IOWA CITY, Iowa – Opinions vary on what we’ll see from the Iowa football team this fall. In that case, look to Vegas.
Oddsmakers put the Hawkeyes at 7.5 wins. They obviously can’t win a half game. It just makes it easier on the bettor.
You think Iowa wins at least eight games this season, hammer the over. You feel that’s a stretch, go under.
Let’s examine 10 items that could help the "over" folks cash in with the Hawkeyes. Here we go:
10. Breaks go Iowa’s way. Ferentz’s system is based around probability. It’s not that he prefers to be close in the fourth quarter of a game. He’s looking to be ahead by 50 in the final period more than the fans. But, his low-risk philosophy often produces close games against opponents regardless of talent level. If you come out on the right side of most of them, it’s a memorable season. Often it’s a bounce here or there.
9. Iowa enjoys a fast start. This one makes Ferentz ache. No one game affects another. It’s one at a time. He’s right, of course. A loss to Iowa State in Week 2 doesn’t impact Week 5 against Wisconsin…unless you let it. College kids need confidence. Losing either of the first two games impacts perception outside the program. There’s a delicate balance around ticket sales right now. This team needs some momentum.
8. Kirk Ferentz and Greg Davis mesh. Iowa’s offense was better last year than in Davis’ first two years as coordinator. It had plenty of room to go up. Still, it was inconsistent and feasted on poor defenses like those at Indiana and Northwestern in Kinnick. Enough with the horizontal passes. What the heck is that, anyway? Enough. Run the ball, play action, throw deep to Tevaun Smith and George Kittle. Rinse. Repeat.
7. Special teams, um, need to be much better. Let’s not talk about the punt returns against Nebraska or the scare against Ball State last year with the shaky field goal kicking. Luckily, Marshall Koehn settled in as the place kicker and is poised for a breakout senior year. Anyway, even if they have to use starters like they did with Dallas Clark and Bob Sanders in ’02, the Hawkeyes MUST be better on special teams.
6. George Kittle is a legacy. He’s also pretty talented. A high school receiver, Kittle is much stronger after three years in college and should be able to block if he’s willing. He can catch it. And he can run after he catches. Fast. Call plays for this position in the passing game. Please.
5. Dillon Kidd settles down and becomes, you guessed it, consistent. Kidd can punt. He is hand picked by Special Teams Coach Chris White. Connor Kornbrath is not an obstacle any longer. Time to deliver. Iowa can’t be bad in this phase unless you have the talent on the ’02 Hawkeyes.
4. Tevaun Smith enjoys a breakout year. This Iowa offense needs a game-breaker, big-play wide receiver. Smith has a lot of ability. We’re used to hearing that. Time to see it in his final year on campus.
3. Redshirt sophomore offensive tackles Boone Myers (left) and Ike Boettger (right) mature quickly. Like, real quickly. Offense or defense, a team does not want to be vulnerable on the edge. Myers and Boettger will be good. But will it be this season? Adding to the intrigue is that OT is the position coached personally by Kirk Ferentz.
2. Like offensive tackle, the Hawkeyes are young at linebacker with two redshirt sophomores and a true sophomore projected to start. At the least the guys on the second level – Bo Bower, Josey Jewell and Ben Niemann – have more reps under their belt than do Myers and Boettger. And, the first two guys have great names. Still, many strides must be made at this position in comparison to last year.
1. Iowa runs the football consistently well. I qualify that because I don’t want to see a fullback running the stretch play where it’s effective against crappy defenses EVER again. EVER. I like Mark Wiesman. I do. Just not running the stretch play. Please, LeShun Daniels remind us of Shonn Greene and Jordan Canzeri of Fred Russell.