The Hawkeyes hit the road for the final time in this season and travel to Michigan. Revenge will be on the mind of the Wolverines, who have lost three straight to the Hawkeyes. The Hawkeye Roundtable talks about the revenge aspect of this weekend, if there should be a youth movement in Iowa City, and we discuss the coordinators performance this season.
1. Another disappointing defeat, this time to a Purdue team that had lost five in a row coming into the game. That makes four in a row. Is this the worst stretch of football under Kirk Ferentz since the 1999 season?
MIKE ZIERATH: No. Those losses were expected. The 2006 season was the worst. 2012 will be a very close second, but that 2006 team was far more talented than the record showed. No way should they have started 5-1 and ended up where they did. Reminded me a lot of the 1997 team, which disappointed a lot of fans. 2006 disintegrated right before our eyes into something I thought we might never seen under Ferentz again. This team, while not that good, is a completely different animal from that 2006 squad. This one lacks play makers. The 2006 team had them, they just didn't play together.
TOM KAKERT: I think it's pretty close simply because it's a real slide downwards at the end of the year. I look back at the end of the 2000 season and I think a lot of Iowa fans felt that team was coming on fairly strong. Even the end of the 1999 season, you saw an Iowa team fighting hard. This team is fighting and playing hard. Maybe the best comparison is the end of the 2006 season or parts of the 2007 season. Whatever it is, this isn't good football right now. It's a struggle to score points and a struggle to stop opponents.
LYLE HAMMES: I would actually say 2006 into 2007 was just as bad. In 2006, we lost six of the last seven games and seven of the last nine. That was followed up by not making a bowl game in 2007 for the first time since 2000. Right now, we're possibly looking at a 4-8 record, which is the worst since 2000. Nobody is happy about 4-8. Nobody. But do you throw out the Iowa coaching staff which has finished in the top ten four out of the last 11 seasons? They've been here before. The 2000 and 2007 teams have something else in common - they were each two years away from a BCS game. Things can turn around quickly, just like they have before.
JON LAZAR: I don't believe even he thought IOWA would be where they are today. They just have not played well, and we have not seen an Iowa team in years without an Offensive attack. At least a consistent Offensive attack. I would say it is probably the worst run he has had, and probably the least expected one as well.
JOHN KERTH: There were some bad stretches during the '06 and '07 seasons that had people asking the same questions they are now: has Ferentz lost the team, has the game past him by, is it time to make a change, etc. There is a different feel to this team, however. This team and these losses feel much more like the 2000 team to me than they do the 2006 or 2007 teams. This isn't just a case of a talented team underperforming or having internal issues. Iowa just doesn't have the depth or talent level to overcome the injuries and defections that have taken place.
2. At this point in the season with Iowa's bowl hopes extremely slim, do you go with a youth movement and play younger players, particularly at quarterback?
MIKE ZIERATH: I really think that you are past the point of making that decision. If you were going to do that, it should have been done a couple games ago. Now.....just go with Vandenberg and if you find a reason to pull him and let someone else take a crack at it, do it. As a staff, I'm pretty sure they already know if there is a capable replacement and who that is. My guess is it's probably Sokol and they don't want to burn the redshirt. Everyone talks about Ruddock, but really, Sokol is the only player with any game time experience on the squad other than Vandy. If I'm looking at who can help, I think you really probably need to look in his direction. I'm guessing, unless James suffers some sort of injury, we won't know anything more till next fall.
TOM KAKERT: Ah, the age old question of the backup quarterback. Well, here's the deal, this season Ferentz has pulled more than a few guys. Ask Tommy Donatell if Kirk Ferentz is afraid of a youth movement. Ask your leading tackler, Anthony Hitchens, if Ferentz is afraid to go to the bullpen. Do I think the Hawkeyes should start a bit of a youth movement? Sure. I think at this point you play for the future. Having said that, and I know I'll get hammered for this, I think you keep playing Vandenberg. Coaches aren't always right or always perfect, but does anyone, I mean anyone, honestly think that if Ferentz and his staff felt that going the backup route was potentially an improvement that they wouldn't have done it already? I think we have to take him at his word on this one, especially since he has made changes at other positions.
LYLE HAMMES: I think you've seen that at least in the defensive backfield, with Nico Law now starting for Donatell. You've seen it some in the offensive line, but simply out of necessity with Scherff getting hurt. Jake Rudock should have played a couple times already, particularly against Penn State. To answer your question, yes, you get Rudock in the game and look at others also. You don't burn up redshirts with two games left, but people like Tevaun Smith who have played some need to get the ball. Let's see what they can do.
JON LAZAR: Even Kirk is not worrying about any bowl game, and was not all year. I think he was more worried about the week to week preparation for each game rather than thinking of the bright light of any bowl game that possibly loomed down the road. I don't believe Coach Ferentz is wired like that ... There were many issues each game to work on and improve upon each week, and many different challenges trying to basically get this team to compete. At QB, I would like to see a change at this point ... of course, it is against the toughest teams, and you don't want to kid to feel you are throwing him to the wolves, but many players are thrown into that type of situation as it tests the real maturity and mental toughness of that player for future Iowa benefit. I would say prepare the kid like you would the James, and let him take charge. James has not been doing that enough and there is nothing to lose.
