2008 BSD Big Ten Previews - Iowa Hawkeyes

2007 Recap

2007 Record: 6-6 (4-4)

Oh how the mighty have fallen. It seems like yesterday Iowa was capping off their third straight double-digit-win season with an impressive win over LSU in the Capital One Bowl. That is if 2004 feels like yesterday to you. In 2005 the Hawkeyes slipped to 7-5 and in 2006 they fell to 6-7 failing to live up to their lofty preseason rankings. But hey, everyone goes through rebuilding years. Certainly Ferentz would get things turned around in 2007, wouldn't he? Hello?

To say the 2007 season got off to a disappointing start would be pretty accurate. A less than impressive 16-3 win over Northern Illinois was followed up by a 35-0 win over hapless Syracuse. And then the wheels fell off the season. Narrow losses to bitter rival Iowa State and #9 Wisconsin were followed by demoralizing blowout losses to Indiana and Penn State giving Iowa eight conference losses in a row dating back to 2006 and putting the Hawkeyes at 2-4 in danger of not making a bowl game.


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Is week three too early to start thinking about next year?

 

Life was pumped back into their team against Illinois in a 10-6 win that is second only to the 6-4 instant classic win over Penn State in 2004 as the worst display of offense ever. And then they followed it up with six points against Purdue in a 25 point blowout loss. At 3-5 there was no longer any room for error, and miraculously the Hawkeyes turned it around. They found the offense knob and cranked it up to the tune of 34, 28, and 21 points in their next three games winning them all against Michigan State, Northwestern, and Minnesota. Sitting at 6-5 a win in their last game would surely cement their bowl hopes. What a great time to have MAC also-ran Western Michigan on the schedule! But this MAC team would have none of it giving the Hawkeyes an embarrassing 19-28 loss in front of the home fans. For the first time since 2000 the Hawkeyes did not go bowling.

 

Offense Preview

Offense Returns (8): QB-Jake Christensen, WR-Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, TE-Tony Moeaki, C-Rafael Eubanks, RG-Seth Olsen, LG-Dan Doering, RT-Kyle Calloway, LT-Bryan Bulaga

Offense Loses(3): RB-Albert Young, WR-James Cleveland, RB-Damian Sims

Overview

The 2007 Iowa Offense....um, wow. Take a look.

Category Actual Big Ten Rank
Rushing Offense 122 ypg 10
Passing Offense 190 ypg 10
Total Offense 316 ypg 11
Passing Efficiency 115 11
Scoring Offense 18.5 ppg 11
Sacks Allowed 3.83 11

Them's some bad numbers. If Iowa is going to get back to a bowl game they are going to have to turn that around this year.

The only thing bringing any kind of respectability to the Iowa offense last year was quarterback Jake Christensen. With absolutely no credible weapons around him he managed to pass for 2200 yards and an impressive 17:6 touchdown to interception ratio. You would think after a sophomore year like that he would be a lock to return as the starter this year, but Christensen struggled with consistency last year with his worst game coming in a 3-for-12 performance against Michigan State. Ferentz declared the quarterback position an open competion this spring with sophomore Ricky Stanzi and redshirt freshman Marvin McNutt. Jake came out of the spring as the top quarterback, but he's going to be looking over his shoulder at the quality youngsters coming up through the program behind him.

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Believe it or not, Iowa quarterbacks are competing for this privilege

Albert Young graduated after what seemed like eight seasons with the Hawkeyes. Damian Sims also departs leaving Iowa with a crew of running backs that don't have a single carry to their name. The running back competion is wide open right now between a couple of sophomores, a couple true freshmen, and a couple of junior college transfers. They may get lucky and have someone emerge as a superstar, but at this point it looks like it's going to be a platoon of two or three guys carrying the load.

Christensen returns his top receiving target in Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who caught 38 catches for 482 yards and 2 TD as a freshman. James Cleveland was dismissed from the team and takes his 36 catches and 464 yards with him. Andy Brodell returns after a leg injury forced him to miss most of 2007. Iowa is badly hoping he can return to his 2006 form when he caught 39 catches for 724 yards and 5 TD. Other than TE Tony Moeaki who caught 14 balls in an injury shortened 2007, Christensen does not have many targets to throw to this year.

But when you think of Kirk Ferentz and Iowa football you think of those big tall corn-fed offensive linemen. After an utterly disappointing 2007 in which Iowa was #114 in the nation in sacks allowed they return everyone in the two deep. But injuries to potential starters Dace Richardson and Bryan Bulaga have forced Ferentz to shuffle his lineup around in the spring. The line needs to stay healthy in order to build continuity if they are going to be successful.

 

Defense Preview

Defense Returns(5): DT-Mitch King, DT-Matt Kroul, LB-A.J. Edds, SS-Harold Dalton, FS-Brett Greenwood

Defense Loses(6): DE-Bryan Mattison, DE-Kenny Iwebema, LB-Mike Humpal, LB-Mike Klinkenborg, CB-Charles Godfrey, CB-Adam Shada

Overview

When you take into consideration the horrible offensive numbers from last year, the defensive numbers below don't look so bad.

