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Questions about Iowa? Ask them here.

  • Wanted to create a thread where you all can fire away with any questions you have about Iowa. This is obviously a must-win for the Wolverines if they hope to keep their division title dreams alive. I'll post some pregame analysis below, and will answer any questions you all have.

  • Iowa LB corps > Michigan's LB corps Agree or disagree?

    I'm really a big fan of Christian Kirksey and James Morris. They are both great players.

    This post was edited by TAMUWolverine 17 months ago

  • I'll start on the defensive side of the ball for Iowa. When healthy, Iowa and Michigan are actually pretty similar in terms of strengths and weaknesses defensively. Iowa's front seven plays the run well, but the defensive ends really struggle to rush the passer. The strength of Iowa's defense are the three linebackers - Christian Kirksey, James Morris and Anthony Hitches, the relatively deep rotation at defensive tackle and the cornerbacks. The safeties are both below average, IMO, which is a big reason why Iowa has struggled at times in defending the outside run.

    There are several things to watch for. First of all, both Morris and Hitchens left Saturday's game against Purdue and did not return. If one or both of them can't go in Ann Arbor, Iowa's chances of winning the game drastically decrease.

    It'll be very interesting from a matchup standpoint to see which quarterback starts for Michigan. If it's Gardner, and the two linebackers can play, then I like Iowa's chances of limiting Michigan from running the ball. I'm not saying that it would be complete domination, but just that that would play into Iowa's hands, and that I don't think the Wolverines would be able to run up and down the field on the Hawkeyes.

    But on the other hand, if Gardner starts, then Michigan could have a ton of success passing the ball. He'll likely have all day back in the pocket, and he's good enough to make the defense pay. If he starts and the weather is manageable, I think Michigan's best game plan would be to throw all day long.

    If Denard starts, it'll be interesting to see how aggressive Michigan is with him running the ball. If the Wolverines utilize him in the running game, Iowa's struggles at safety (and/or the absence of one or both of the aforementioned starting linebackers) could really hurt the Hawkeyes, and Denard could make some big plays. But it's possible that Michigan would want him to dial it down a bit when it comes to running the ball so as to preserve his health.

    In terms of the passing game, Iowa would probably prefer that Denard plays instead of Gardner, because Denard isn't as capable of making Iowa pay for its lack of a passrush. Of course, what comes with that is that the Hawkeyes would have to play a nearly perfect game in order to prevent him from busting a big play.

  • When everyone's healthy, I'd agree with you, but I think it's close. Iowa doesn't have anyone at the level of Jake Ryan, but all three starters may be better than any of Michigan's other linebackers.

    This post was edited by Todd Worly 17 months ago

  • Q: Michigan has been beat by Iowa the last few years because of mismatches with TEs (Moeaki) and WRs (McNutt / DJK) who just abused our LBs and DBs. Who do we have to worry about this year? Kennan Davis seems pretty big with good stats, is he going to be our matchup problem this year and primary target?

  • Q: In the past, Ferentz and Norm Parker didn't like to blitz and would rely almost exclusively on a 4-man rush to generate pressure. With guys like Klug and Clayborne that worked out ok. With those guys long gone and Phil Parker in as the new DC, do they still follow the same 4-man rush strategy, or do they mix in more blitzes/pressure packages?

  • On the other side of the ball, just about every position group has struggled at times this year for Iowa. The offensive line has struggled in pass protection all year, but was at least creating a push in the running game for the first five games. Since then, that hasn't even been happening. And Iowa's fullback, Brad Rogers, is one of the better fullbacks you'll see, but he's been injured the past few games. No word yet on whether he'll play on Saturday.

    Iowa has really struggled against quality defensive tackles the past two weeks, as neither guard is ready to be starting in the B1G yet. Michigan's defensive tackles will need to exploit this advantage and dominate for 60 minutes.

    Iowa has also struggled against quality pass rushers on the edge, but Michigan may not be as capable of exploiting that weakness. However, because of that, I would expect Jake Ryan to get some more snaps rushing the passer off the edge.

    Because of the bad matchup up front, I'd be pretty surprised to see the Hawkeyes have consistent success running the ball. To me, the key to Iowa's chances will be in the passing game. As I said earlier, Iowa has struggled in pass protection, especially against quality defensive ends. But if Michigan continues to struggle rushing the passer, James Vandenberg may be capable of making them pay.

    Iowa's passing game hasn't gotten going yet this year. There have been glimpses of success, but poor pass protection, multiple untimely drops, and some bad throws here and there have all combined to prevent it from clicking. IF Michigan has trouble pressuring Vandenberg, and IF Iowa's receivers play their best game of the year, the Hawkeyes would have a chance to move the ball consistently.

