After back to back losses the Hawkeyes are looking to get back in the win column this weekend when they travel to Indiana. The Hawkeye Roundtable is back for their weekly look at the Iowa Football team, examining the Hawkeye defense, the play of Damon Bullock at running back, and we give our weekly predictions and picks to clicks.
1. Defensively, Iowa has given up 215 yards on the ground to Penn State, followed by 349 last weekend against Northwestern. Obviously a cause for concern at this point. What can be done to plug up opposing rushing attacks?
MIKE ZIERATH: Stop playing teams with good ground games? Man, if I had the answer to this one question, I probably wouldn't be writing in the Roundtable, however..........I think is appears pretty simple to me. They can't lose contain. They have to force those runners inside so other bodies can clean up. It seems such a simple thing. I remember a game once, back in the late 70's, where an OLB was forced into the DE position because a certain DE couldn't do that one little thing. That little LB couldn't either. It really isn't as simple as it might seem. That little LB was me. I got killed all night. Thank god I never got asked to play DE ever again. So, contain, followed with a very heavy dose of speed. It is apparent to me that the Iowa defense, not counting Micah Hyde, is about a step slow in getting to where they need to be. That and they don't often take the best angles. Keep working at it. Like anything else, it will just get easier the more they do it. And, after typing all this, I may have hit on the reason young Mr. Ott saw some action last week. He apparently has shown a propensity to do what I described? I hope so!
TOM KAKERT: Not sure there is a lot that can be done at this point in the season. Roth, Clayborn, Klug, and King aren't walking through that door. I think we all knew that the defense, especially the defensive line, was a huge concern heading into the season. Reese Morgan has done a terrific job and has probably got about as much as he could expect to get from this group. They were really playing well a few weeks ago and now I wonder if they have simply hit the wall. There's just not a lot of speed up front and that leads to containment issues. We saw that last week against Northwestern. We have also seen linebackers getting caught in the wash and taking bad angles. Classic example of that was the near 99 yard run by Mark last week.
LYLE HAMMES: Time. It's going to take time for the defensive linemen we have to improve. Unfortunately, that's not something we have with only four weeks left. You can't make young d-linemen like Carl Davis suddenly play like an experienced senior. You can't get over the fact that Gaglione has hardly played until this year. We all saw this coming. Frankly, our d-line probably overachieved in a few games. The last two weeks, they've gone the other way. This is going to be an up-and-down season for the d-line. Right now they're on a downward trend. Stick around - it may change again.
JON LAZAR: To be honest, I really do not know the answer nor do any of us on this panel. Personally, IOWA may have to do more twists, and blitzes try to outguess INDIANA where we may get lucky on 7 out of ten calls... I think it becomes a better by RISK scenario, and that is why I think we have to do take more chances defensively. That is the best I can think of with the state of the Defense this year... but, it may be something we need to do to not be this vulnerable Defense we have become.
2. Damon Bullock returned this past weekend and was one of the few bright spots. How did he look from your perspective and do you go with him over Weisman once he returns?
MIKE ZIERATH: I thought he looked quicker, more agile, and actually, fast at times. He shook off some early rust and got his hundred. I said it once, I'll say it again, go with the hot hand. If you have a back that is doing the job, let him do it. Weisman has proven he is more than capable when healthy. Give him some time to heal and you have two solid options.
TOM KAKERT: If there is one bright spot for the Hawkeyes this year it has been at running back because I think they have found two guys that are more than capable. Although, I do think there is some plug and play to the Iowa run game. Once Weisman comes back, I really do like the idea of a thunder and lightning package and maybe Iowa would go old school with some split back sets. Long term, I think Bullock is the guy. He has a better burst and really runs the zone scheme the way you need to, with patience.
LYLE HAMMES: I really like the way Bullock runs, and he's much quicker than I remember him last year. Early in the season I compared him to Mike Saunders and I still think that. Just prior to the Mike Saunders era, we had the combination of Tony Stewart and Nick Bell - two able running backs who presented completely different challenges. I think you play Bullock and Weisman in the same manner. Now, I'm not saying Weisman will be Big Ten MVP like Bell was, but alternate them as Hayden Fry did. It keeps them fresh and gives the defense very different looks.
