards per return, which isn't good news, as Jewel Hampton has been one or two blocks from breaking one for the past few weeks. I think he gets that done this week, giving this one to Iowa.

5. Jason Ford committed and decommitted (or something like that) to Iowa a few times last recruiting season. Do you think the Hawkeye players pay any attention to that? If they do, are they motivated to put one on him if given the chance?

Jon: I don't think they pay much attention to it, but I am sure they remember it.  And I don't know that an Iowa defense needs any extra motivation to 'put one on someone'; these guys are playing like the Bullies of the Big Ten of days gone by, which is great to see. 

Rob: Although they would never admit it, I'm sure they would like to notch Ford given a chance to do so. I don't think they'd go after him bounty-style, but it would mean more to put a lick on him than just any running back. It's a matter of school pride. The Iowa players are at Iowa because they love it there. Ford pledged his allegiance to join them and then backed out. That means something.

Brian: If Jason Ford had stayed committed, it's very likely a guy like Jewel Hampton wouldn't be here at Iowa. Hampton was wooed to Iowa City based on the lack of experience returning and the fact that there had been no other verbal commitments at RB (other than Nate Guillory) in that season. I agree with Rob though, Hawkeyes have a ton of school pride, and don't take kindly to being seen as a fallback school.

6. Who is your pick to click?

Jon: Allen Reisner.  Wisconsin's tight ends had about 10 catches against the Illini last week, and Brandon Myers has to be on Illinois' scouting report in red letters.  Enter Reisner who has shown great hands this year and might get overlooked..  Plus, it gets boring picking Shonn Greene each week.  Then again, being right shouldn't be boring.

Rob: I'm going to stay away from Shonn Greene this week, although I see him putting up the most eye-popping numbers. If Iowa is going to win this game, it's going to come down to making Juice Williams ineffective. It will be very important for the line to contain and the linebackers to stay home. I think Mitch King is playing some of his best football right now and will do some damage in Champaign.

Brian: Jewel Hampton. I think he finally breaks one open on kickoffs this week, maybe even in the first half. Combine that with 40-50 yards on the ground spelling Shonn Greene, and he'll be a difference maker as the Hawks look to shorten this game up with a power running attack.


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