Big Ten: Brad Rogers

Iowa adds Chris White as RB coach

February, 22, 2013
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Iowa's extreme staff makeover continued on Friday, when the school announced that Chris White has joined the staff as running backs coach and special teams coordinator.

White spent the previous four years with the Minnesota Vikings, where he worked with special teams. Before that, he coached for nine years at Syracuse, overseeing receivers, tight ends and special teams at various times during that tenure. He was a four-year starting quarterback for Colby College in Maine. That state must hold a special place in Kirk Ferentz's heart, since his first head coaching job was at Maine.

This is White's first time coaching running backs. What's unclear is if he has any experience with exorcism or removing curses, and we hope he's ready to deal with the AIRBHG who keeps taking out vengeance on Hawkeyes ballcarriers.

White is the third new coach to join Ferentz's staff this offseason, along with new receivers coach Bobby Kennedy and Jim Reid, whom Ferentz said today would work with the linebackers along with LeVar Woods. Woods will also assist White with special teams. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker will coach the secondary.

This is the second straight year Iowa will have three new assistants, after having no staff turnover from 2008-11 and very little staff movement during Ferentz's first 13 seasons.

"We've been through a period of transition, but [we're] really enthused about the direction of things and really enthused about the group of guys that we have here," Ferentz told the media at an afternoon news conference.

As for recruiting areas, Ferentz said that Reid and offensive line coach Brian Ferentz would split up Chicago. Woods will work Kansas City and Texas, with Kennedy and offensive coordinator Greg Davis also hitting up the Lonestar State. White will recruit the East Coast, while Parker takes Ohio and Michigan.

Asked about cutting ties in recruiting Florida, Ferentz said this: "We're not going to shut the door in any area. We've four young guys out of that state right now in our program. ... We've definitely cut back our efforts down there the last six, seven years. ... But we'll keep a line open, definitely. If there is a reason to go there, we'll go there. If it looks like there is an interest on the prospects, we'll go anywhere."

Ferentz also said that defensive lineman Louis Trinca-Pasat and offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan had offseason surgeries and won't be available for spring practice. Both are expected back this summer.

Offensive linemen Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal, both of whom suffered season-ending leg injuries in the Penn State game, are recovering well, Ferentz said. Scherff is 100 percent now, he said, and Donnal will be ready when the Hawkeyes open spring practice March 27. Fullback Brad Rogers and linebacker Jim Poggi will no longer play for the team because of injuries.
Perhaps we've been looking at this Iowa running back "curse" thing all wrong.

It's true that the long list of calamities that have befallen Hawkeyes players at that position zoomed past the point of absurd a while ago (for a refresher, click here). AIRHBG, a term first coined by fan blog Black Heart Gold Pants that stands for Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, has become such an accepted acronym that it now has its own web page, Twitter account and entry in the Urban Dictionary.

Superstitious types would be wise not to get on an elevator or cross a rickety bridge with the current starting Iowa tailback. Yet how can a position truly be cursed when the Hawkeyes keep finding ways to succeed there despite ridiculous obstacles?

So Adam Robinson gets kicked off the team in 2010. Freshman Marcus Coker steps in and rumbles for 219 yards in a bowl game. So Coker leaves the team after last season, and other options are sidelined in the offseason. Little-used Damon Bullock steps in and runs for 150 yards and the game-winning score against Northern Illinois in the opener.

[+] EnlargeIowa's Mark Weisman
David Purdy/US PRESSWIREWalk-on fullback Mark Weisman rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns against Northern Iowa.
So Bullock suffers a concussion in the first half last week against Northern Iowa, while backup Greg Garmon hurts his elbow. Well, this one really gets crazy. Iowa turns to walk-on fullback Mark Weisman, and he responds with 24 carries for 113 yards and three touchdowns.

The question isn't really why the running backs are cursed in Iowa City. It's more like, how do the Hawkeyes keep finding these guys?

"First of all, you have to give credit to the players; they're the ones doing all the work," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "That part is where it all starts. Then [running backs coach] Lester [Erb] has done a great job with our backs in coaching and instructing them. So that's a credit to him."

