Friday, April 28, 2006
AN ABSURDLY PREMATURE ASSESSMENT OF: IOWA
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SMQ spins the wheel for a hastily-rendered, too-soon look at a random school's prospects for the fall, sans inevitable academic and criminal suspensions, sudden transfers, d ebilitating injuries and other miscellaneous misfortunes of the long summer
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Eleven, ten, ten...seven? Is the Hawkeyes' suprising move into the Big Ten elite that short-lived, or ready to resume after a year's hiatus?
PAST FIVE SEASONS: 45-17 (29-11 Big Ten) 2005: 7-5 (5-3 Big Ten)
STARTERS BACK, ROUGHLY: 14 (7 Offense, 7 Defense)
WHAT'S CHANGED: Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge stalked the field like tyrannosaurs feeding on scampering rodent running backs four years running, and propped up a young front sev en for most of last season. They'll be replaced by Ed Miles, moving outside in, and some combination of five other anonymous guys with names like Humpal, Gabelmann and Klinkenborg. Temporarily, at least, Big Ten offenses will feel like they're a species o f the family Cimolodontidae of the Paleocene Epoch.
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Hodge and Greenway: 240,282 career tackles
WHAT'S THE SAME: Drew Tate: more yards in 2005 than his first team all-Big Ten performance in 2004, and more touchdowns, half the picks, even more rushing yards...so why did it feel like his junior season failed to live up to expectations? If that sentiment is widespread, it's probably because Tate got more than his share of the credit for guiding the team through its running game-less, defense-led, ten-win miracle in 2004 and more than his share of the blame for the struggles - mostly on defense - that led to three fewer wins despite a significantly better showing all around on offense. Senior season - make or break for the Tate legacy, as it were? SMQ won't be putting any money against him.
SOMEONE HAS TO BE ACCOUNTABLE HERE: Yardage numbers aren't aut omatically a good indicator of a secondary - teams who lead most of the time face a lot more passes, and pass rush can have about the same impact as coverage - so the apparent mediocrity of the veteran DBs compared to the fairly good numbers (TFL-wise, ru n defense-wise) of the inexperienced front line may be partly due to that line's inability to get to the quarterback consistently not a lot of sacks...not that a lot of sacks equals consistency). Anyway, one way or another, teams threw for a chunk on Iowa, which facilitated late comebacks by Michigan and Northwestern, especially; both corners, Antwan Allen and Jovon Johnson, started forever along with Hodge and Greenway and must also be replaced.
SPEAKING OF WHICH... There's a temptation to say Iowa regressed (and undoubtedly did some on defense), but results-wise, the only thing separating the Hawkeyes from a fourth straight nine-win season was those back-to-back giveaways, both games the Hawkeyes shoulda won. Otherwise, last year's team was very close overall to the three previous versions, all ten-game winners. The real regression was the failure at the end of the only two really close games it was in, usually the Iowa's forte under Ferentz.
OVERLY OPTIMISTIC POST-SPRING CHATTER: In the r ace to replace the terrible twosome at linebacker, even returning starter Miles is a question mark. After the Spring, it's all about Mike Humpal:
"Wonderment"? Coach, he runs! He meshes! He feels comfortable! Your defensive coordinator is super-high! What's to wonder about?
REASON FOR HOPE: Tate and all his toys - running back Albert Young, receiver Calvin Davis, tight end Scott Chandler, all of whom have been around the block now - will top 30 points again and turn a couple of the close losses their way.
REASON TO BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID: The defense went backwards and lost its heart and soul in Hodge and Greenway; even topping 2005's offensive output won't make up for the extra points that hole will allow.
IF THIS TEAM WERE ANY POP CULTURAL, HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, LITERARY OR OTHERWISE NOTABLE FIGURE, IT WOULD BE... Jack Black: perfect in supporting roles, when you don't see it coming, as an unheralded, singularly quirky underdog who steals the show and always makes you wonder why you're taken so surprise when they're so good...but a poor, uncomfortable fit for the spotlight, not quite up to the task of being out front.
HONESTLY, WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE, SMQ'S THINKING: Nine wins, New Year's Day, etc. etc. Just what we've come to expect. Consistency, baby, consistency...though expectations by now might start leading to impatience, baby, impatience, if that second big money spot - it's been three years! - doesn't come along, especially in the expanded format.
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Previous absurdly premat ure assessments:
April 3: Central Michigan...April 4: Brigham Young...April 6: Kentucky...April 7: Bowling Green...April 8: Southern Cal...April 11: Rutgers...April 12: < a href="http://sundaymorningqb.blogspot.com/2006/04/absurdly-premature-assessment-of_12.html">Marshall...April 13: Flor ida State...April 15: San Diego State...April 17: Alabam a...April 19: Oregon State...April 20: Buffalo ...April 22: NC State...April 23: Arizona...April 24: Memphis...April 26: Louisiana Tech
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