Miller: 101 Days Until Kickoff

Can the Iowa Hawkeyes go 10-2 or better this year? HN Publisher Jon Miller gives you five reasons why that can happen, plus a look at Iowa basketball's overseas trip in this grab bag offering from

It's 101 days until football season…just 101 days!


The 2009 Iowa football season, from the first Saturday to the last, is 77 days long.  If Iowa would play in a January 1 bowl game this year, the season would be 118 days long.  Now, all of this is trivial, I know, but for me, it underscores just how close we are getting to the start of football season.  Which around these parts, these days, is pretty much a state holiday.


The tom-toms are already beating out on the world wide web with regards to the upcoming season, and where writers and fans alike believe Iowa will wind up when things kick off in September.


Athlon ranked Iowa #23 in the nation in its Top 25 poll, whereas Mark Schlabach from ESPN has the Hawks checking in at #19 in his post spring practice poll back on May 15th.  I will be shocked if Iowa is unranked in any poll, and still believe some outlets could rank them as high as 15, which might be a tad bit of a stretch.  Then again, after having just put our 2009 Iowa Football Preview Issue of Hawkeye Nation magazine to bed, you may find that statement doesn't reconcile with my thoughts on this upcoming season.  That issue should hit your mailbox in early June, about the time the other college football magazines hit the newsstands.  Plus, Hawkeye Nation will be on the newsstand of most major book store retailers in the state of Iowa, too.


I think Iowa can finish 10-2 or better this year, and if three of the following five things happen, they will (in no order):


ONE:  Dace Richardson is healthy and can give 100% effort.  That could make a huge, huge difference for the Iowa offense this year.  I remain skeptical that is possible, but at least he made it through spring camp without any serious setbacks.  He still had a lot of rust on the tires, but he was out there.  If he can play at one guard, that could give Iowa more flexibility in the trenches, and certainly, more depth.  I still don't think this line will be as good as last year's, due to the once in a decade performance at center that was turned in by Rob Bruggeman.  But Rafael Eubanks has two years of starting experience, and if Richardson can go, perhaps Iowa can experiment with others at that position if Eubanks isn't up to the task. 


TWO:  Marvin McNutt AND one of Iowa's true freshmen receivers breaks through in camp and can be consistent.   Trey Stross is reliable, at least when he is on the field, but that is hardly a given.  DJK showed flashes of brilliance last year, but there is something in his overall makeup that got him demoted in the spring, and it ain't ability.  Marvin McNutt has really been turning heads and making big strides, and he will be a big target on the edge.  If Keenan Davis or Jordan Cotton can come in and be a serious threat in August, the Hawkeyes could have one of the sneaky-best talented groups in the league at this position. 


THREE:  Rick Stanzi keeps it simple.  Iowa's offense is set up to keep it simple, at least in football parlance, although as much as people want to believe the offense is predictable or people know what is coming, I am not buying that anymore.  When the offensive line is clicking, Iowa has about three or four counter plays they can run off of every straight running play.  There are so many nuances that we just don't know about, and when we uncover one of those, it still doesn't mean it's simple.  Try stopping it last year.  Stanzi just needs to stay out of his own way this year, and he should be better at understanding what plays are best to either check out of, or just get out of.  No turnovers in the redzone would be a good place to start.  Remember, redzone ineffectiveness killed Iowa in three of their four losses…and all of those losses came by a combined 12 points. 


FOUR:  One of Ballard or Clayborn moves inside to defensive tackle and plays like he belongs there.   I like Karl Klug, as he has a great motor.  I love Broderick Binns for the same reason.  I think they are two of the four best defensive linemen Iowa can put on the field, but Binns cannot play inside.  I think Ballard or Clayborn can, when Iowa wants to go 4-3, which is what it does most of the time.  I think before all is said and done, perhaps rolling it out for the Iowa State game, or maybe at Penn State, the Hawks will move one of these two inside.


FIVE:  Either Danny Murray or Trent Mossbrucker nails down the placekicker job with an exclamation point.  That didn't happen last year, that didn't happen this spring, although when the money was on the table, Kirk Ferentz went with Murray last year.  No great Iowa team that I can remember missed a rash of field goal attempts; the Hawkeye program does not have that luxury.


Give me three of these five things answered in the affirmative, and I think the Hawks go 10-2.  If I had my pick, I'd take the Richardson, Clayborn/Ballard and Stanzi components. 


Hawkeye Hoops


In looking at the box score from Iowa's first game overseas, a few things jumped out at me.


Aaron Fuller & Jarryd Cole combine for 27 boards.  Very nice.  As a team, Iowa outrebounded their opponent 53-33.  That is always good, but I have no idea as to what level of talent they faced in ‘Basket Ferentino'.  I mean, if you scrimmage Iowa City West and outrebound them by 20, that's not that big of a deal, so who knows.  Yet, when you are playing inferior talent, which Iowa clearly was playing, you must dominate.


Iowa was just 11-38 from three point range, but this game was played not too long after Iowa hit the foreign soil. 


One thing that stood out to me was that John Lickliter had 10 shot attempts.  Now, that's not going to happen in November, and were Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson still on the team, ‘Little Lick's' minutes would have been no where near 23.  Try three.  This isn't a knock on John; Iowa is shorthanded and they need every able body on this trip.  More bodies are on the way next year, but just one guard, so this was a thin team.


Should Iowa have postponed this trip for another year, so they would have had a better, larger compliment of players?  If that were an option, it probably should have been explored.




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