Iowa would like to take credit for Weisman, but he all but fell into their laps from the sky. Or the Air Force, to be more precise.

The Buffalo Grove, Ill., product was very lightly recruited out of high school and primarily as a blocking fullback. But he still wanted to carry the ball, so that's why he decided to play at Air Force.

"They run the fullback a lot, and not many schools do that any more," he told reporters this week.

But Weisman wasn't quite prepared for the other differences at Air Force.

"He was tired of having guys bounce quarters off his bed," Ferentz said. "I don't know if just a story or a legend now at this point, but he got tired of sleeping on the floor. He figured out if he made his bed perfectly one time, he wouldn't have to go through that aggravation again if he slept on the floor."

Weisman left Air Force after just one semester and decided to walk-on at Iowa -- "I knew the tradition here," he said this week, apparently not in reference to AIRBHG.

Ironically, though, he picked a program that didn't run the fullback much. Ferentz said that his fullbacks have traditionally been "frustrated middle linebackers" or "a glorified guard position, really." The coaches didn't pay too close attention to Weisman last year as he sat out under NCAA transfer rules, but Ferentz said he stood out during spring practice this year and then had "an exceptional" August.

Still, the staff didn't start looking at Weisman as a main ball carrier until last week in practice. Then he became the main guy when Bullock and Garmon went down, a 6-foot, 225-pound wrecking ball that teammates have jokingly nicknamed "Juggernaut."

"Mark's kind of, hit the hole, and he's not really going to try to make a move," center James Ferentz told reporters. "He's going to try to run over guys."

With Garmon questionable and Bullock doubtful this week, Weisman should get his first start at running back. Backing him up is another walk-on, true freshman Michael Malloy, with junior fullback Brad Rogers behind them. Jordan Canzeri, who suffered a torn ACL this spring, but has been medically cleared to resume playing, may or not be ready yet.

Can Weisman keep this up?

"Would he be our go-to guy, our predominant back? I don't know," Ferentz said. "Only time will tell. But I think certainly he showed that he can do some things out there competitively and he brings a different tempo running the football, than everybody else. ... We are hardly out of the woods yet."

No one can ever feel too safe about the status of Iowa's running backs. But given how the Hawkeyes keep filling the position successfully, perhaps we should start considering it blessed, not cursed.

Big Ten lunchtime links

August, 3, 2012
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Welcome back to the practice field, Iowa and Ohio State.

Big Ten lunch links

August, 2, 2012
8/02/12
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Which links made it to the medal stand today?

Big Ten lunch links

June, 19, 2012
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Division I conference commissioners meet today and Wednesday in Chicago. Colleague Mark Schlabach and I will be on hand, so be sure and check the blog and the college football home page for coverage.
Iowa's version of a spring game was April 14, but that wasn't the end of the Hawkeyes' spring practice. The team held three more practices after the open workout, and head coach Kirk Ferentz put a bow on his team's spring drills with a news conference Tuesday.

Here are a few highlights from what Ferentz had to say:

-- Ferentz said several players had emerged over the course of the spring. He singled out the defensive line, which went into the spring as a real question mark because of its youth and inexperience. Ferentz said sophomore Louis Trinca-Pasat might have made the most progress.

"He was kind of on the ropes back in December, quite frankly," Ferentz said. "A young guy who really was starting to question where his heart was and how important it was to him, and it showed up in his performance. He was out there, he looked OK, but nothing to write home about.

"In the spring, he's really just quietly emerged, and by the second half of spring ball, he's playing as well as anybody on the field either side of the ball. So he's clearly taken some steps."

Ferentz also said Steve Bigach and Joe Gaglione played well in spring, while Darian Cooper and Riley McMinn showed the typical inconsistency of inexperience. But "the group as a whole, kind of took some steps forward," which is vitally important to the Hawkeyes' chances this season.

The other position group Ferentz praised for its improvement was the tight ends. He said Jake Duzey and Henry Krieger-Coble had good springs.

-- Offensive lineman Casey McMillan and receiver John Chelf suffered knee injuries that required surgery. But Ferentz thinks both will be back this summer. Defensive linemen Carl Davis and Dominic Alvis missed the spring with injuries but should be back by the first week of June. Linebacker Shane DiBona, coming off an Achilles injury, had a setback and will not play again in his career.

