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Archive for December, 2009

Wisconsin win is a good omen

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Iowa fans who are wondering how their team will match up with Georgia Tech next Tuesday night in the FedEx Orange Bowl should take heart from what happened in the Champs Sports Bowl last night.

Wisconsin handled Miami (Fla.), giving us one more piece of evidence that Atlantic Coast Conference football isn’t very strong this year. The final score was only 20-14, but it really wasn’t that close a game. The Badgers dominated, outgaining Miami 430-249 and holding the Hurricanes scoreless for more than 58 minutes in the middle of the game.

The ACC is now 1-3 in bowl games with the only victory being a fairly unimpressive 21-13 win by Clemson over a so-so Kentucky team. Clemson gave ACC champion Georgia Tech all it could handle in two meetings between the two teams this season. Tech also lost to Miami while Iowa defeated Wisconsin.

You can’t put too much stock in comparative scores, but it does seem to confirm what a lot of us gave been saying: That the Big Ten isn’t all that bad and the ACC isn’t all that good.

The Big Ten will get five more bowl tests over the next few days and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the league win three of those games although none of them are against ACC opponents. It’s already shaping up better than last year when the Big Ten was 1-6 in its post-season endeavors.

Hawkeyes not likely to go Gaga

Monday, December 28th, 2009

The Hawkeyes have landed in Florida. Unfortunately, I have a few more days before I join them there.
I’ve only had two people offer today to go along and carry my bags for me. Most days, it’s five or six. It must be warming up outside.

Kirk Ferentz told reporters upon landing in Florida on Sunday night that he planned to loosen the reins and let the players have some fun in these first few days. But knowing Ferentz, the players aren’t going to have much opportunity to find any real mischief. We’re betting they are under a pretty tight curfew by New Year’s Eve.

Lady Gaga, an international recording artist given to outlandish dress and unpredictable onstage behavior, is scheduled to perform at the team’s hotel — the Fontainebleau — on New Year’s Eve. A few players last week told us they thought wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was the player most likely to jump up onstage with the flamboyant Gaga although others mentioned injured wideout Paul Chaney and freshman Josh Brown (both accomplished rappers) as possibilities.

Chances are, none of them will even get a glimpse of Gaga and not just because of whatever curfew they might be under. The lowest priced tickets for her concert are $425. The good seats, up near the stage, are $25,000.

Erb, Campbell had great years, too

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

The players get most of the credit when a football team has the kind of season Iowa has had.

And the head coach takes his share of bows.

The offensive and defensive coordinators also get a small piece of the credit.

But as offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe pointed out last week, a couple of other assistant coaches also deserve a large share of credit for the fact that the Hawkeyes went 10-2 in the regular season.

O’Keefe made note of how much work receivers coach Erik Campbell has invested in making Marvin McNutt into a topflight Big Ten receiver. And he said what Lester Erb has done as the team’s running backs coach is nothing short of amazing.

Entering fall camp, Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher were pretty much No. 4 and 5 on the depth chart, but they end up playing extremely well. Robinson set Iowa’s freshman rushing record and Wegher had the highest yardage total ever by a true freshman. Between them, they rushed for 1,303 yards and 12 touchdowns and did an exceptional job of picking up blitzes on pass plays.

“I have to say Lester Erb has done an unbelievable job the last two years,’’ O’Keefe said. “He took Shonn Greene off the furniture truck and got him ready to play. And Jewel Hampton was only a true freshman. Then this year he took two guys who were great high school players but hadn’t ever played at this level and got them ready.’’

Hawks in holding pattern recruit-wise

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

This normally is a very busy time for college recruiters. They use the time between the end of the regular season and the bowl game (for those that are in bowl games) to host recruits on campus and to try to nail down firm commitments from players they have been courting for months.

It’s a rare year for the Hawkeyes. Kirk Ferentz and his staff don’t have much to do. They have a solid recruiting class of 19 committed players in place. All they want to do now is make sure they hold onto what they already have.

And Ferentz admitted that because of the kind of season the Hawks have had, they don’t expect to have much trouble doing that.

At least one of Iowa’s recruits – quarterback A.J. Derby of Iowa City – is planning to graduate from high school in mid-year and enroll at Iowa for the second semester so he can go through spring practice. It’s a blow for the City High basketball team, but it should help Derby find playing time earlier in his college career.

Scout.com rates the Hawkeyes’ recruiting class No. 33 in the country and No. 5 in the Big Ten, which is probably slightly higher than they usually are rated. Recruiting rankings aren’t something Ferentz cares much about anyway.

The rest of the Big Ten, according to Scout.com: Penn State is 4th, Michigan 16th, Ohio State 21st, Michigan State 26th, Wisconsin 39th, Purdue 42nd, Indiana 47th, Minnesota 50th, Northwestern 58th and Illinois 68th. The Illini normally would be up in the middle of the Big Ten somewhere, but they only have six commitments at the moment.

Big Ten shut out on Camp All-American team

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

The first of many All-American teams is out and if this is any indication, the Big Ten is not very highly thought of nationwide.