  • I think those guys were able to make plays on Michigan because of the pass protection. Iowa lost three starters from last year's offensive line to the NFL, and the Hawkeyes are paying for it this year. Sorry to be overly cliche, but the key on that end will be pass protection.

    Kevonte Martin-Manley has really been coming along the past few weeks. He's emerged as a legitimate number two receiver at this point. However, Keenan Davis isn't playing anywhere near the level of a McNutt or DJK, so Iowa really doesn't have a go-to receiver. CJ Fiedorowicz is a 6'7'' tight end that presents some matchup problems, but the Hawkeyes still haven't figured out a way to use him best this year.

  • You're right, and that's still been the main strategy this year. I do think Iowa has blitzed a little bit more this year than in the past, but still not a lot. And with the defensive line's struggles rushing the passer, something's got to give. That being said, I'm not sure how much confidence the coaches have in the safeties to prevent big plays if the blitz doesn't get home, so it's really a double-edged sword at this point.

  • Thanks for this post Todd, don't know anything about Iowa other than AIRBHG and what you get from reading Adam Jacobi and those guys twitters

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  • You're welcome. I'll be answering questions all week.

  • Hey Todd question for you,

    I have not caught very much of Iowa football this year at all. I thought Vandenburg showed a lot of potential his first year starting. In your opinion, why hasn't he progressed into a very good Big Ten QB? What do you think he needs to improve on the most?

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  • That's a great question, and you'll find a lot of debate among Iowa fans as to the answer.

    Statistically, he's nowhere near where he was in 2011. But IMO, a player doesn't just lose it between one season and the next. He's by no means perfect, but I really think he's gotten way, way too much heat from Hawkeye fans. There are a number of glaring problems on the offense that he can't do anything about.

    In most games, he'll still make 2-3 throws that the vast majority of college quarterbacks have no hope of making. The talent is there, but I think it's sort of been a perfect storm working against him this year.

    Iowa's pass protection last year was very good, yet the best three offensive linemen from last year's team are gone. So entering the season, pass protection was going to be a major issue for this squad, and Iowa has struggled in that area against every above average defensive line this year. It has now become even worse, because the starting left tackle (who was already playing out of position), went down with an injury against Penn State, causing further shuffling around up there. Right now, IMO, the only offensive lineman that is an above average player at the position he's currently playing is James Ferentz, the center. The offensive line has just really struggled throughout the year, and it's only gotten worse.

    Last year, Vandenberg's pocket presence was well below average, so the sack totals from 2011 don't really speak to how good the pass protection actually was, because there were a number of plays where he had no business allowing himself to get sacked. This year, his pocket presence is much improved - I'd say it's now at least average - but the protection is much, much worse than it was last year.

    Another issue is the departure of Marvin McNutt, the best receiver in school history. He was naturally Vandenberg's go-to guy last season, and no one on the 2012 squad is playing even close to that same level. As I mentioned in another post, Kevonte Martin-Manley has improved from a legit number three receiver in 2011 to a legit number two receiver in 2012. But Iowa needed Keenan Davis, last year's number two receiver, to emerge as an elite receiver in the B1G this year, and he really hasn't stepped up at all. Drops were a problem among the receiving corps last year, and are probably even more of a problem this year. When a team has such a small margin for error, you can't afford to drop too many passes.

    Another factor is the new offensive coordinator, as Greg Davis came in to replace Ken O'Keefe, who took a job with the Dolphins. Iowa doesn't look downfield nearly as much as last year. Part of that is because Vandenberg doesn't have the time to do so, part of that is because the receivers can't get open and part of that is because Davis's offense features short passes to the perimeter. Based on the routes Iowa's players are running, and the lack of many explosive players that can make something happen after the catch, Vandenberg's yardage and touchdown totals have plummeted.

    I also don't think the coaching staff has done a great job of putting the players in the best position to succeed. The play calling has been pretty questionable at times, particularly in this past week's loss to Purdue.

    I don't mean to come across like Vandenberg is the next John Elway or anything, but IMO, he's nowhere near the biggest reason the passing game has struggled so much. Because of all of the aforementioned factors, I really thought Vandenberg was pressing way too much in the first 4-5 games of the season. You'd like to see him have enough poise not to do that, but that's much easier said than done.

    Despite all the flack he's taken, he's still a very good passer when he's comfortable in the pocket. He's got a good arm and he's generally very accurate when comfortable. So to me, the number one key for Michigan is getting pressure on him. If Michigan doesn't blitz, I think it turns into a weakness vs. weakness matchup in terms of Iowa's pass protection against Michigan's passrush. Not sure who gets the nod there. But because of that, I'd expect Jake Ryan to be used more rushing the passer, and for Mattison to blitz Iowa early and often in passing situations.