-- Running back Jordan Canzeri, who had an offseason ACL injury, wants to try to get back for this season. Ferentz said, "Everything is going fine, but that's touch and go, to say the least."

The two healthy tailbacks, De'Andre Johnson and Damon Bullock "improved pretty much each and every day," Ferentz said. But he's still understandably concerned about the depth there. In a lighter moment, someone asked Ferentz if he'd be open to accepting a graduate transfer, a la Danny O'Brien and Russell Wilson.

"I think I'd consider anything if we thought it would work," he said. "In fact, if you know of any running backs right now ..."

-- Iowa's leadership group for 2012 will be seniors Bigach, Greg Castillo, James Ferentz, Micah Hyde and James Vandenberg, juniors Casey Kreiter, James Morris, Brad Rogers and Brett Van Sloten, sophomores Kevonte Martin-Manley and Brandon Scherff and freshmen Quinton Alston, Austin Blythe and Jake Rudock.

-- Ferentz said "anywhere on defense," receiver and punter remain unsettled positions. The best news is that it's still early.

"We still have a lot of room for improvement, typical of any football team," Ferentz said. "But I think this team, especially with our youth and experience, we're going to see a lot of transition and a lot of things happening here between now and September. That's going to be fun to track, fun to watch. It's really in the players' hands how they want to approach it and how much they want to improve."
AIRBHG has reared his ugly head.

AIRBHG? You don't know him? Unfortunately, Iowa fans know him all too well. He's the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, and he has taken another victim.

Hawkeyes sophomore running back Jordan Canzeri has torn an ACL in his knee and likely will miss the 2012 season, according to multiple reports. Canzeri, listed as Iowa's top running back on the pre-spring depth chart, injured his knee in practice Wednesday, and an MRI performed Thursday revealed the tear.

Scout.com first reported the news and talked with Canzeri's father, Brian.
"Dr. [Ned] Amendola said it was the ACL but the good news is that the rest of the knee is solid," Brian Canzeri said. "He's going to have surgery next week and hopes to get back into practice in September."
Brian Canzeri said that he expects his son to ease into things when he's cleared to practice and will most likely redshirt for the 2012 season.

Sources tell The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette that Canzeri, who has a redshirt available, won't play this fall.

The team has yet to confirm Canzeri's injury.

The loss of Canzeri isn't as devastating as Marcus Coker's departure in January, it continues a baffling string of setbacks for Iowa's running backs. Although AIRBHG has been around since 2001, he has been particularly cruel since Doak Walker Award winner Shonn Greene departed following the 2008 season. Since Greene declared for the NFL draft, Iowa has had six running backs leave the program, culminating with Coker, who ranked second in the Big Ten with 1,384 yards in 2011.

Canzeri started in place of the suspended Coker for the 2011 Insight Bowl, and he would have been in the mix to start this coming season. He's a smaller back, and Iowa likely will use a rotation rather than identify a bell cow like Coker was in 2011.

Canzeri's injury leaves Damon Bullock and De'Andre Johnson as Iowa's primary running backs in spring practice. Fullback Brad Rogers could see some carries at running back, but the big hope is that incoming freshmen Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill can contribute. Garmon in particular drew high marks as a high school standout.

As The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Marc Morehouse points out, Iowa has used a true freshman at running back in each of the past five seasons.
"Both of them are a little bit bigger backs," Hawkeyes running backs coach Lester Erb told reporters Wednesday, before Canzeri injured his knee. "Greg is more of a slasher. but he shows he can get downhill and run tough. Very good speed. Then Barkley just had a tremendous high school career up there at Cedar Falls and we are excited to get him in here. Both guys have a passion for football and both guys are going to have a chance to come in here and compete."

Iowa wants to run the ball and have balance in its offense, but the running back position has been so unstable that the Hawkeyes might have to once again trend toward the pass in 2012. It would really help if Garmon and/or Hill can contribute immediately this fall.

Insight Bowl: Three keys for Iowa

December, 29, 2011
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It's time to look at three keys for the Iowa Hawkeyes before their Insight Bowl showdown Friday night against Oklahoma.

