1. What is your favorite memory from this season?
Jon: I thought about this one quite a bit, trying to find something that wasn't as obvious as the game winning kick to beat Penn State. So I will say the entire game winning drive to beat Penn State. That entire game was really what this team represents to me; a toughness on defense, a bend but don't break mindset, getting the job done when it has to, an offense that showed efficiency and effectiveness at times, and some clutch playmakers in the growing up stage.
Rob: There were so many great plays on the field, especially several made by Shonn Greene and Mitch King. But the moment that sticks out most to me is the post-game interview with Matt Kroul after the 55-0 beatdown of Minnesota. He finally had a chance to exhale from a long season and career and he talked about not wanting to leave the field because he knew that such a special time in his life was coming to and end. That was a long way from the feeling the Hawkeyes carried with them after losing to Western Michigan in the season finale a year earlier. Kroul told me at the beginning of the season that he didn't want to leave his senior season with any regrets. He didn't.
Brian: Andy Brodell's 81-yard punt return against Iowa State. It had been so long since Iowa had that sort of huge special teams play, and to have it on such a miserable field in such an important game, was huge. Combine that with the fact that he missed nearly the entirety of last season, the fact that the offense was doing next to nothing at that point, and it was easily my favorite memory. Plus the BTN commercial with that crazy jumping up and down behind Andy in the post-game interview was pretty great, too.
2. If Iowa wins, they will likely be ranked. How important is that for the program, or is it?
Jon: I think that it's important on the recruiting trail; that is where it's most tangible, in my opinion. While there isn't much difference between team #15 and team #35 in my opinion, 17 and 18 year old kids don't know that.
Rob: It's important and not just because it's something the program can sell as an achievement. It's important if the program can use it to build upon instead of it creating a "fat cat" attitude that sprouted up after after three Top 8 finishes from 2002-04. If Iowa wins and is ranked, dealing with success will be as important as dealing with the failure of recent years.
Brian: I agree with Jon on the recruiting idea. With that ranking comes more national attention, more exposure, and more recruits looking your way. Plus, it would give the departing seniors a great sense of closure, as if they'd "brought it back."
3. Where does this team rank among teams in the Kirk Ferentz era, regular season play only?
Jon: I think it's the third best team, behind 2002 and 2003. I know that Iowa won the Big Ten in 2004, and that is still my all time favorite Iowa season, because that team won five close games, it was one dimensional and not great on offense, but the defense was one of the best in school history. I think this year's defense is one of the ten best in school history, and the offense is much better, more balanced, than it was in 2004.
Rob: I'd say fourth behind, in order, 2002, 2004 and 2003. Those teams all won at least 10 games and finished in the Top 10 nationally. We can speculate about potential and what might have been, but it's about results. And I'll make the point that this season's schedule was the easiest of the four teams up for debate.
Brian: I have to agree with Rob here, but I think the 2004 and 2008 teams are very, very close. I think if you lined up the two teams, 2008's team would win going away, simply because of how well this year's corners have played. This year's team is much more well balanced, and has been in a similar number of close contests, it just came out on the losing end a few more times.
4. So much is made of the long layoff that the Big Ten has between its regular season finale and bowl games, will the Hawks come out sluggish? Why or why not?
Jon: I don't think so, because Iowa is a run first and run often team. I think rest is good for a guy like Shonn Greene, who will be as close to 100% healthy as he has been since August I think its good for linemen. Iowa's offense is run, then play action. The play action game really isn't high precision and timing based, so I don't think the layoff will hurt Iowa. I doubt it hurts South Carolina, either.
Rob: I've always thought that this lay-off theory was overplayed. I could see if one school played the week before and the Big Ten team had a month off, but opponent usually has three to four weeks off as well. The only time that Iowa looked sluggish in a bowl under Ferentz was in the '03 Orange Bowl and that was because they it didn't prepare well enough and faced a ultra-talented USC squad. The Hawks might be rusty at the beginning of the game, but I would expect South Carolina to be in the same boat.
Brian: This year, the difference is only a week. In years past, it's been 2 weeks or more, which is where I think it really gets to you, especially when going up against an SEC team that relies more on timing and 'feel' than a rough 'n tough Big Ten squad. Although if South Carolina had ended their season a week earlier, maybe they could have hit the books a bit harder?
5. This year, the main item the players received in their bowl gift package was a Flip Mino Video Camera. What would you have picked?
Jon: Socks. That is something that you really hate to get as a child, but when you get older, you see the logic and practical nature behind giving socks as gifts. I actually bought socks the day after Christmas this year, on sale at Kohls. I chuckled at the thought of how many years I hated getting those things for Christmas. So when the Hawks grow up, they will not use their Flip camera as much as they will use their socks.
Rob: Not knowing the other choices, I would have been happy with an SLR McLaren Roadster by Mercedes Benz. If that's too much, I'll take a mint condition T206 Honus Wagner.
Brian: I just want a bowl win. I've still got 3 or 4 unspent gift cards from Christmas because I don't know what I want. I just want a bowl win.
6. Who is your pick to click?
Jon: Shonn Greene, in what will likely be his last ever game in an Iowa uniform. South Carolina's losing their leading tackler is a big, big loss.
Rob: Shonn Greene. Who else? With a month plus to heal his bumps and bruises, the human wrecking ball should be ready to rumble in his college swan song. I'll call for 150-200 on the ground with at least two touchdowns. Thanks, Shonn. It's been a pleasure.
Brian: Shonn Greene goes without saying, but for a second choice, I'll go with #43. I just want to hear that drunk guy call into Jon's show afterwards and talk up Pat Angry.