  • lol Some would agree with that, and some wouldn't. Don't have a good answer for that one - sorry!

  • Todd thanks for taking the time to answer the question so thoroughly. That's tough replacing that many OL in one year and that really has me worried about Michigan's OL next year. Also, I either forgot(which is most likely) or just didn't hear that Iowa replaced their offensive coordinator. You just never know how long it will take a QB and new coordinator to click.

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  • You're welcome - it's fun talking shop!

    Ferentz's two coordinators had both been with him for his entire tenure at Iowa, but both departed at the end of the 2011 season. Norm Parker (the DC) retired due to health complications, and Ken O'Keefe (the OC) was hired as the receivers coach with the Dolphins.

    And you're right - especially when you've got a fifth year senior quarterback that was working under one system for four years, it's not always easy to make that adjustment. Still, other schools across the country make those transitions every year and don't have as many bumps in the road.

  • Todd,

    U have watched bits and pieces of Iowa games this year. It seemsto me that they really like running the ball. They had hardly any success running on msu but stuck with it and a few things started opening in the fourth. The problem is that their offense right into what Michigan defends well. The 4-3 under will hold any runs short and the line and receivers just don't do enough to consistently hurt us.
    On offense, I think we will be ok. We won't walk up and down the field on them but we will score when we need to.
    I was nervous about the NW game because they could exploit our edges. Here I just don't see much happening 24-10 Michigan

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  • I completely agree with you that Michigan's defense should have success stopping the run against Iowa. I think the key is for the Wolverines to pressure Vandenberg. If that doesn't happen, he's capable of getting in a groove and making some plays, so the Iowa offense could be able to move the ball. If Michigan does pressure him, it'll be difficult for the Hawkeyes to move the ball consistently.

    On the other side of the ball, two potential scenarios that would play into Iowa's hands are the following:

    1) If Denard starts and plays the whole game, but Hoke and Borges are reluctant to call any designed running plays for him. If Iowa's two linebackers are able to play on Saturday, I don't think the Hawkeyes will get gashed by Michigan in the running game UNLESS Denard makes some plays on the perimeter on his own. If there aren't any designed running plays for him, though, that would play right into Iowa's hands. Also, Denard doesn't pass the ball as well as Gardner does, so Michigan wouldn't be able to make the Hawkeyes pay for their lack of a passrush nearly as much. If Michigan gets Denard involved in the running game, that may be risky for the Wolverines moving forward, but it would be bad news for Iowa.

    2) Gardner starts, but he makes some bad decisions that Iowa is able to capitalize on. Iowa's corners are pretty good, and while the free safety isn't very good in run support and doesn't possess above average range, he does have pretty good ball skills. Gardner made some highly questionable decisions with the ball against Northwestern, and the Wildcats only made him pay for it once. If that happens against Iowa, and the Hawkeyes can pick a few off and maybe even return one for a touchdown, that could really swing momentum in Iowa's favor.

  • Thanks, when will you give your prediction.

    Also, the coaches have got to be feeling the pressure this week. It is denards final game at home, Is there any way they don't play him? Maybe, Devin has played well and if denard isn't healthy they won't want to take a risk with his health for his sake and the teams.
    What do you think happens?

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  • As for a prediction, this is a tough one to call, because no one knows which Michigan quarterback will play. In fact, the guys in Vegas haven't even set a line yet. And even if Denard plays, it's possible that Michigan will try to protect him as much as possible, which would help Iowa's defense.

    I may come back and revise this later in the week if/when more information comes available. As of today, I'm thinking Michigan takes it something along the lines of 21-16. I think the Hawkeyes will stay in this one, but may not have enough at the end.

  • Bumping this in case more people want to ask questions.

  • Does Iowa have a dangerous return man to handle the punt/kickoff return duties? There's been lots of holes in Michigan's coverage - I'm pleasantly surprised they haven't given one up yet.

  • One of Iowa's starting cornerbacks, senior Micah Hyde, is the punt returner. He's pretty explosive in general, but hasn't been much of a threat in the return game. Iowa really puts a premium on just making sure he fields the punt and doesn't turn it over, so I think that takes a little aggressiveness away from him.

    On kickoff returns, the Hawkeyes are more dangerous. Jordan Cotton returned one for a touchdown against Penn State, and had another touchdown called back against Michigan State for a completely unnecessary block in the back. Earlier in the season, freshman running back Greg Garmon was the other return man, but lately, it's been freshman receiver Tevaun Smith. Both Garmon and Smith possess big-play ability as well.

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