1. Establish some type of run game: Iowa must win the Insight Bowl without its top rusher for the second consecutive season, but this year brings an even bigger challenge. Suspended sophomore Marcus Coker basically has been Iowa's rushing attack this season, accounting for 67.4 percent of the carries and 80.7 percent of the yards. While Iowa boasts a strong passing attack and Oklahoma ranks 83rd nationally in pass defense, the Hawkeyes aren't built to win games with a one-dimensional offense. The onus is on the offensive line to create room for an inexperienced stable of backs. Jordan Canzeri could be a factor, while Brad Rogers, Damon Bullock and De'Andre Johnson also could get touches.

2. Rattle Landry Jones: The OU quarterback hasn't been the same since star receiver Ryan Broyles tore his ACL. Jones has thrown five interceptions and zero touchdowns in the past three games, barely completing half of his pass attempts against Iowa State and Oklahoma State. Iowa's defensive backs must make some impact plays in the game, and cornerback Micah Hyde is more than capable after recording the game-deciding pick-six against Missouri's Blaine Gabbert in last year's bowl to earn defensive MVP honors. Hyde and fellow corner Shaun Prater both need strong performances, and perhaps more important, the Iowa defensive line has to get in Jones' face. Iowa's line has been hot and cold, recording three or more sacks in six games and one or zero sacks in five other contests. The Hawkeyes need the good front four to show up.

3. Start off strong: Many are questioning Oklahoma's motivation for this game after a disappointing season. While it's hard to imagine a Bob Stoops not being ready for a winnable bowl, Iowa must capitalize on any Sooners letdown. The Hawkeyes have outscored their opponents 69-50 in the first quarter and 175-118 in the first half this season. Oklahoma stumbled out of the gate in all three of its losses (Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State). Iowa had a blistering start in the 2010 Insight Bowl, building a 17-3 lead against Missouri before having to rally late. A few quick scores could put the Sooners on their heels and have them start questioning whether they really want to be in Tempe.
Iowa is no stranger to facing adversity in a bowl game.

In the 2001 Alamo Bowl, the Hawkeyes' first postseason appearance under head coach Kirk Ferentz, running back Ladell Betts couldn't play with a hamstring injury, leaving Iowa without a four-year starter. Iowa turned to Aaron Greving, who racked up 115 rush yards and earned offensive MVP honors in a win against Texas Tech.

[+] EnlargeIowa coach Kirk Ferentz
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallKirk Ferentz says he can't explain all of the backfield issues Iowa has faced, but the Hawkeyes have to forge on in their bowl game against OU.
The Betts-Greving situation hardly compared to the crisis Iowa faced before the 2010 Insight Bowl. Top running back Adam Robinson had been suspended and subsequently arrested. Top receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos had been arrested on drug charges, leading to an odd news conference where Iowa admitted to finding problems with its drug-testing program for student-athletes. The team also announced that two reserve running backs, Jewel Hampton and Brandon Wegher, were transferring.

And yet Iowa still won the game, rallying to upset Missouri 27-24.

Another Insight Bowl matchup is on tap Friday night against Oklahoma, and Iowa once again is dealing with some adversity. Sophomore running back Marcus Coker, the team's most productive offensive weapon, is suspended for an undisclosed violation of team policy. There are other potential personnel issues, which Ferentz deflected Tuesday, but replacing Coker's 281 carries and 1,354 rush yards is the big one.

"It's football," Ferentz told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "If our running back had sprained his ankle, he wouldn't play then, either. So you don't surrender and forfeit the game. You keep playing. It happens all year long. Players are in and out. Somebody has to be ready to step in, and everybody else has to help those guys out."

Coker was that guy for Iowa last December, rushing for a team-bowl record 219 yards and two touchdowns against Missouri. But his loss leaves the Hawkeyes with a stable of unproven backs.

Ferentz said Jason White, who he describes as "steady" and "dependable," and Brad Rogers, who has mostly played fullback for Iowa, likely will be the team's top two ball-carrying options Friday against Oklahoma. Freshmen Jordan Canzeri and Damon Bullock are the next two in line.

