Joe Pasquali, our resident college football analyst, is back with another Big Ten team preview. He has laid out some of the division leaders, but he has yet to name which team will win one of the divisions in the Big Ten conference. Will Iowa win the Legends division?
After a disappointing 2011 campaign (7-6, 4-4 in conf, 1-3 vs top 25) Iowa fans should have little reason to expect 2012 to be a lot better. The Hawkeyes have to replace both lines, both coordinators, and their both downfield threat in Marvin McNutt. Even though Iowa has one of the easiest schedules in the conference, their two biggest inner division games are on the road at Michigan and Michigan State. You won’t hear the words rebuilding come out of Kirk Ferentz mouth, but this year has the look of it.
The Hawkeye program for the last decade has consistently had one of the best offensive lines in the conference, if not the nation. Replacing three starters from a year ago is no easy task, but should be mitigated by the return of two year starter and coach’s son center James Ferentz. James Vandenberg returns at the helm after an impressive first year as starting QB (3022 yards, 25 TDs, 7 INT), but he will be without many weapons. Marcus Coker (RB) and Marvin McNutt (WR) were two all-conference studs that carried this Iowa team last year. Jordan Canzeri was supposed to be the starter this year at running back but tore his ACL this spring and is out for the year. With so many new faces, a depleted backfield, and a new scheme, I look for Iowa to struggle to put up points in 2012.
Iowa’s defense had a very human season in 2011, ranking 46th in scoring defense allowing 23.8 points a game and only recording 22 sacks (77th). Combine that with three new defensive lineman and you could have shakey year. Luckily for Iowa they return Christian Kirksey and James Morris at linebacker, both were starters last year and should be able to mop up an mistakes in front of them. There is decent experience in the secondary with corner Micah Hyde returning as well as safety Tanner Miller, but the defense will surely hang on the front four. Iowa’s new defensive coordinator Phil Parker has already said they plan to blitz a lot and go with press man coverage which should help with the lack of pass rush, but could leave the secondary exposed to big plays.
Special Teams (B+)
Mike Meyer returns at kicker after a solid 2011 season, making 14 of 20 field goals including a long of 50 yards. The only thing that worries me is that he is a psychology major. Honestly, I don’t want my kicker thinking about too much, especially in big games. Mr. Meyer’s overactive brain could cost the Hawkeyes once or twice this year.
When Kirk Ferentz took over coaching Iowa gas was 1.17 a gallon. Though Iowa hasn’t been touching double digit wins the last few years, his job is one of the safest in college football. Two new coordinators should make for a rocky season, but the schedule is kind and Iowa will be bowling come December.
2012 Win/Loss Prediction: 8-4 (4th in Legends)