First Look ’14: Iowa

Mark Weisman 2012

Yesterday, the B1G announced a partnership with the Big East Conference to tip-off each basketball season starting in 2015 in honor of legendary Big East founder, Dave Gavitt. The Gavitt Tipoff Games are one of many puzzle pieces in Jim Delany’s tool kit to add some weight to the east coast corridor integration of Rutgers and Maryland. As fans search for references to which programs comprise the Big East (wait…Rutgers vs Xavier is a B1G vs Big East game?) another piece will be formally unveiled today. The B1G Men’s Basketball Tournament is moving to Washington D.C. for 2017, the first time it will not be held in Chicago or Indianapolis since it began in 1998. Commissioner Delany promises more tournament locations in the “northeast” over the next ten years as well. For those resistant to change…buckle up.

For those who like some semblance of tradition, we bring you Iowa. Northwestern versus Iowa.  A relatively modest, yet burgeoning rivalry within the B1G which has been preserved by the two programs landing in the freshly minted Big Ten West Division.  Today, we rekindle our annual chat with Iowa blog supreme, BlackHeartGoldPants (also the best named blog in the whole country in my opinion) and veteran scribe, Adam Jacobi. Iowa fans have been twizzled in recent years going from pissed off to frustrated to resigned to the fact that “Fitzwizardry” is part of things beyond their explanation. The Hawkeyes have won two of the last three in the series after last year’s relative snooze-fest 17-10 OT win at Kinnick.

The ‘Cats loss in late September was a microcosm of their season. NU was in FG position in the final minute but a 15-yard penalty and a Mike Trumpy fumble killed the game-winning potential and Iowa promptly beat us in the first OT.  In a scheduling quirk Northwestern returns to Kinnick this November in an intra-division game that very well could be against an undefeated Iowa program that is relatively loaded on offense (by Iowa standards).  Plus there is this…

Iowa has the easiest schedule in the B1G based on 2013 W-L records

Iowa has the easiest schedule in the B1G based on 2013 W-L records

Alright then, let’s return to some semblance of normalcy and start talking smack with Adam….

Iowa Quick Hits

2014 Game Day: Northwestern @ Iowa (Kinnick Stadium) – Nov. 1 time/TV TBD

Last Meeting: 2013 – Iowa 17 NU 10 (OT)

Iowa 2013: 8-5, 5-3 (Lost 21-14 to LSU in Outback Bowl)

Fitz record vs Iowa: 5-3

NU record vs Iowa since 1995: NU 10-7

All-time series record: Iowa leads 48-24-3

LTP All-time Favorite Iowa player: Tim Dwight

Favorite Iowa game: 1996 blowout..aka Darnell Autry-fest

Most painful Iowa moment: The bittersweet game-winning Dan Persa TD in 2010

LTP: OK, fess-up. The Hawkeyes rebounded very nicely in 2013 with an 8-5 season after the bottom fell out in 2012. Wildcat fans are looking to borrow some hope from your turnaround. Serve up the formula on how Iowa did it.

BHGP: In a welcome departure from 2012′s disaster, Iowa’s best players stayed healthy and played their best ball in 2013. The defense was tweaked to its personnel strengths (specifically, a versatile and disruptive LB unit) and the offense benefited from a mostly competent (if conservative) first year from QB Jake Rudock. It’s also worth mentioning that the coaching staff was much more cohesive as many members entered their second year and were able to get past the initial adjustment period–Iowa’s staff was surprisingly candid about how much that aspect affected the Hawkeyes’ play in 2012. Coaches never admit it’s their own fault like that!

LTP: The chocolates and bouquets must be piling up at the B1G’s new digs. Iowa has a gift of a schedule, where I have to believe many schedule surfing Hawkeyes fans can see a realistic 10-0 before you enter a game as an underdog. Talk about the expectations of this team this year from the fan base.

BHGP: This is a fan base that is accustomed to losing at least two or three games a year in conference play, with the exceptions coming largely a decade or more ago. Also, Iowa’s had a couple years without Ohio State or Michigan on the schedule in recent past; here’s how Iowa fared.

2008: 9-4 (5-3)

2007: 6-6 (4-4)

So, yeah. Taking the toughest games off the schedule doesn’t automatically make the Hawkeyes better than everyone else they’re going to play. That being said, holy crow what a gift this schedule is. Of the 12 games, 7 would be inexcusable losses, and Iowa should be favored in 3 of the remaining games. I’m extremely wary of the trip to Pitt because Iowa on the road in September is  a scary thing, but it’s not like we’re talking about a trip to Bama here.

