Northwestern plays Iowa on Saturday, so we decided to check in with the outstanding Iowa blog Black Heart Gold Pants to get a little insight on this week's opponent. RossWB answered the questions this week. Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter at @RossWB and follow Black Heart Gold Pants (be warned - there will be caps lock) at @BHGP.
1) Let's say Iowa ends up 8-4 again. What's the mood going to be in Iowa City, and will there be any confidence that Ferentz 3.0 will ever show up?
ROSS: Honestly, if you offered Iowa fans 8-4 right now, I think quite a few would take it in a heartbeat. The mood is not exactly optimistic in Hawkeye-ville after stewing about the miserable performance against Maryland for two weeks. Although the discontent is a result of more than just that one bad showing; by itself, it could probably be excused. The bigger issue is that Iowa has only looked sporadically good through seven games. They were in a dogfight with a .500 FCS team (UNI), needed a late comeback against a middling MAC squad (Ball State), lost at home to a bad Big XII team (Iowa State), needed a second-half comeback to beat a pretty mediocre ACC team (Pitt), and they've run out of teams from Indiana to play in the Big Ten, which is concerning. Long story short, the mood is going to be tense with a side of grim and if Iowa gets off to a slow start (or gets behind by a few scores early), I think the fans will either check out on the game or start booing. Or both.
As far as Ferentz 3.0... any confidence that might have existed has largely been replaced by blind hope at this point. Unless Iowa stumbles onto a true difference-maker at quarterback -- and finds or develops a few difference-makers in the defensive back seven -- it's hard to see why things would get much better for Iowa. The current combination of players and coaches just seems like a set-up for more of same ol', same ol'.
2) This is a more general question: Why would a wide receiver ever want to go to Iowa? It seems like Derrick Willies was pretty frustrated with the Greg Davis offense, and rightfully so.
ROSS: Now, to be fair, that depends on what type of receiver you're talking about. If you're a possession receiver who lives for nothing more than catches on short routes within five yards of the line of scrimmage, good news! You're going to love this offense. On the other hand, if you're a speedy receiver that likes to get downfield, well, sorry. You're going to be pretty frustrated in this offense. But the truth is that Iowa hasn't exactly been a hotbed for receiver recruits for quite some time -- long before Greg Davis moseyed into town. The only 4* receiver recruit I can think of at Iowa during Kirk Ferentz's tenure is Keenan Davis -- and he was also a local kid, from just up the road in Cedar Rapids. Iowa's usually made do with under-the-radar recruits or guys switching positions; sometimes that's worked pretty well (Marvin McNutt) and sometimes not so much (too many to list).
3) Every few games, it seems like Kirk Ferentz realizes that they need to change something up on offense, then they do and it works (and then he forgets about it). Is there any chance we get a CJ Beathard sighting for this game to mix things up?
ROSS: Good question. The rampant cynic in me would say "No, not a chance." But I think the reality is that it depends on how the first few series go for Rudock and the offense. If he looks sharp and is able to move the offense (and score points), then I think C.J. will be relegated to clipboard duty for the day and Ferentz will ride or die with Rudock (again). But if Rudock struggles or the Iowa offense isn't able to move the ball (or score points), then I could see Beathard getting a shot to spark things on offense. I do think Ferentz likes Beathard -- he just likes Rudock more.
4) Iowa has a pretty good defensive line, but the run defense has slipped up in the past two games. How do you see the defense doing against Justin Jackson?
ROSS: To be honest, I have no idea. I believe that they're going to be extremely focused on stopping the run and I believe that they've probably spent an inordinate amount of time on it in practice (or maybe a perfectly ordinate amount of time, given their woes of late), but I have no clue if that's going to translate into actual better tackling and proper angles. I hope it does, but I remain firmly skeptical until I see proof. Maryland was a middling running team and they ran all over this Iowa team. Justin Jackson looks like a mighty fine running back, so I could certainly see him having a good day against this Iowa defense. The only good news for Iowa on that front is that they might be able to survive a good day from Jackson if they can force Trevor Siemian into some mistakes (which doesn't seem all that impossible).
5) Got a prediction?
ROSS: I'm predicting an ugly, stupid, boring game. Neither offense is very consistent -- or very good -- and both defenses are (often, but not always) solid. That smells like a recipe for a lot of punting to me and not a lot of points. Last year's game was 10-10 prior to overtime and I'm not expecting this year's affair to be much different. I'll go 16-13 Iowa on a late Marshall Koehn field goals and a game-clinching Siemian interception.