There is not a single Big Ten player on the 25-player first team of the Walter Camp Foundation team. None. Zero. My guess is that might be a first. I certainly don’t recall it happening before. Heck, this might be the first time in a long time there isn’t at least one Ohio State player in there.

There are five Big Ten guys on the second team, including Iowa’s Pat Angerer and Bryan Bulaga, but it’s clear that the people who select these teams don’t think there are any really elite players in the league.
The question: Is that an accurate depiction or just perception?

I’d say it’s perception. Other than offensive skill position players, where there are concrete stats that can be used for comparative purposes, there’s a lot of guesswork that goes into these selec-tions. There are 10 Camp first-teamers from the SEC (Alabama and Florida accounted for seven of those) and seven from the Big 12, and while those leagues are better than the Big Ten right now, they’re not that much better.

For what’s worth, the Big East also got shut out and there was only one ACC player on the first team.

Besides Angerer and Bulaga, other Big Ten players on the second were team were Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones and two Michigan players – defensive end Brandon Graham and punter Zoltan Mesko. No one from either Ohio State or Penn State.

Tech a very unusual team

Monday, December 7th, 2009

The more I look at the stat sheet, the more anxious I am to get a look at this Georgia Tech team. This is a very unusual football team.

I’ve heard a little about the Yellow Jackets over the course of the season, but I didn’t really start studying them until they were matched with Iowa in the Jan. 5 Fed Ex Orange Bowl.

Some observations:

– None of Tech’s starting offensive linemen is over 300 pounds and the right tackle is a 254-pound former running back.

– The three backs who have combined for nearly 3,000 yards this season – Jonathan Dwyer, Josh Nesbitt and Anthony Allen — all weigh 214 or more pounds. Allen, who has averaged 9.8 yards on his 61 carries, checks in at 228.

– The Yellow Jackets have completed only 76 passes this season with 46 of them going to one player: 229-pound wideout Demaryius Thomas, who averages 25.1 yards per catch.

– As a team, they average more than 23 yards per reception.

– Their quarterbacks have completed 47.8 percent of their passes, which has to be among the worst in the country, but they’re eighth in the country in passing efficiency.

– Punt returner Jerrard Tarrant averages 14.3 yards per return and has two runbacks for touchdowns this season.

– More than half their quarterback sacks are by one player, Derrick Morgan.

Some of those numbers would seem to be red flags. On paper, it looks as though they only have one receiver who needs to be covered and one defensive lineman who needs to be blocked. I’m sure it’s not that simple. You don’t get to be 11-2 and a 3 ½ -point favorite in your bowl game by being that unbalanced.

Like I said, it’s a very unusual team.

It might be Miami instead of Phoenix

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

On the eve of learning where everyone is headed for the bowl season, everything seems to have turned around. It now appears as though Iowa may be headed for a Jan. 5 date with Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

Several media outlets are now reporting that the Fiesta Bowl is contemplating a matchup between the two unbeaten non-BCS teams – TCU and Boise State. For several weeks the experts have been forecasting an Iowa-Boise matchup.

If the Fiesta uses its first at-large selection on TCU, the Orange Bowl likely would then scoop up Iowa.

There has been speculation that one of the BCS bowls might opt for Penn State over Iowa even though the Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions in a head-to-head battle.

However, an Orange Bowl official told Iowa reporters two weeks ago that his bowl is very interested in “unique matchups,’’ pairing schools that never have played one another before. Penn State and Georgia Tech have played seven times through the years although the most recent meeting was in 1991.

Georgia Tech might be a tough matchup for the Hawkeyes. There have been times in the second half of the season that they looked vulnerable to strong ground game. The Yellow Jackets are the best triple option team in the country. Running back Jonathan Dwyer and quarterback Josh Nesbitt have combined for 2,337 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns this season.

Reporters get their marching orders

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Part of what makes Kirk Ferentz successful as a college football coach is that he’s a control freak. He wants to be in command of every aspect of his program, to make sure that everything is done his way. It’s a good thing in a lot of ways.

It’s not always a good thing for members of the media, who have become accustomed to having Ferentz tell them what they can and can not do. Some of them even obey.

On Wednesday, Ferentz asked reporters not to ask any of his players questions about whether or not they are planning to turn pro after their junior seasons. (Three of his current stars are thinking about it.) He also said he’d appreciate it if we didn’t ask about rumors connecting Ferentz to Notre Dame and other job openings. He long ago told us not to ask players about injuries.

There even was talk a few weeks ago that he had admonished the parents of players not to speak to the media.

What harm would any of this do? Probably none. Ferentz’s players are so well-coached in how to sidestep the media they wouldn’t say anything outlandish or controversial anyway. But he’d prefer we didn’t even try.

And when would we ask? Only four players – those most adept at dealing with reporters – will be made available Sunday when the Hawkeyes announce what bowl game they’re going to. When they hold a pre-bowl interview session about 10 or 12 days after that, we again will get only “selected’’ players.

Ferentz joked Wednesday that we won’t be allowed to speak with sometimes controversial wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos until after the bowl game.

At least I think he was kidding.