Last thing I’ll say about expectations is this: it’s May right now. Once we get to, like, Week 2, what everyone thought about the team in the spring will count for virtually nothing. Health becomes a factor. How good the opponents actually are gets factored in (who knows? Maybe Maryland’s a beast in the making). So yeah, in May this looks like a 9-3 team with a couple games’ wiggle room either way. But it’s friggin’ May.

LTP:  From what I can tell it appears that once again Iowa’s strength will be upfront on both sides of the ball. You’ve got some pretty big holes to fill at both LB and in the secondary. How are you feeling about this defense at this point?

BHGP:  I feel great about the defense. There’s real, game-ready talent everywhere in the two-deeps on the line and in the secondary. Rising sophomore Desmond King is the next in line of Iowa’s great cornerbacks. Linebacker is still fluid, but Quinton Alston has been waiting patiently for his chance to lead the D at MLB for years now and here it is. The coaches have groomed him for this opportunity.

Keep an eye on Reggie Spearman at OLB: he’s a sophomore who just turned 18 (no, really) and he might be the biggest playmaker on the team already. Don’t be surprised if he flirts with double-digit TFLs (TsFL?) this year 4) You’re loaded on offense this year with almost everyone back including the 1-2-3 punch of Weisman, Canzeri and Bullock, but still seem to lack that breakaway athleticism at WR. How do you see this offense taking the next step in 2014? 4. Oh son. You underestimate Iowa’s wideouts at your own peril. Tevaun Smith is looking more and more like a #1 WR…

Damond Powell (yeah, this guy:) is in his all-important second year in the program, and redshirt freshman Derrick Willies is 6’4″ and had a monster spring game. There is most certainly game-breaking talent at WR. I mean, yes, there’s no Stefon Diggs or anything on the team, and no, Kevonte Martin-Manley is not a world-class athlete; he’s fine in the slot, and he’ll spend most of his time there since Iowa has options on the outside this year. But my impression of the Iowa offense this year is that if the passing attack stagnates, it won’t be for a lack of talent at receiver.

LTP: Damn it. Don’t let some well-grounded opinions get in the way of my good narrative! OK,  Iowa has seemed to have thwarted the Fitzwizardry, having won two of the last three in the series and now you get us back at Kinnick for a second consecutive year. How do you feel about this November match-up? Knowing we’ll have a more pass-focused Trevor Siemian offense, what concerns you about NU in 2014?

BHGP:  Northwestern is historically a different beast in November, for reasons undetermined, and I am terrified of this game. I mean that sincerely. Specifically, what worries me is that by November, Fitz will have figured out that Trevor Siemian is not a good quarterback and will have moved on to someone who gives the Cats the best chance to win. Siemian may be a better thrower, but his lack of versatility makes opposing defenses’ jobs much easier. It’s no surprise that Northwestern’s renaissance has been led by dual-threat QBs; making the defense account for a legit running QB (one your coaches have no qualms about leaning on to run as much as necessary) opens up so many exploitable matchups.

LTP: There is an overwhelming bias by most college football prognosticators to rely too heavily on returning players with experience. Give us three names that are emerging talent (ie off our radar) on Iowa that come November you project to be factors in this game.

BHGP: Northwestern is historically a different beast in November, for reasons undetermined, and I am terrified of this game. I mean that sincerely. Specifically, what worries me is that by November, Fitz will have figured out that Trevor Siemian is not a good quarterback and will have moved on to someone who gives the Cats the best chance to win. Siemian may be a better thrower, but his lack of versatility makes opposing defenses’ jobs much easier. It’s no surprise that Northwestern’s renaissance has been led by dual-threat QBs; making the defense account for a legit running QB (one your coaches have no qualms about leaning on to run as much as necessary) opens up so many exploitable matchups.

LTP: Offer up three names Wildcat fans may not be familiar with that stand to have an impact on the game in November.

BHGP: I’ve already mentioned LBs Alston and Spearman, who are all but written in ink to start. They count as one of your three, I’ve decided. Let’s also throw in CB Greg Mabin, who’s part of a ferocious four-man battle at corner. Mabin is a converted receiver and at 6’3″ is not your normal defensive back. But the coaches rave about how well he’s adapting to the position and he makes plays on the ball extremely well for someone with his limited experience. He’ll find his way onto the field. Last, TE Ray Hamilton is a former 4-star prospect who’s got every-down skills and should be a nightmare in the red zone.

