Know Thy Opponent 2011: Iowa Hawkeyes

IOWA CITY IA - NOVEMBER 20: Running back Marcus Coker #34 of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes celebrates with his teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second half of play at Kinnick Stadium on November 20 2010 in Iowa City Iowa. Ohio State won 20-17 over Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images).

And so the hatred comes to the fore. Forget Indiana-Purdue, Ohio State-Michigan, or even the new heroes game. Here is a rivalry so bitter that Jim Delaney himself ordered a two-year cooling off period in 2009 and 2010 as he feared it would spill over into an all-out war. Our rampaging armies of engineers would spill across the state of Illinois while our school of aviation would battle clones of Nile Kinnick resurrected by the necromancy department of the Iowa Med School in the skies over Chicago. Eventually, our nuclear engineering department would have to nuke Iowa City. Remember that folks: We (especially reader Boilernuke) can make The Bomb.

Iowa has always been bitter that Neil Armstrong would kick Nile Kinnick's ass (and twice as high on the moon). They envy our superior corn and vibrant nightlife in West Lafayette. They envy that we have the majestic gold in our color scheme as opposed to something that looks like some kind of oozing discharge as a result of a tropical disease. It is a battle that cannot be ignored, and that is why Delaney protected it as a cross-division rivalry.

Well kids, you finally get a shot at our program this year. Let's see what you can do.

2010 Record: 8-5, 4-4

Bowl result: Won Insight Bowl 27-24 over Missouri

Blog Representation: Black Heart Gold Pants

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 45-33-3

Last Purdue win: 10/20/2007 31-6 at Purdue

Last Iowa win: 11/15/2008 22-17 at Iowa

Last Season for the Hawkeyes

It was supposed to be big season with Ricky Stanzi coming back after they won the Orange Bowl, but an early season loss at Arizona led to a mediocre 4-4 Big Ten record. After an 18-13 win at Indiana, Iowa was still well within the Big Ten race at 4-1, but they dropped three straight to Northwestern, Ohio State, and Minnesota. It was definitely an up and down year. They waxed Michigan State 31-6 but lost to Minnesota. They lost by a point to Wisconsin, but struggled against Indiana. All five losses were within 7 points or less, but it is clear this team lost some momentum at the end of the regular season.

This year Iowa is one of the few Big Ten teams with two BCS conference schools on its non-conference slate with Iowa State and Pittsburgh. They have road trips to both State College and Lincoln, so it is safe to say we wouldn't be a big road game if not for the raw, seething hatred Delaney had to protect.

Iowa Offense:

First things first: Iowa must replace Stanzi who loved American and might have just been the man that killed bin Laden according to many Iowa fans. He was solid as a passer with 25 TDs and over 3,000 yards, but the cupboard is not totally bare. James Vandenberg saw quite a bit of action back in 2009. He barely played last year, going only 5 of 8 for 45 yards and a touchdown. John Wienke was originally recruited by Michigan, but switched to Iowa and has played sparingly before this his junior season. These two will likely battle for the starting job going into the season, with redshirt freshman A.J. Derby also getting into the mix. Vandenberg is the favorite according to BHGP.

As much as God hates the knees of Robert Marve, Ralph Bolden, and Robbie Hummel, he hates the any Iowa running back even more. Marcus Coker came out of nowhere to run for 219 yards and two touchdowns in the Insight Bowl against Missouri. He was the fourth option after Jewel Hampton got hurt and Adam Robinson was suspended. Now he is the most experienced back. Mika'il McCall and Jordan Canzeri are both solid freshman who can play early. Don't be surprised if Jason White, mostly a special teamer until now, becomes the next great Iowa back.

With a relatively inexperienced backfield it may be up to the receivers to carry Iowa early on. Marvin McNutt will be a solid go-to guy with 53 catches for 861 yards and eight touchdowns. He will take a turn on Ricardo Island in this game. Keenan Davis (11-131-1) will be on the other side against Josh Johnson. Brad Herman will return as a senior tight end after catching nine passes for 154 yards last year. The rest of the receivers don't have a ton of experience, but Iowa has been known to spread the ball around a bit.

Iowa's offensive line did not have to face The Kerrigan last year and only gave up 20 sacks as a result. Riley Reiff is the building block at left tackle as he'll be the experienced linesman protecting the backside of the quarterback. He has 21 starts and was second team All-Big Ten last year. Kirk Ferentz' son James Ferentz will start at the center position and he has all-Big Ten possibilities. Markus Zusevics will likely man the other tackle position. Adam Gettis and Nolan MacMillan are excellent guards, but both battled injuries in 2010.

Iowa Defense

With some inexperience at the skill positions it will be up to the Iowa defense to carry the day for awhile. They should be able to do so with a run defense that was sixth in the nation. It did not generate much of a pass rush, however. Broderick Binns was good against the run, but did not register a sack. Lebron Daniel takes over at one of the end positions but there are not big things expected from him. Mike Danieels and Thomas Nardo are good tackles, but they could not get into the backfield with consistency last fall.

Middle linebacker James Morris had an excellent true freshman season and he looks like the next great Iowa linebacker. He had 70 tackles with a sack last season and finished fourth on the team in stops. Tyler Nielson is a senior that battled injuries and played in only eight games, but was solid. The other outside spot will be taken by Anthony Hitchens or Christian Kirksley.

If Purdue can improve its passing game it should be able to move the ball through the air a little. Iowa gave up just 12 touchdowns through the air, but 231 yards per game gave the secondary a bit of a blemish. Shaun Prater will try to be their Ricardo Allen analogue with four interceptions and six pass breakups last year. Micah Hyde also had four picks to go with 82 tackles on the other side. Two of his picks were also returned for scores. Where The Boilers should find room is over the middle, as Hyde often had to play safety and Tanner Miller is far from set at the position. Jordan Bernstine is a safety that came in with a lot of hype but he also couldn't stay healthy. Really, it seems like Iowa is a team that has battled injuries as much as we have.

Iowa Special Teams:

Mike Meyer had an excellent year at kicker, hitting 14 of 17 field goals. He only had a long of 42 yards. Eric Guthrie, a senior, will be the new full-time punter.

In the return game Iowa must replace both spots, with McNutt likely doing punts and Keenan Davis taking kickoffs. Iowa was excellent in punt coverage at less than four yards per kick, but we rarely return punts anyway. They were also good on kickoffs at just 21.1 yards per return.

Game Outlook:

I like our chances in this game. Iowa has talent, but this is an inexperienced team on offense and on defense they have a bunch of guys that have never been able to stay healthy. That should be beneficial to us in a game that we might absolutely need for bowl eligibility. Our game is sandwiched in between games against divisional favorites Michigan State and Nebraska. It should be a game where we can take advantage of being at home and playing against a team that might be a little beat up.

Once again, the key is our offense. I am confident we can have a good defensive game against them, especially if they are still in the midst of a quarterback battle. The sooner that they figure that position out, the better they will be. The fact that no one among three guys has stepped forward is not a good sign.

As good as Iowa's run defense is we're going to need to throw the ball some. Justin Siller and O.J. Ross could be big in this game, as will Gabe Holmes or whoever takes over at tight end. If we have at least five wins by this point we're going to be a pretty confident football team looking to lock up a bowl bid early.

Prediction:

I've felt good about this game for some time. Normally Iowa is a solid team, but they have a number of question marks on both sides of the football. The talent is there, but I don't know if the cohesion is. I wish it was an earlier game in the season because of that. Even then, I think we squeeze out a tough win at home. Purdue 27, Iowa 21.

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