"We'll basically use everybody we have," Ferentz said. "I don't know if I foresee us getting 200 yards like a year ago, and if we did, it will probably be three, four, five guys contributing to that yardage, not one. We'll do it by committee and just see how it goes."

Iowa's passing attack has been very effective at times, especially early in the season when the Hawkeyes employed some no-huddle. Oklahoma ranks just 83rd nationally against the pass.

But the Hawkeyes won't abandon their run game Friday night. Because they can't.

"We have to at least attempt it," Ferentz said. "We're not built to throw it 70 times a game. It's just not our mode of operation. If we get in a situation like that, it's not good. But the group's capable. They've been practicing well and they'll step up and do a good job."

The suspensions of both Coker and freshman Mika'il McCall have once again placed the spotlight on Iowa's running back position, which has seen an extraordinary amount of turmoil since the departure of Doak Walker Award winner Shonn Greene after the 2008 season. Five promising backs have dealt with off-field issues since Greene's departure.

"I wish I could explain it," Ferentz said. "There's no conspiracy theory or anything like that. We've just had some situations. You have to evaluate each one on an individual basis. We have had our share of transactions and transition. We'll get it settled down again."

When bowl games kick off, Iowa usually finds a way.

Iowa releases Week 1 depth chart

August, 26, 2011
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It has been a fairly quiet training camp at Iowa despite some position competition on both sides of the ball.

The Hawkeyes on Friday released their depth chart for the season opener against Tennessee Tech. Not too many surprises here.

A few notes:
  • Only three spots list co-starters: Matt Tobin and Brandon Scherff at left guard, Matt Meyers and Jonathan Gimm at fullback, and Thomas Nardo and Dominic Alvis at defensive tackle. Alvis also is listed as a backup at defensive end behind Lebron Daniel. Fullback Brad Rogers, sidelined before the Insight Bowl with a heart issue, isn't listed on the two-deep.
  • Redshirt freshman quarterback A.J. Derby seems to be stepping up his game, as he's listed as a co-backup with junior John Wienke.
  • After starting last season at cornerback, Micah Hyde is listed as Iowa's starting free safety, ahead of Tanner Miller. Hyde also is a backup cornerback behind Greg Castillo. Junior Collin Sleeper is listed as the starting strong safety, while Jordan Bernstine is a backup at both strong safety and cornerback. There's not a ton of depth in the Iowa secondary, which could be a problem.
  • Junior Jason White is listed as the backup running back behind Marcus Coker.
  • Sophomore Christian Kirksey is listed as the starting weak-side linebacker ahead of classmate Anthony Hitchens.
  • Iowa's return men for both kickoffs and punts are to be determined.
Before we get ready for a six-pack of spring games Saturday, let's take a quick look back at the final Big Ten scrimmage from a week ago.

Iowa wrapped up spring drills at Kinnick Stadium, and while it was more of a regular practice than the other spring games, the Hawkeyes did a bit of scrimmaging.

Iowa's top three running backs -- Adam Robinson, Brandon Wegher and Jewel Hampton -- missed the scrimmage as they recover from injuries, but quarterback Ricky Stanzi played and completed 7 of 11 passes for 72 yards. Backup James Vandenberg completed 13 of 22 passes for 144 yards. True freshman A.J. Derby twice was picked off by safety Nick Nielsen in limited work.

The Hawkeyes spread the ball around to several receivers. Starter Derrell Johnson-Koulianos recorded a 32-yard reception, while walk-on Don Nordmann had five catches for 49 yards.

Linebacker Troy Johnson stood out for the defense with a sack and a 48-yard touchdown return following a fumbled snap between Vandenberg and center James Ferentz.