LTP:  How did you transfer the AIHRBG (Angry Iowa Hating Running Back God) to us last year? Seriously…

BHGP: BHGP has hosted two AIRBHGAPALOOZA charity events with the expressed intent of killing the foul beast, and not to take all the credit in the world, but… OK, yes, we will take all the credit in the world for Iowa’s newfound stability at tailback. Now all we need is for you to turn the ANRBHG into ANALSBRHG (Angry Northwestern Alumni Loathsome Sports Brand Reporter Hating God… I probably need to work on the first part of that acronym) and make a certain loathsome Northwestern alumni sports brand reporter to fall into a Volcano Brand volcano. I can’t think of a god on earth whom that wouldn’t permanently appease. Love y’all. See y’all on the field this fall.

LTP: Thanks for playing Adam. Talk soon.

  • TENman

    Really, I can’t agree with Adam’s thinking that NU will be dangerous by November because Siemien will be gone and that Fitz will make a change to a wildcard QB who will lead NU to on field success. The only two plausible candidates to succeed Siemien this year would be Oliver and Alviti. From what we’ve been led to believe so far, Siemien is #1, and the other two are battling for #2. If NU is winning, regardless of the QB play, Fitz isn’t making a midseason QB change. A QB change is only coming if NU is losing, and then, only after eight games or so.

    At that point, if a change is made, only way Oliver receives significant playing time is if Alviti truly is not ready and can’t lead the offense at all and it would hurt him more than groom him for next season if he plays.

    If Adam’s right about Siemien going down in flames, I fear Iowa will be playing a two or three win NU team with a new quarterback who’s playing for prep time for next year, not to win this year. Iowa will be more than prepared for that situation.

    • Chasmo

      I agree. He doesn’t know Fitz very well. Fitz is loyal to his veterans — some say loyal to a fault — plus Trevor has been in the forefront of the anti-union drive, so Fitz will have even more reasons to support him through thick and thin.
      However, the main reason Trevor will really have to stink to be replaced is that no one has shown even the faintest symptom of being ready to replace him. It’s not as if Trevor was neck and neck with anyone else for the job.
      While I might agree that Trevor might not be good enough to be a star in his own right now that Colter is gone, I can’t imagine Trevor losing his starting job this fall.
      But stranger things have happened, so I guess we’ll just have to wait to see what happens this fall.

      • gocatsgo2003

        Not everything is driven by pro-/anti-union sentiment, you know.

  • Johnathan Wood

    Should be a great game. Most of these games have been close lately. Went to OT last year, and Iowa arguably lost more than Northwestern. Winnable game but far from a gimme, IMO (just as most B1G games are for the Cats)

  • Chasmo

    The Big Ten basketball tournament moves to the East Coast — does anyone here still doubt that college sports is just a business (and its players employees). The heck with tradition, the heck with geography, the heck with fans (except for the high rollers who can afford to take the time and spend the money to travel to D.C.), this is all about expanding the brand of the Big Ten conglomerate and increasing revenue (which it hopes it will not have to share with players but can use it to give athletic directors and coaches bigger bonuses and salaries).
    I guess this is the wave of the future but it would be a lot easier to stomach if college sports dropped all pretense and just hired kids to play football and basketball for them and not even require them to go to school, which would eliminate the expense of hiring tutors to write their papers and the inconvenience of having to line up professors to give players passing grades in no-show courses as Delaney’s alma mater did.

    • MikeH

      I agree, geographically it makes no sense. The current 12 B1G teams are 10 hours or less from Indianapolis. I will hazard a guess that 4 of the 12 are within 10 hours of Washington DC.

      I figure the next move is the B1G football championship game to be contested at Yankee Stadium.

  • Purple Haze

    Iowa’s schedule shows how imbalanced some team’s schedules are. Iowa’s crossover games are Purdue, Indiana and Maryland. Wisconsin’s crossover’s include Rutgers and Maryland. The schedules are so imbalanced that NU might have a difficult time crawling into the top three positions in the West Division.
    I do see a Iowa loss to Pittsburgh in the non-conference. I do not think that Iowa is that good but they will be favored in 9 or 10 of their first 10 games.
    As for the comments about Simien, they are examples of blatant homerism. I have liked what I have seen with the limited spring practice snippits of Oliver. He was a highly rated recruit. I see Oliver as the backup if Simien is injured. I do not think that Simien will be pulled. As for Alviti, I am sure he is a talented kid but NU and the Big 10 is a lot different than dominating at Maine South and the Central Suburban League. He might need another year to really develop and get an occasional series or two this year.

    • gocatsgo2003

      By “limited spring practice snippits” do you mean “second-hand information from so-called ‘experts’ who really have no clue what they’re talking about”?

West Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Northwestern 1200

East Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Penn State3010
Ohio State2100
Michigan State3100