Category Actual Big Ten Rank
Rushing Defense 122 ypg 3
Passing Defense 229 ypg 6
Total Defense 351 ypg 5
Passing Efficiency 116 4
Scoring Defense 18.8 ppg 3
Sacks 2.25 8

The defensive line was probably the strongest unit on the team and a major reason why they won the games they did. The line should be strong again with defensive tackles Mitch King (58 tkl, 14.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) and Matt Kroul (74 tkl, 2 TFL) returning for their senior seasons, but the Hawkeyes will have to replace starting defensive ends Bryan Mattison and Kenny Iwebema who combined for 23 starts, 89 tackles and 12.5 sacks a year ago. Adrian Clayborn (20 tkl, 2 sck, 2.5 TFL) and Christian Ballard (15 tkl, 2.5 sck, 4 TFL) worked in the rotation last year as freshmen and figure to assume starting roles.

The biggest hit to this defense comes at linebacker where the Hawkeyes will have to replace leading tackler Mike Humpal (123 tkl, 1 sck, 5.5 TFL, 3 INT) and Mike Klinkenborg (79 tkl, 1 sck, 3 TFL, 1 INT). Junior A.J. Edds is the only sure starter, and after that it's a wide open competition, and nothing was settled in the spring. Linebacker may be the defense's biggest liability.

Iowa is set at safety with Dalton and Greenwood returning, but they have to replace both cornerbacks. Sophomore Jordan Bernstine is a leading candidate to assume one starting spot, but he sat out the spring recovering from shoulder surgery. The other corner spot is a battle between a senior, a junior, and a junior college transfer. Two of these three guys were on the team last year and weren't good enough to start which leads me to believe they probably aren't very good. The JC transfer, Amari Spievey, is the wild card here. If he wins the spot they may be ok, but otherwise I think the Hawkeyes may struggle to protect the corners from being taken advantage of.

My overall assessment is that the defense is not going to be as good as last year. They should be pretty strong up the middle with their experienced tackles and safeties. But they have to replace both defensive ends, two linebackers, and both cornerbacks. Teams that spread the field, which is pretty much everyone these days, are going to find holes in this defense.

 

Special Teams

Punter Ryan Donahue is adequate with a 41.1 yard average and 36 yard net average. But Ferentz struggled to settle on a place kicker last year. Austin Signor had a disastrous opener which shook his confidence going forward. Freshman Daniel Murray took over the last nine games and did pretty well hitting 3-of-4 attempts over 40 yards, but then he missed two extra points so you have to wonder there.

Johnson-Koulianos took over the kick return duties mid season and averaged an impressive 23.7 yards per return. Andy Brodell averaged an impressive 14.4 yards per punt return before his injury. The Iowa punt return team was never the same after that. They will need him to return to that form this year.

 

The Schedule

Date Opponent BDS Outlook
Aug 30 Maine Win
Sept 6 Fla. International Win
Sept 13 Iowa State Probable Win
Sept 20 @ Pitt Toss Up
Sept 27 Northwestern Probable Win
Oct 4 @ Michigan State Toss Up
Oct 11 @ Indiana Probable Win
Oct 18 Wisconsin Probable Loss
Oct 25 Bye
Nov 1 @ Illinois Toss up
Nov 8 Penn State Probable Loss
Nov 15 Purdue Toss Up
Nov 22 @ Minnesota Probable Win

Missing: Michigan and Ohio State

BSD Difficulty Rating: 4 out of 10. They miss Ohio State and Michigan and get to play Wisconsin and Penn State at home. But Iowa State always seems to piss in their Wheaties, and if their win over West Virginia is any indication then Pitt should be a much better team this year. Luckily with all the yellow seats in Pittsburgh the Hawkeyes should feel right at home.

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Iowa shouldn't need a lot of silent snap counts in Pittsburgh

BSD Outlook

I don't know. I don't see any reason to believe the offense will show any improvement this year. When he was healthy, Albert Young was their most reliable weapon the past several years. Kirk Ferentz was surfing Craigslist for running backs this spring. Johnson-Koulianos could explode into a major player, or he could go into that sophomore slump. Even if he does improve, Iowa will need one or two more targets to step up and give Christensen a hand. The defense is not going to be as good as last year. They just have not had decent recruiting classes the past few years to make me think otherwise. If the offense does not improve it's going to be difficult to win many games.

But it's hard to ignore that schedule. The non-conference slate is good enough for three sure wins with Pitt being a tossup. They miss Ohio State and Michigan. Northwestern, Indiana, and Minnesota should go in the win column. They beat Michigan State and Illinois last year, so that's not out of reach, but this year they play those teams on the road. I put Purdue in the tossup column, but they shredded Iowa 31-6 last year and I think their style offense will be difficult for Iowa to match up against.

Last year Iowa lost games against Iowa State and Western Michigan that they shouldn't have. That would have put them at 8-4 and in a bowl game. This team is on par with that team, so 8-4 is not out of the question. But the offense looks weak. The defense is an unknown. And Ferentz has been dodging questions about player arrests all spring long meaning this team has a lot of distractions. I think this team will win three out-of-conference games and four conference games for a 7-5 record and a trip to the Champs Sports Bowl. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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