Note – This is the 2012 information. Please check the 2013 Hawkeyes page for a look at this season.
New Coordinators: Same Disappointing Hawkeyes?
For the first time in since Hayden Fry was the Head Coach at Iowa, the Hawkeyes will have new Offensive and Defensive Coordinators. Greg Davis steps in for the much criticized Ken O’Keefe, in an attempt to help boost a Hawkeye offense that has been a disappointment for much of the past 13 years. Davis comes to Iowa City with quite a resume. He coordinated some of the highest powered offenses in University of Texas history, including the 2005 National Championship squad. No offense, to Coach O”Keefe, but his shoes aren’t quite as big to fill as Phil Parker’s.
Parker takes over as Defensive Coordinator, after 13 years of Norm Parker (no relation) – one of the game’s brilliant defensive minds. Norm Parker consistently engineered Top 25 ranked defenses during his tenure at Iowa. Head Coach Kirk Ferentz knew his staff needed a boost and to get younger after 2 straight disappointing seasons. Changes were made – including the addition of Ferentz’ son, Brian as the new Offensive Line Coach – but will they make a difference?
The 2012 offseason has not been kind to the Hawkeyes. While things have changed, much has stayed the same. Unfortunately, for Kirk Ferentz, the things that have remained the same were the things he was hoping would not. The past 10 years have been unkind to Iowa running backs. So unkind that a prominent Hawkeye website has dubbed the bad luck “AIRBHG” – Anti Iowa Running Back Hating God.
There might be something to that “curse”. For the past decade, Hawkeye running backs have been going down left and right with serious injuries, transferring, or getting arrested. The 2012 offseason has been no different. The top 2 running backs – Marcus Coker (2011 All Big-10 selection) and Mika’ill McCall have left school for off the field issues. Backups Jordan Canzeri and Barkley Hill have gone down with serious knee injuries. True freshman Greg Garmon had a run-in with the law, but is expected to play. If you’re keeping score at home, it’s AIRBHG 4 Iowa 0 this offseason.
The Preseason of Question Marks
Coach Ferentz would probably rest a bit easier if the running backs were the only question marks his team had entering the season. However, they’re not even the biggest question marks. Iowa’s defense didn’t do much defending last year. And it’s not unreasonable to question whether there will be any improvement. In fact, there may be a drop-off. There’s really no other way to put it than the defensive line was atrocious last season. Only 2 players performed well – Broderick Binns and Mike Daniels. They’re both playing professionally now.
The secondary has question marks as well. Micah Hyde returns to man one of the corner spots. He is a bit inconsistent but has incredible athleticism. B.J. Lowery steps into the other starting corner spot. He’s shown promise but has limited game experience. Tanner Miller struggled much of last season at free safety, but he occasionally stepped up and made plays. Strong safety Nico Law may quickly become a fan favorite with his Bob Sanders-style hitting.
Offensively, Iowa could be an explosive offense. Or, they could be mediocre. The offensive line has been revamped. The receiving corps lost Marvin McNutt to graduation, and we’ve already discussed the running game. There’s talent at the skill positions – including quarterback James Vandenberg – but there are major questions on the offensive line and running back position the Hawkeyes must answer.
There’s Reason for Optimism
The sky is not falling in Iowa City. Kirk Ferentz hasn’t forgotten how to coach, develop players, and recruit. There are plenty of proven Big-10 caliber players on this roster. Let’s start with the quarterback. James Vandenberg was inconsistent in his first season as a full-time starter. But he had his moments where he showed some serious NFL talent. He has a big arm, some mobility, and can make nearly any throw. He just needs to make those throws more consistently.
He’ll have plenty of targets to throw the football to. Keenan Davis improved drastically in 2011 and Kevonte Martin-Manley was one of the top freshman WR’s in the conference. Add to that a pair of proven tight ends – C.J. Fiedorowicz and Zach Derby – and the Hawkeyes have the potential to put up big numbers through the air. But, again, much is dependant on the strength of the offensive line.
Defensively, Iowa does have some question marks. But they also have a few proven studs. Christian Kirksey is a popular choice for 1st Team All Big-10 at linebacker. He’s fast, gets to the ball quickly, and can hit with the best of them. The same can be said about fellow linebacker James Morris. Micah Hyde has been making big plays at the cornerback position for Iowa the past few years. And Nico Law could remind Iowa fans of one former Hawkeye great – Bob Sanders.
The main reason Hawkeye fans can be optimistic is the schedule. Iowa really lucked out this year. They don’t play Ohio State, Wisconsin, or Illinois. And calling their non-conference slate “weak” is the understatement of the century. Plus, we’re still talking about a Kirk Ferentz coached team. With Ferentz, you have to expect a physical, smart football team that makes other teams beat them, instead of beating themselves. Despite the Hawkeyes disappointments the last two years, Ferentz didn’t all of a sudden forget how to coach.
2012 Iowa Football Picks
As mentioned above, Iowa plays a ridiculously weak schedule. It’s not unrealistic to assume this is the easiest schedule any non-Big East BCS team will play. That’s good news for an Iowa team with so many question marks. However, for whatever reason, Iowa often seems to play down – or up – to their competition. Just ask Northwestern – a team that’s had Iowa’s number the past decade. Even “Little Brother” Iowa State steps up and bites Iowa in the rear every once in a while.
Vegas oddsmakers don’t think too highly of Iowa this year. Despite that, the Hawkeyes will likely be favored in 8 or 9 of their 12 games this year. The reason for that is reputation. Iowa is playing many teams in 2012 they have a better reputation than amongst sports bettors. We project Iowa will be the underdog against Nebraska, Michigan, and Michigan State. Otherwise, expect Iowa to be a small to large favorite in the remaining games. Here is Iowa’s 2012 football schedule, along with our win/loss projections (straight-up, not against the spread)…
Sept 1 vs Northern Illinois (in Chicago) – WIN
Sept 8 vs Iowa State – WIN
Sept 15 vs Northern Iowa – WIN
Sept 22 vs Central Michigan – WIN
Sept 29 vs Minnesota – WIN
Oct 13 at Michigan State – LOSS
Oct 20 vs Penn State – WIN
Oct 27 at Northwestern – WIN
Nov 3 at Indiana – WIN
Nov 10 vs Purdue – LOSS
Nov 17 at Michigan – LOSS
Nov 23 vs Nebraska – LOSS
Overall Record: (8-4)
Big-10 Record: (4-4)
Games Favored: 9
Games Underdog: 3
Iowa Hawkeyes: Final Analysis
Iowa isn’t receiving much hype this year. That could be a good thing. Every time fans and experts count Iowa out, they seem to make everyone look like a fool and win 10 games. However, there is a major difference between the 2012 Iowa Hawkeye team and the 4 Top 10 finishers Ferentz has had since 2002. That difference is talent. Those 4 squads were filled with NFL talent. This team does not appear to have much upper-class NFL talent.
With that said, a favorable schedule and a senior returning starter at quarterback is an excellent combination. Iowa’s 2012 season hinges on avoiding losses to mediocre teams such as Iowa State and keeping the few running backs they have left on scholarship healthy. Plus, a few breaks never hurt. We predict Iowa will win 8 games, but their win range is wide. 6 wins appears to be the bare minimum, while 9-10 wins – with that schedule – is not out of the question. This is definitely the most difficult Big-10 team to project.