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hate hate hate hate hate. (writing edition)

First thangs first: check out Chadnudj's post about who's gotta win this week and who's gotta lose this week. It's good stuff, and if you didn't notice it, it's over on the right side of the page over there. (that's where stuff you guys post goes. I can also make it go on the front page, but I kept chad's over there because it makes it look like I have readers when there are posts over there.)


Anyway, I sat down with interviewed sent a few questions via email to Ross from Black Heart Gold Pants to follow up on the podcast I did over there (go listen, if you got a half-hour or so to kill today), and he was kind enough to repond in great length:


Describe your hate for Northwestern, 50 words or less.  

--   I hate them for beating Iowa three of the past four years, especially for providing one of my saddest Legendary Historic Kinnick Stadium experiences ever in 2006.  I hate them because my brother went there, so it's a family thing.  And I hate them for wearing purple, because losing to a bunch of Grimace-looking motherfuckers is depressing.

When you looked at the season, did you see "9-0?" When you look at the games you've played, do you have any idea how you're 9-0?

-- I saw "9-0" if I got good and drunk before doing some prognosticating, but that's about it.  Between the brutal road schedule and the uncertainty at running back, center, defensive tackle, and left cornerback, I was fairly certain we'd run into a pothole or three somewhere along the way.  I could try and explain how they're 9-0 in a way that used facts (like turnover margin and pass efficiency defense) or trite cliches (like the fact this team never quits or that they're quintessential hard-working grinder-types)... but those still wouldn't exactly be satisfying.  

The honest truth is that this season has been (to this point) an almost ideal confluence of good talent, hard work, and, yes, luck.  If you look at the season-defining plays Iowa has had this year, they all fit that description.  The coaches recognize a weakness in Penn State's punt coverage team which allows Clayborn to steamroll a guy two-thirds his size and block a punt -- that's skill plus hard work.  Being able to have the blocked punt bounce perfectly into Clayborn's arms while he's perfectly in stride -- well that's a bit of luck.  McNutt recognizes that he can beat the Michigan State corner on an inside slant, the coaches trust him, the execution is flawless -- once again, skill plus hard work pays off.  (That particular play probably involved the least amount of luck of any of these plays, but there were lucky breaks earlier in the drive/game, so we'll call it a wash.)  The coaches call a blitz on third and goal, down 21-7 against Indiana (despite the fact that a blitz call in a similar spot in the first half led to a touchdown), the execution is again perfect, as the line and AJ Edds are able to pressure Ben Chappell into rushing his throw, which winds up taking a series of crazy caroms (enter: luck) off four players and lands in the arms of Tyler Sash; and thus the legend of the Pinball Pick Six is born.  And so on.  Only a fool would argue that this Iowa team hasn't gotten some very advantageous breaks this season, but only a truly ignorant observer would ignore the fact that this Iowa team has also had skilled players well-coached to be in the right positions to maximize the value of those lucky breaks.


The rest, after that jump.

Should opposing teams be scared about Iowa's offense, and if not, does it matter?

-- They should be scared of them for the roughly one quarter a game when they actually click.  It would be nice if everything would click for more than one quarter, but consistency isn't really Iowa's thing this year.  They have a decent amount of talent on offense -- they just rarely seem to all be on the same page.  Anyone who's watched Iowa this year knows that when Ricky Stanzi is "on," he can be very good -- rifling in beautiful deep balls or hitting receivers in perfect stride to set up long runs after the catch; likewise, anyone who's watched Iowa this year also knows that when Ricky Stanzi is "off," he can be very very bad -- throwing some of the absolute worst and most indefensible interceptions imaginable by a major college quarterback.  Both Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt have shown flashes of being sure-handed big play receivers; McNutt already has two of the most memorable touchdown catches in recent Iowa history and DJK always seems to make a big catch or three to get a first down during a game.  That said, neither guy is all that consistent yet (particularly McNutt, who is still learning he ins and outs of the position).  When healthy (a massive caveat in this case), Tony Moeaki is arguably the most talented and most complete tight end in terms of receiving ability and blocking ability in the Big Ten.  And Brandon Wegher has been a surprisingly tough and quick-learning running back for a true freshman.  So there are good players on the offense -- they just don't always seem to mesh in a way that leads to a consistent, powerful offense.  

And it matters to the extent that if this is the mythical game when the offense actually does put it all together, then Northwestern is probably screwed.  The defense has been doing its usual brilliant job of stifling opposing offenses, which might make it difficult for Northwestern's offense to keep up the pace if the Iowa offense is (unexpectedly) consistent and explosive.  On the other hand, even if this is yet another stop-and-start day by the offense, the defense and special teams have done an incredible job of this year of keeping games close and, when necessary, breaking big plays and scoring points on their own.  

Prediction for Saturday? Anything you say can and will be jinxed against you.

-- As much as I would love to see a repeat of the 62-10 massacre from 2002 (the closest I've ever seen an Iowa team come to pure offensive perfection), I fully realize that that is a pipe dream with this offense.  Unless one side has a staggering number of turnovers, I think this will be yet another close, hard fought battle for Iowa.  Iowa pulls away a little bit late to make this one a bit more comfortable than the last few heart-stoppers.  27-13, Iowa.


(yeah, that's a jinx.)