JOHN KERTH: To an extent, yes. Obviously, you don't want to blow the redshirt of a player who realistically shouldn't be playing, especially at this point in the season. However, I do think it is time to rotate some of the younger players in to give them some game experience and see what they have. That doesn't mean you make them the defacto starters for the rest of the season. For as much as fan want to see James Vandenberg sitting on the bench, I don't think you just hand him the keys to the car against Michigan and Nebraska and say, "Good luck, kid." That said, he should work his way in at some point, even if only for a few series if for nothing else than to give him some in-game experience.
3. Looking back at when the Iowa season turned after back to back wins against Minnesota and Michigan State, is a big part of the reason due to the losses of Mark Weisman and left tackle Brandon Scherff?
MIKE ZIERATH: Coach Ferentz has never leaned on the "injuries" excuse; however, if you read between the lines, he does say things like "the margin of error is pretty thin". He also has always used the "Next man in" mantra, so I guess, you decide. I don't think it takes a genius to understand that there is probably a slightly talent dip between the 1's and 2's at schools such as Iowa. The OSU's, USC's, Alabama's and LSU's of the world probably don't have exactly the same issues in that regard. So, take the high road and don't make an excuse, that's what Ferentz does. But when you lose a couple starting OL's, a RB that was playing lights out, or any other player that was playing at a high level, it is going to be felt. Is it the entire reason? No. But it doesn't help.
TOM KAKERT: Yes and no. Let's be honest, the Iowa offense was hardly a beautiful work of art when Weisman and Scherff were in the lineup. It was still a struggle. Having said that, Iowa's offense was a heck of a lot better. I think that when Wiesman and Scherff were around Iowa's offense has something it could lean on. Once they were gone, the offense had to search for go to answers. They still haven't found go to answers and my guess is they won't find them in the next two weeks. I hope they do, but the best guess is that's not likely to happen.
LYLE HAMMES: That's part of it, particularly with Scherff. Just think back where Weisman was gaining most of his yards. It was on the left side, right over Scherff. That was no accident. I think with Scherff in the lineup, Bullock would now be seeing more running room than he currently is. That very easily could have been the difference in the Indiana and Purdue games.
JON LAZAR: As a former running back, I know the pounding you will take at that position, and the way Mark ran, that was going to catch up with him or any back at that point. In recent years, 2 players injured or out for that specific game has not slowed the pace of this team's production. That is something to worry about ... it is the depth at any position as we need similar talented players to be ready when one falls. As a fan, we would think there were many good choices at each position. Losing a good lineman can hurt, and I am not taking away from the talent of these players in saying this as both Mark and Brandon are exceptional and very talented athletes, but I just would have thought our attack on Offensive or Defense would still have the players and talent to produce without those two stars in the line-up.
JOHN KERTH: Losing Weisman hurt, but I think the losses of Scherff and Andrew Donnal were the big blows to the team. The offense was hardly setting the world on fire up to the point they were injured, but the offensive line was starting to click, especially in the running game. Although losing Weisman hurt, Bullock had a strong start to the season as well, and I'm sure they both would admit that the O-line played a big part in their success. Since those injuries up front, the running lanes have closed dramatically and the pass protection has also declined, putting an already struggling offense into an even deeper hole.
4. Iowa heads to Michigan this weekend and the Hawkeyes are riding a three game win streak against the Wolverines. Is this the worst possible scenario for a struggling Iowa team, a Michigan team that is not only playing for a shot at the Big Ten title game, but with revenge on their minds?
MIKE ZIERATH: I can't think of a worse scenario than that. Hopefully, the Hawkeyes that beat MSU show up.
TOM KAKERT: It is the worst possible scenario. Michigan is smarting because of the three straight losses to the Hawkeyes and the fact that none of the players on their current roster have a beaten Iowa. The Hawkeyes are struggling. Michigan has something to play for this year. It's also Senior Day in Ann Arbor. Add in all those factors and it could be a perfect storm that Iowa is walking into this weekend.
LYLE HAMMES: Even when Michigan wins, Iowa almost always plays them tough. A similar situation was when Michigan State went to Ann Arbor this year. It took a last-second field goal to beat the Spartans for the first time in five tries. Having said that, there won't be any sympathy for Iowa. Michigan wants to make a statement and beat Iowa in no uncertain terms. There is a lot of young talent on Michigan's team with experienced veterans sprinkled in. We'll have our hands full.
JON LAZAR: I have to say, Michigan is not playing that well. I think Iowa has a lot of motivation going into Ann Arbor regardless of the last few weeks.. You need to have a short memory playing at times and you are only good as the play before you as it exists and nothing changes... it is now you have to worry about... this down, this quarter, this play. Last year Iowa squeaked out a slim win, and one that had a questionable call, so I believe Iowa will go into Michigan with nothing to lose and win that game... Spoiler... yes, you can say that, whatever it is ....... you have to play the game!!