JON LAZAR: I think he was as expected. He was fresh and healthy. He is very talented, and I am sure was eager to get back into the action. Not only for the fans point of view, but the pressure you as a player put on yourself to play to get back in your teams good graces. Players see who plays, who sits, who is always hurt. In looking how I would use the backs, I believe I would use both Weisman, when he is healthy again, and Bullock as they both do great things. Any Defense prepares for a power back, then a shifty back comes in, it does throw the Defense off.
3. Kirk Ferentz coached teams have traditionally played their best football in November. What is your November outlook for this team? Do you see them becoming bowl eligible by winning two more games?
MIKE ZIERATH: Once again, I just don't know. When this team plays well, they play really well. When they don't, they are pretty bad. There isn't a lot of in between on this Hawkeye squad. November has arrived though, and they seem to be trying to pull things together. As much as I'd like to say yes, they will get two more and become bowl eligible, I can't. They haven't shown enough at this point to make a statement like that.
TOM KAKERT: Really don't enjoy saying this, but it's hard to find a way to Iowa getting to six wins without a victory this weekend. You hate to say any game is a must win because every game is a must win coming into it, but this one is really big for this team for a lot of reasons. If Iowa doesn't win this weekend, it's hard to find a way to six with games at Michigan and hosting Nebraska in the final two weeks of the season. This is the point where we all look back to that Central Michigan game and continue to wonder how something like that ever happens. If Iowa wins this week, I think they beat the sinking ship that is Purdue next week and get bowl eligible, so there's a bit of sunshine for Iowa fans.
LYLE HAMMES: Probably. Maybe. Well, ask me after Saturday. In all seriousness, if they lose to Indiana, they will clearly have their backs against the wall trying to get to 6-6. The remaining schedule is getting short. Beyond Indiana, you have Purdue, at Michigan, and finally Nebraska. They will be hard-pressed to win two of those three. I do think they will play some of their better football in November, but they'll have to simply stay in a couple of these games. When everyone counts Iowa out, that's when they surprise you. Right now there are a lot of people counting Iowa out. I'm optimistic and look forward to seeing what they can do.
JON LAZAR: Well, I really hate to say this, but I believe this question is a good one as many of the Iowa fans see the schedule, and understand that the next 4 games are nowhere easy. Actually, Iowa will be the underdog the rest of the year. Indiana has a potent attack, Purdue has shown they can play and complete with the good teams, and Michigan and Nebraska are a class above Iowa at this time. I think this may be the worse November an Iowa team has experienced in years.
4. Indiana is averaging 34 points per game and over 400 yards of total offense. Given Iowa's struggles on offense, what's the path to a win for the Hawkeyes this weekend?
MIKE ZIERATH: Score more points than Indiana. Pretty simple. Do what you can do to stop them, be opportunistic and above all else, make good in game decisions both on the sidelines and on the field of play.
TOM KAKERT: Iowa has to control the football and the clock this week. Iowa's best defense is a grinder offense. I know Iowa fans want to see the high scoring shootout type game, but let's be honest, the Hawkeyes aren't built for that this year. Iowa has to run the football and spin the clock. That's not sexy, but every minute you can keep the Indiana on the sidelines watching is a bit of a victory. Plan on seeing a lot of Damon Bullock running the football this weekend. Go back to the Michigan State win over Indiana, where they trailed early and came back to win, Bell ran the ball 37 times that day. I think we see Bullock go 30 times on Saturday unless Iowa falls behind big.
LYLE HAMMES: Play inspired football. With the exception of the 4th quarter in 2009, too many times recently we've simply looked flat against Indiana (the atmosphere at Indiana doesn't help - it's pretty lifeless itself). We've played down to the competition. Right now there isn't as much of a talent difference as there has been, so nothing besides an inspired Iowa team will get the job done. As always, a little luck in the turnover and penalty department would help.
