Our opponent Q&A series continues this week with Steve Batterson, the Iowa beat writer for the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa. Batterson has covered Iowa football and basketball, football and basketball for small colleges in the area and high school sports in Iowa and Illinois. You can check out all of his coverage at HawkMania.com. Follow him on Twitter at @sbatt79 and follow Hawk Mania at @HAWKMANIAQ.
Have James Vandenberg's struggles this year been due more to the change in offensive coordinator, the loss of Marvin McNutt, or a combination?
A combination of elements have led to a challenge-filled senior season for James Vandenberg. New offensive coordinator Greg Davis is known for building his attack around available talent, but a lack of speed and experience at the receiver positions has prevented the Hawkeye passing game, and in particular the intermediate passing game, from having sustained success this season.
Davis' best Texas offenses featured somewhat mobile quarterbacks, something Vandenberg has never been accused of and a weapon that is missing from the Iowa arsenal, but the senior does have a good command of what he's being asked to do. Execution has been another matter as both Vandenberg and receivers have struggled to get on the same page.
How much will the loss of Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal affect Iowa's running game?
The loss of Brandon Scherff, in particular, is a painful one of the Iowa offensive line. Mark Weisman, and Damon Bullock before suffering his own injury, both found success running on the left side where the holes blown open by Scherff, guard Matt Tobin and center James Ferentz have provided the Hawkeyes with room to run. Tobin or Nolan MacMillan, Scherff's replacement last week after the injury, will likely get the start at left tackle. Austin Blythe, a starter at right tackle for three games before suffering his own injury, will replace Andrew Donnal. The situation has left Iowa with limited depth at the tackle spots.
What are your expectations for Mark Weisman in this game? Will we see the guy we saw earlier in the year or will he still be hobbled from his injury?
Mark Weisman should be closer to 100 percent this week. He continues to receive daily treatments and said Tuesday that his improvement in recent days has been significant. That said, the line injuries will likely impact the Iowa's rushing attack. The Hawkeyes will do what they can to establish the run. That has been at the core of the offense for years and Iowa's inability to accomplish that last week against Penn State factored into their demise.
Iowa's defensive line has been inconsistent, but overall a pleasant surprise. How do you expect them to handle a running quarterback like Kain Colter?
It seems like everybody has a running, scrambling quarterback these days and Iowa has seen its share this season, starting with Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois and Steele Jantz of Iowa State during the first two weeks of the season. Kain Colter is more elusive than those two. Iowa is perhaps better suited to deal with mobile QBs than in the past in part because of an expanded rotation of defensive linemen. First-year defensive line coach Reese Morgan, the program's offensive line coach the past nine years, has typically rotated 7-8 bodies at the four DL positions. The youth at those spots has led to some inconsistency, but the overall impact has been a line that is better suited to play effective football late in games.
What is the psyche of this team like after such a bad loss in a night game showcase? Do you expect a hangover for this game?
Embarrassment was the description a number of Hawkeyes put on their effort against Penn State, particularly players on the defensive side of the ball. This group has been a pretty resiliant bunch. One of its better efforts came the week after the loss to Central Michigan when Iowa handled a Minnesota team that at the time was without MarQueis Gray, but riding the momentum of a 4-0 start. I expect Iowa to come ready to play this week. That has been their MO this season.
What is the key for Iowa to come away with a win?
Iowa's chances for a win are dependent on the Hawkeyes' ability to establish an effective ground attack on offense. Weisman or Bullock, who is expected back this week after missing the last four games with a head injury, must provide enough of a rushing game to open things up for Vandenberg in play action.
Do you have a prediction for the game?
Predicting the outcome of this Iowa team's games has been next to impossible because of the inconsistent nature of their performances. Because the game is on the road, where Vandenberg has quarterbacked just two Big Ten wins, I'll go with the Wildcats by a 24-20 margin.