Other Iowa nuggets:
  • The kicking game is a bit of a question mark after starter Daniel Murray converted only 3 of 7 attempts in the scrimmage. Trent Mossbrucker fared better, hitting on 4 of 5 attempts. "It's kind of been underwhelming this spring, quite frankly," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We've been very inconsistent. We've flashed, but we've been very inconsistent." Mossbrucker was the team's top kicker for most of the 2008 season and will push Murray for the starting job in preseason camp.
  • Another Iowa running back got a bit banged up, as Brad Rogers left the field with a left ankle injury that head coach Kirk Ferentz called a mild sprain. Wegher and Paki O'Meara got banged up during spring drills, although Hampton was fine and held out of contact only as a precaution. Still, running back health is a concern entering the fall.
  • The top offensive line consisted of left tackle Riley Reiff, left guard Julian Vandervelde, center James Ferentz, right guard Adam Gettis and right tackle Markus Zusevics. Josh Koeppel remains in the mix at center.

Quick hits from my Iowa visit

April, 16, 2010
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IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It has been a great day at Iowa, where I had the chance to visit with head coach Kirk Ferentz, three assistants and several players, including star defensive end Adrian Clayborn and quarterback Ricky Stanzi. I'll have much more on the Hawkeyes next week, particularly on Tuesday, but I have a few quick items before heading back to Chicago.

  • Clayborn will get a ton of preseason pub, and deservedly so, but Ferentz singled out defensive tackle Karl Klug for his performance this spring. Iowa loses leaders like linebackers Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds on defense, and Klug appears ready to take on a bigger role in that department. "Karl played well in the fall," Ferentz said, "but if you surveyed any 10 of our players now, at least nine of them would tell you, maybe 10, that Karl Klug is one of our best leaders and one of our best players." Iowa returns all four starters on the defensive line, and Ferentz considers junior defensive tackle Mike Daniels a fifth starter up front.
  • Incoming freshman A.J. Derby is staying at quarterback, at least for the immediate future.Derby played quarterback in high school but was classified as an "athlete" by most recruiting services, including ESPN, leading many to believe he could see time at other positions. "We think he's going to be just fine at quarterback," Ferentz said. "We really have been impressed. And he fits right in with the other three because he's got a real good football mentality." I asked wide receivers coach Erik Campbell if he'd like Derby as a wide receiver, la Marvin McNutt, and Campbell replied, "No. He's not an athletic type like Marvin. Rick Stanzi would be a pretty good wide receiver: He's nice and tall and long. But I don't think they'd make that trade." I don't think so, either.
  • Ferentz thinks the quarterback group is the strongest that he has had since becoming Hawkeyes head coach. Stanzi has had a solid spring, focusing heavily on reducing his interceptions total. Backup James Vandenberg proved himself a bit against Ohio State last year, and Ferentz recognized third-stringer John Wienke for his play this spring.
  • Iowa has shuffled the linebackers at different spots this spring, but if the Hawkeyes opened the season Saturday, they would have Jeff Tarpinian at middle linebacker, and Jeremiha Hunter and Tyler Nielsen at the two outside spots, Ferentz said. "They've all improved, including Jeremiah, a two-year starter," Ferentz said. "He's had his best spring, so that's good to see."
  • Allen Reisner has stepped in well as the No. 1 tight end, and Ferentz has seen very promising signs from junior Brad Herman as a No. 2 option. "He's clearly had his best period of practice," Ferentz said of Herman. "That's something we really needed to see." Ferentz also thinks its possible incoming freshman C.J. Fiedorowicz could be a factor at tight end with a strong preseason.
  • About the only downside to Iowa's spring has been injuries to the running backs. Adam Robinson has been out all spring following shoulder surgery. Brandon Wegher was practicing full-go until sustaining a shoulder sprain. Jewel Hampton is "absolutely fine" but hasn't participated in contact drills. "My name's Tucker, not sucker, so we're not going to have him get hit this spring," Ferentz said. "We're trying to be real careful with him." Brad Rogers will get most of the work in Saturday's spring game, but all three primary backs will be fine for fall camp. Ferentz and offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe both said it's possible Iowa could split the carries evenly among the three backs.
  • It's too soon to make season predictions, but I'll say this: Iowa won't be overconfident, and besides Ohio State, no team is better prepared to handle expectations than the Hawkeyes. There aren't a lot of egos walking around Iowa's football complex, and players know just how close they were to a Rose Bowl last year, and just how close they were to a mediocre season. That's a good sign heading into the 2010 season.

