Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Second-half outlook: Iowa
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Remaining schedule: at Michigan State, vs. Indiana, vs. Northwestern, at Ohio State, vs. Minnesota
After a spotless first half, Iowa steps into a new role as the team to beat in the Big Ten. Everyone will be targeting the Hawkeyes the rest of the way, but these players and coaches have shown they handle adversity extremely well. Iowa faces tough road tests at venues where they haven't won since 1995 (Spartan Stadium) and 1991 (Ohio Stadium). The home schedule looks fairly manageable, but little has come easy for Kirk Ferentz's team this season. The biggest key in the second half is the continued development of quarterback Ricky Stanzi and the offense. Stanzi threw eight interceptions in the first six games, three of which were returned for touchdowns. He played a clean second half against Wisconsin and seems to be clicking with tight end Tony Moeaki and wideout Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, which could then open up the run game. The defense must stay healthy and continue to make plays, but the unit is good enough to carry Iowa a long way.
Best-case scenario: The Hawkeyes win out and blow out a few teams along the way. Texas and USC stumble, clearing the path for Iowa to meet the SEC champion in the BCS title game. Stanzi takes care of the football and the only key interceptions are the ones the Hawkeyes' defense continues to make.
Worst-case scenario: Iowa drops both of its remaining road games and slips up once at home. Stanzi relapses and starts throwing picks again, and the defense wears down or gets hurt. Still, the Hawkeyes end up in a Jan. 1 bowl in Florida.
Prediction: BCS bowl (not saying which one). Iowa drops one of its remaining road games but wins the rest.