JON LAZAR: Iowa has to slow this game down. The first thing I think of with any potent team is to keep their offense off the field. With this Indiana team, if Iowa get a stop and forces a punt, consider that a huge win. Then, the Offense has to play total ball control. They have to be smart, and get the 3rd and 2 verses into that deadly 3rd and long Iowa has seen this entire year. Slow the pace...run Bullock and get into those makeable first downs. I see that as our only chance, because we have not gotten into a shoot-out with any team this year. It has been a struggle game after game this entire year.
5. The Hoosiers defense is giving up a lot of yards this season and is ranked 12th in total defense. Is this the week James Vandenberg finally gets going at quarterback?
MIKE ZIERATH: Yeah, I'm just not sure the defense can keep Indiana from going too. I think this is going to be a barn burner and one of these teams is going to score quite a bit. Just not sure which one.
TOM KAKERT: No disrespect to Vandenberg, but I've kind of given up guessing when everything might come together for the Iowa passing game. At this point if it does, it would be a surprise. Doesn't mean it can't or won't happen, but it would be a surprise if it does. As far as this weekend and the Indiana defense, opportunity knocks and it knocks hard once again. Having said that, as I mentioned earlier, I think the best way to win this week might be on the ground. Spin the clock and keep the Indiana offense on the sidelines. One note, Indiana is giving up a lot of yards in the air, but they are giving up more on the ground. I do think the play action game will be there for Iowa this weekend.
LYLE HAMMES: If our passing game doesn't succeed in Bloomington, it may not this year. Here's where I don't get our play against Indiana, Iowa State, and Northwestern the last ten years. So many times, these three teams have very porous defenses. Yet, they'll make Iowa scratch and claw to score 20+ points. The next week, ISU/IU/NU will give up 50 points to lesser competition. I don't get it. Focus, execute, and play aggressive. That's the formula, but it's easier said than done right now.
JON LAZAR: Well, any Iowa fan would have expected James to come out all year, and we have not seen good chemistry between he as his receivers period... Something has just been off this year offensively, and overall, I have to say, the play calling has not been that bad. We have seen dropped balls, missed passes, terrible 3rd down decisions on who James has thrown to. It has been a tough year for him, so anything he does positively will help this team. He has to show that he is ON, and can be a leader. He has to be confident and take control. That has to come from within, so the pressure is on James to make this happen. I hope he can come through and start playing like we expected him to play. He has the talent. We will need him to be ON these next 4 games. Not a time to fold the tents, and it has to start with the Quarterback... Stay with James the rest of the year.
6. Prediction time. Final score of Iowa/Indiana and your pick to click.
MIKE ZIERATH: As I pointed out a couple weeks ago, the Northwestern and Indiana games have been tough on me over the years. I noticed that it was probably because I was always picking the Hawks and then they would blow a game they probably shouldn't. Well, I have them as dogs this time, so going with the home team. Indiana 42, Iowa 31. My pick to click will be Damon Bullock.
TOM KAKERT: Hate to say this is a must win for the Hawkeyes, but if there is one, this is it. Honestly the next two weeks are because you don't want to go into the final two games needing one or two to become bowl eligible. I think it's fair to say Iowa probably can't win a shootout. They have to play this one in the 20's to have a shot. I think it will stay in the 20's, but probably not enough. Indiana 27 Iowa 24. Pick to click this week is Damon Bullock. I think he goes for at least 150 and two scores.
LYLE HAMMES: I'll go with Kevonte Martin-Manley as my pick to click. It's time for him to see the end zone again. I think this game is going to be close, as I don't see a repeat of the last two weeks. Yet, I'm having a hard time rationalizing an Iowa win here. Indiana has improved, but they're still Indiana, and prone to playing a stinker of a game. I just don't see it coming this week. Indiana 30-Iowa 28.
JON LAZAR: INDIANA 34 IOWA 28
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