Iowa Head Coach Rick Ferentz is in his fourth year - this is the last class he didn't personally recruit. In his weekly press conference, he talked about his previous senior clases...OffenseThe 1999 senior class: that was a tough transition for everybody and I really admire those guys and the job they did. The 2000 group: they were here when we got the ball rolling a little bit. But that was also a tough year because that's when things could have started to wobble a little bit. But those guys held the fort. You think of guys like LeVar Woods and Kevin Kasper. Last year was special because we climbed another step and went over another hurdle. Hopefully this will be another step forward. - [Hawkeye Sports]Second, there's a revenge factor operating. 2 years ago, the Cats went to Kennick Stadium rolling towards another Rose Bowl appearance. They lost to a pumped up Iowa team on Senior Day. Maybe a parallel?You could draw it, certainly," Wildcats coach Randy Walker said. "But I'd really like to draw it all the way through Saturday. [Chicago Sports]Third, the Hawkeyes realize that NU is closer to being a good team that the record shows.We're facing a team that is very, very dangerous and a team that we have a lot of respect for," said Ferentz. [Hawkeye Sports] "If you look at Northwestern - the first exposure I had to them was early in the season when they were playing Ohio State in an evening telecast - they play with great emotion.And he hasn't lost sight of the difference in NU's offense when Brett Basanez is in the game...I think the big thing that stands out is when Basanez is in there, their quarterback, they are a very tough ball club. The two times that they have not been in the game, he hasn't played. Unfortunately for us, he is back in there and he did a great job on Saturday for themHe's also watching Jason Wright: They might have the best kick return team we've seen all season long. He hasn't said much about the NU defense, but then...
Ferenz' final word?They are a team that can really pose some problems for us.So on to reports from Iowa City (and beyond) about what the Cats can expect.Offensive Coordinator Ken O'Keefe had been under fire over the years for an overly conservative, some would call it "stagnant" offense. This year his efforts have the Hawks ranked #6 in the country. Randy Walker calls it a "Great Offense."
They've got what is considered the best front 5 in the Big 10 [remember "it all starts on the offensive line"]. Even NU Center Austin King is impressed.I have a great deal of respect for them, They're as good as any line I've seen this year. [Chicago Sports]The Hawks do have a musical chairs situation at running back. Fred Russell is their "big hoss." According to Randy Walker:First and formost he's very quick and very fast. But having great speed is only one component of a great running back. He has excellent instincts, vison, and he's making the right decisions with the football.But Russell's been nursing a hand injury that made it hard for him to hold the football. He's not 100% but he's healthy enough to start against the Cats.
They're doing some things that give him a chance to be good, frankly, they have a great plan on offense, but also he's just a special player ... and his power, I think one of the things that impresses me on tape, and explosiveness don't go along with a 5-8 180 pound guy.
He plays stronger and more physical than that - runs through a lot of tackles, runs through a lot of guys. He's just a very good running back. [Big 10 Teleconference]I've got some other little nagging injuries but most of those cleared up with this rest," Russell said. "Sitting out really helped my body. [Daily Iowan]Then there's last week's sensation Jermelle Lewis, who managed to get himself arrested once back in Iowa City. Ferentz is willing to let the local courts resolve the problems, and Lewis remains #2 on the depth chart behind Russell. They will be rushing against an NU defense that allows over 300 rushing yards  per game.
NU's Pass defense ranks 19th but, as several pundits have pointed out, nobody throws against NU unless they have to, and they haven't had to this year. The Hawkeyes average 192.5 yards rushing a game. Russell has 991 yds - 5.6 yds per carry, Lewis 542, 6.0 and QB Brad Banks is third leading rusher with 376 yards.
The passing game is led by Junior College transfer Brad Banks who has the Hawks averaging 192.5 yards passing a game.Walker: I don't think anyone's having a bigger year than Brad Banks, Wow! He's playing "lights out." He's able to do things athletically that gives everybody problems - its not a matter of stopping him, just slow him down a little bit. [Big 10 Teleconference]He "only" has a 110.2 QB rating. His favorite targets are
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