Indiana-Iowa pregame

October, 31, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A few personnel updates before kickoff today at Kinnick Stadium.
  • Iowa wide receiver Colin Sandeman isn't on the field for warm-ups and likely will miss the game after sustaining a head injury last week at Michigan State. Sandeman has nine receptions for 70 yards this season.
  • Hawkeyes starting safety Brett Greenwood is warming up and should give it a go after hurting his neck in a nasty collision with fellow safety Tyler Sash last week.
  • Defensive end Adrian Clayborn looks fine after dealing with a knee injury. Freshman running back Brad Rogers is in uniform.
  • Indiana cornerback Donnell Jones is warming up with a brace on his right elbow, which he dislocated a few weeks ago. Starting linebacker Will Patterson also is warming up with a club on his left hand.

It's game day at Kinnick Stadium

October, 31, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Happy Halloween from Kinnick Stadium, where No. 4 Iowa tries to continue its perfect season today against Indiana (ESPN, noon ET).

I dressed up as a sportswriter. How about you?

Iowa leads the all-time series, 39-27-4, though Indiana has won two of the last three meetings.

I'm excited to finally see Indiana in person, as the Hoosiers are the only Big Ten team I haven't seen live since starting this job.

The sun is shining and temperatures will hover in the mid to upper 40s, but the wind likely will be a factor as it's blowing at 15-20 miles an hour. Should be a fun day for the specialists.

Injuries: Indiana's injury report can be found here. Starting outside linebacker Will Patterson is expected to return from a hand injury, while cornerback Donnell Jones also returns to the lineup. Iowa will be playing its first game without leading rusher Adam Robinson, out for the rest of the regular season with an ankle sprain. True freshman Brandon Wegher makes his first career start at running back, and Iowa could be using two more freshman, Brad Rogers and Josh Brown, for the first time this season. Iowa also will replace starting right guard Dace Richardson (broken leg) with Julian Vandervelde. It will also be interesting to see how safety Brett Greenwood and wide receiver Colin Sandeman respond after absorbing big hits in last week's win against Michigan State.

THREE KEYS FOR INDIANA

1. Pressure Ricky Stanzi: Iowa is shorthanded at running back and likely will look to throw often, so Indiana must pressure Stanzi with talented defensive ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton. The Hawkeyes' offensive line hasn't been all that great at preventing sacks, and Kirlew, who has 5.5 sacks this season, needs to have a big day.

2. Hit home runs on offense: The Hoosiers can't expect many sustained drives against Iowa, but they have enough big-play ability to test the Hawkeyes' defense. Running back Darius Willis can take it to the house if he gets in the open field, and wideouts Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher can stretch the field.

3. Hang in there: Iowa hasn't blown out anybody at home and will let teams hang around. Indiana must limit turnovers and major mistakes, play field position and force a few miscues from Stanzi. Despite Iowa's clutch play this season, the Hawkeyes can only play with fire for so long.

THREE KEYS FOR IOWA

1. Get the run game going: Everyone wants to know how Iowa will respond without Robinson, so getting Wegher some early confidence will be key. Wegher hasn't taken on a full load of carries this season, but he boasts breakaway ability around the edges.

2. Attack downfield with Moeaki, McNutt and DJK: Indiana's secondary is vulnerable, and Stanzi has been at his best when attacking down the field. Iowa must force Indiana's linebackers to chase tight end Tony Moeaki, and wideouts Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos should be able to create some separation.

3. Put a team away if the opportunity is there: Winning close games on the road are great, but Iowa has failed to pull away from Northern Iowa, Arkansas State and Michigan on its home field. If the Hawkeyes get up early on Indiana, they must put the Hoosiers away. Iowa could really use a fourth quarter without much drama right about now.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Trick or treat.

1. Iowa in search of style points: After rising to No. 4 in the BCS standings, Iowa can help its cause and possibly win over more pollsters with a convincing win against Indiana (ESPN, noon ET). The Hawkeyes have fallen behind in seven of their eight wins and own only one victory by more than 11 points this fall. Indiana isn't a pushover this season, but the Hoosiers are vulnerable in the secondary. Iowa is banged up entering the game, as freshman running back Brandon Wegher makes his first career start in place of the injured Adam Robinson. The Hawkeyes also could use true freshman backs Brad Rogers and Josh Brown.

