Call Iowa's 2009 season lucky if you want, winning four games by three points or less before October 13, but give the Hawkeyes credit, earning a 10-point win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl to cap off an 11-2 season.
It could have been better, had Ricky Stanzi not gotten hurt and had to watch helplessly from the sideline as the Hawkeyes blew chances in back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Ohio State. As mediocre as his numbers were, those two games show that Stanzi is the pulse of that offense and the Hawkeyes good when he goes.
The junior threw 2,417 yards with 17 touchdowns to 15 interceptions, but Stanzi showed his toughness in the Orange Bowl, coming back from the sprained right ankle to throw for 231 yards and two scores. He did make a costly pick-six, but Stanzi is 18-4 as a starter. You can't deny those numbers, even though he'll never be confused for a flashy, ultra-consistent quarterback.
Although his loses three linemen, including Green Bay left tackle Bryan Bulaga, Stanzi does have some weapons around him. Adam Robinson will look to build on his 834 yards he gained during his freshman season. Iowa does return its two main receiving targets, as well, as Derrell Johnson-Koullanos (45 catches, 750 yards, 2 TDs) and Marvin McNutt (34 catches, 674 yards, 8 TDs) will give Stanzi some familiar options.
Don't be fooled though. No matter what the Hawkeyes have on offense, Iowa will be known for its defense, which finished tenth in the nation overall, eighth in scoring defense and fourth in pass defense.
Only losing two starters, including senior linebacker Pat Angerer, senior Adrian Clayborn is one of the best linemen in the conference, tallying 63 tackles and 11 sacks to earn All-Big Ten honors. Junior Tyler Sash and his 85 tackles, six interceptions from last season will be a player to keep an eye on at all times.
The Hawkeyes, along with the Buckeyes, are considered a preseason top 10 team and a contender for another BCS bowl bid. Playing just two road games in the first eight and hosting Ohio State, Penn Stat and Wisconsin all at home, Iowa, thanks to its defense, has a good chance to get there. The Badgers are on pace for a great season, but this game will be a challenge to win.
If you go
Date/Time - Saturday, October 23 at TBA
Arena – Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City
Series – Iowa leads 42-41-2
Last Meeting – Iowa beat Wisconsin, 20-10, October 17, 2009 in Madison
Early Prediction - Iowa 23, Wisconsin 20