On the verge of college football season beginning, I keep asking myself one question, why not? Every Iowa fan seems to be coming up with tons of reasons as to why this can't be a special season for the Hawkeyes, but I keep coming back to the question of why not? Is this a perfect team? No. But is it fatally flawed in any discernible way? Not that I can see. Let's go through the biggest worries for Hawkeye fans in 2010.
Although inexperienced, the offensive line will be better than most people think this year. If there is one coach to help an offensive line come together quickly, that coach would have to be Kirk Ferentz. They are constantly challenged by what may be the best defensive line in the nation which will help the team fix mistakes before they become problems. Brian Bulaga was a first round pick last year, and Riley Reiff was more impressive than him on the offensive line last year. The offensive line isn't going to be as good as Wisconsin's, but it will still be good. Why not?
The secondary is not going to fall off from last year, even with losing Amari Spievey. Yes, he basically cut off half the field for passing attacks last year. That is going to be incredibly tough to replace, but Shaun Prater did a good job at CB2 last year, and Micah Hyde just keeps being more and more impressive than people want to give him credit for. Also, Iowa's system helped make Spievey look better in coverage than he may have actually been. He's already been moved to safety for the Lions. Although they may not be All Big Ten this year, these are still solid corners who will not remind us the James Hardy Nightmare. Iowa's secondary can be just as good as last year's. Why not?
The linebackers are going to take small step backwards, but I put the emphasis on small. Hawkeye linebackers are always good. They're not always great. It's not always Abdul Hodge, Chad Greenway, or AJ Edds, but they're always good. Iowa linebackers have always produced. Even when things were at their worst, guys like Mike Humpal and Mike Klinkenborg (who was part human/part robot) did a very good job at the linebacker position. Tyler Nielsen has been groomed to replace Edds, and Tarpinian has shown himself to be such a good cover linebacker that the Hawkeyes often brought him in on third down for that very reason. To say these linebackers are going to be better than the 2009 version would be wishful thinking, but that doesn't mean that they aren't still going to be good. Why not?
The running game will be much better this year. And it wasn't bad last year. Yes, I know that we will no longer be celebrating Wegher Bombs this year. And yes, I know that Paki is #2 on the depth chart for the first game of the season. But we have the "crown jewel" of the backfield making his return in Jewel Hampton. I'm trying to be cautiously optimistic about Jewel, because I know that serious leg injuries usually take two years to fully recover. But still, medicine and rehab is only getting better so there's no reason that guys can't get back to peak performance quicker. This is the evolution of medicine, this is the evolution of Iowa's running game. A-Rob will definitely improve from a very good Freshman year, but Jewel will be the next great Iowa running back. Why not?
Iowa will be good enough on the road. It is well known that the Hawkeyes have a history of struggling on the road, especially early in the season. I don't expect the Hawkeyes to play amazing football on the road, but I do expect them to be good. This year, that's all it should take. Iowa's road schedule is set up perfectly for them to end up 5-0. First off is Arizona in a night game. If anybody watched PAC-10 football last year, they'd realize that none of those teams were taught the art of tackling. That's kind of a big deal in football. Plus, I will be there, extremely inebriated, and cheering the team on, so that's got to help, right? Michigan? Definitely a tough game as Iowa tends to struggle against the spread offense, but they also are playing not one, not two, but three quarterbacks. Does that sound like a good idea to anyone? If that doesn't sell you, Michigan has no defense so it's tough for me to worry too much about them. Indiana? Yeah, that's a win. Northwestern? I know that we have struggled, but they have gotten ridiculously lucky against the Hawkeyes. Stanzi will have his revenge. And Minnesota? You're joking, right? They lost to Iowa State last year, so that matchup has me only slightly more worried than Ball State. Iowa doesn't have to be perfect, and I think they're plenty good enough to avoid a slip-up on the road. Why not?
Iowa will beat Ohio State. And they'll also win all of their other home games. But let's face it, Ohio State is the game everybody is most worried about. Ohio State is a great team. They have a ton of talent, and they are well coached. They have gotten the better of the Hawkeyes. These are all things that I completely recognize. But are they going to come into Kinnick and beat the Hawkeyes? No, they're not. Our defensive line did not do a good enough job stopping the run in that game. Everybody's back, and they're going to make sure there is not another repeat performance. Terrelle Pryor looked like a solid quarterback against Oregon in the Rose Bowl last year. The PAC-10 does not know how to tackle, so needless to say, I was unimpressed. Ohio State is going to have to depend on Pryor's decision making abilities for the Buckeyes to win this game. With that being the case, I like the Hawkeyes chances. I think this game comes right down to the wire. Luckily, this year, Iowa will have their leader taking over in the fourth quarter. Ricky Stanzi's gonna win this one for America. Why not?
P.S. If every person who has ever played quarterback in the history of football was asked what is worse than throwing an interception, none of them would come up with an answer half as awesome as Ricky Stanzi's (The greatness begins at about 1:40).
This man loves America more than I will ever love anything or anyone in my entire life.