JOHN KERTH: I don't know if there are really any ideal scenarios for this Iowa team. If there were, last week would have fit that description perfectly. After all, you had a Purdue team riding a five-game losing streak coming into Kinnick Stadium. If anything, that was the perfect opportunity for Iowa to pick up a reassuring victory and restore confidence heading into the Michigan game. Obviously, that didn't happen. I don't see this team getting too down on itself, but at the same time, I still think the Hawkeyes would struggle against this Michigan team even if the Wolverines had won the past 10 games in the series.
5. Quite a few opinions on Greg Davis, but what about the job that Phil Parker has done in his first year as the defensive coordinator? What are your thoughts?
MIKE ZIERATH: Well, first of all, let me just say that it is far too early in either of these two coaches' tenures to formulate a decision one way or another. They are both dealing the hands they were dealt and both still have to make the head coach happy as well. For anyone to think it was going to be a lot different, well, I don't know what you have seen from a Ferentz coached team in the past that would make you think that was possible, but I haven't personally seen anything to make me think it would be vastly different. Give it time people, give it time. If it doesn't look any better next year....everyone should be doing a self evaluation! If we are seeing the same things during the 2014 season, they better get their resumes updated!
TOM KAKERT: I think it's probably hard to tell. I think Phil Parker did a terrific job early in the year. I also think his defense got worn down and you now see them struggling. As far as Greg Davis, I think James Vandenberg has been a square peg into a round hole with his offense. Honestly, Greg Davis is pretty much exactly what Texas fans said. He's a really nice man who likes to run a horizontal passing game. Change takes time and it's also fair to say that Davis was very successful in his run at Texas, except for the end of that run. I'm willing to give him a bit more time beyond this year to see if he can right the ship, but I certainly hope he makes some adjustments.
LYLE HAMMES: Early on, the defense exceeded my expectations. Recently, they've become more what I thought they'd be. Either way, I don't think you can judge Phil Parker after less than one season. It wouldn't have been smart to judge Norm Parker after the 1999 season either. Give him another season or two to make a more clear judgment on Phil Parker as defensive coordinator.
JON LAZAR: I don't feel that the overall calls were bad... I have said it before, I feel the overall execution of each play, and the decisions the QB has made has told the story of the Offense the entire year. There have been many mistakes that have cost us drives, and gave the ball back to much better Offenses. That has been the lack of productivity the Iowa fan is not use to seeing in these Iowa teams. Defensively, I would have thought that a Coach Parker coached Defense would have been much like one coached by his father, but that has not been the card dealt here. I am sure that if he could do this year over again, he would do many things differently as I think any coach is trying to find their style as a coordinator. It is a tough job, but I think Phil will be a good one.... we need to have faith in him as we did Norm.
JOHN KERTH: I would still like to some adjustments made when it is clear things aren't working as well as getting the defense off to a stronger start in games, but overall, he's done about as well as expected with the players he has. As as the case with most teams, the defensive line plays a big role in the overall health of your defense. And while the players on Iowa's defensive line have worked hard and given it their all this season, they simply don't have an impact player right now, and that trickles down to the rest of the defense. It makes life harder for the linebackers stopping the run as well as for the defensive backs in shutting down the passing game. That's not to say the other units haven't had their share of issues, because they obviously have.
6. Final score of Iowa/Michigan and your pick to click for the Hawkeyes.
MIKE ZIERATH: It will be an ugly one in Ann Arbor this weekend, make no mistake about it. Michigan is loaded on both sides of the ball and have been playing really well. Yes, Iowa does put up a pretty good fight against the Wolverines, and have, for many years. Not this year. Michigan 42, Iowa 10. My pick to click......Anthony Hitchens is gonna be busy!
TOM KAKERT: This could be an ugly day. Potentially a very ugly day. As I noted earlier, revenge, Senior Day, and the Wolverines are playing for something this week. Michigan is a better team as well. Iowa is going to have to play way above their heads to have a shot at pulling off the upset. Michigan 38 Iowa 10. My pick to click is Kevonte Martin-Manley, who catches a touchdown pass.
LYLE HAMMES: This indeed may be a pay-back game for Michigan. Iowa doesn't have the horses on either side of the ball to come away from Michigan Stadium with a win, particularly if Denard Robinson is healthy. I'll go with Keenan Davis again as my pick-to-click. I suspect this will be the last time he'll put on the white jersey, and I think he has a big play or two left in his career. Let's hope it starts Saturday. If Robinson is out, I think Iowa can hang with them for a while. With him, it could get ugly. Michigan 34-Iowa 17.
JON LAZAR: IOWA 28 Michigan 21 (I have a feeling it will be our 2nd win in Michigan this year)
JOHN KERTH: I don't think this is going to be a fun day for Iowa or Hawkeye fans. Michigan 31, Iowa 13. Damon Bullock picks up 80 yards and a TD for the Hawks.
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