2. Bowl play-in game at TCF Bank Stadium: Minnesota and Michigan State both sit at 4-4 entering Saturday night's clash (Big Ten Network, 8 p.m. ET). Much like last week's Indiana-Northwestern game, this contest could determine a postseason berth. Michigan State is clearly the hotter team but must bounce back from a heartbreaking loss to Iowa. Linebacker Greg Jones leads a rapidly improving Spartans defense against a Gophers offense that has produced just seven points in its last two games. Minnesota can't afford a late-season collapse for the second straight season, especially with so much experience on the roster.

3. Joey Elliott vs. Scott Tolzien: One quarterback struggled with turnovers early in the season but has turned things around; the other started fast but has thrown five interceptions in his last two games. Elliott really seems to be hitting his stride, and he leads a confident Purdue team into Camp Randall Stadium, where it won in 2003. Wisconsin has dropped consecutive games and needs Tolzien to limit mistakes against an opportunistic Boilermakers defense. The Badgers' banged-up offensive line should be well rested coming off a bye week and needs to keep Big Ten sacks leader Ryan Kerrigan away from Tolzien.

4. Lions try to avoid Cat trap: Penn State snapped its losing streak at Michigan Stadium in convincing fashion last week. Now the Nittany Lions head to Northwestern's Ryan Field (ESPN, 4:30 p.m. ET), which hasn't been the easiest place to notch big wins. Since joining the Big Ten, Penn State is 4-2 in Evanston, but three of the victories have come by five points or fewer. The Lions rallied for a dramatic win in 2005 to spark their Big Ten title season. Penn State comes in hot, while Northwestern is banged up but revived after the biggest comeback in team history.

5. Quarterback questions in Champaign: Big Ten play hasn't been kind to Michigan freshman quarterback Tate Forcier, who has completed just 38 of 81 attempts with two touchdowns and three interceptions in losses to Michigan State, Iowa and Penn State. Forcier and classmate Denard Robinson need to redeem themselves against Illinois, which ranks last in the Big Ten in both total defense and rush defense. Illinois' starting quarterback once again remains a mystery, as senior Juice Williams and freshman Jacob Charest both will see action.

6. Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor: The Buckeyes don't have much to gain from Saturday's game against New Mexico State, which owns the nation's worst offense and will have a rough time putting up points. But it does provide Pryor another opportunity to make strides before next week's huge trip to No. 12 Penn State. Ohio State needs to decide how it wants to use Pryor the rest of the way. My plan? He runs the ball 17-22 times a game and throws deep when the opportunity presents itself.

7. Gophers begin life without Eric Decker: Minnesota's star senior wide receiver is out for the rest of the regular season after straining his foot in Saturday's loss to Ohio State. Decker has been the Gophers' only consistent weapon on offense this season. Minnesota needs a better performance from junior quarterback Adam Weber and an offensive line that has endured inconsistency throughout the season.

8. Indiana's ends vs. Iowa's tackles: For Indiana to have any shot at an upset in Iowa City, defensive ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton must apply steady pressure to Hawkeyes quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Iowa entered the year with the Big Ten's top tackles tandem in Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Calloway, though the Hawkeyes rank eighth in the Big Ten in sacks allowed (17). Kirlew ranks fourth in the league in both sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (13.5), so keeping him away from Stanzi will be key.

9. Zook's reception at home: Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther says Ron Zook will be back in 2010, a decision that didn't sit well with much of Illini Nation. It will be interesting to see if the team can show some sign of progress on its home field against a sputtering Michigan team. If it's more of the same, you can bet the boo birds will be out for Zook, whose team is headed to a last-place finish for the third time in his five seasons in Champaign.

10. Penn State vs. Northwestern on money downs: Tom Bradley's defense leads the Big Ten in preventing conversions on both third down (30.4 percent) and fourth down (25 percent). Northwestern has attempted and converted more third downs (51.1 percent) and fourth downs (58.3 percent) than any other league team this season. If the Wildcats' offense can control the clock and stay on the field, it might hang around for a while. If Penn State holds its ground on the money downs, it should pull away.

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