TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Quarterback James Vandenberg #16 of the Iowa Hawkeyes drops back to pass during the Insight Bowl against the Oklahoma Sooners at Sun Devil Stadium on December 30, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
IU begins November with a home game against a tough program that has nonetheless played down to IU's level over the years. IU beat Iowa in 2006 and 2007 and played very competitively against the Hawkeyes in 2009 and 2010. Last year was rough, of course, but by default (IU's other conference home games are against MSU, OSU, and Wisconsin), the game against the Hawkeyes may be IU's most winnable Big Ten home game.
In the 2011 game, IU managed to hang with Iowa until the middle of the second quarter, when Iowa went on a run to turn a 14-14 tie into a 35-14 halftime lead. Quarterback James Vandenberg
, now a senior, played well against IU and will be the leader of the 2012 Hawkeyes. Last season, Vandenberg threw for 3022 yards. His completion percentage (58.7) wasn't terribly impressive, but he threw for 25 TDs to only 7 interceptions. At running back, however, Iowa is depleted. 2011 leading rusher Marcus Coker
transferred, De'Andre Johnson
was dismissed a couple of weeks ago because of multiple problems with the law, and Jordan Canzieri tore his ACl. That leaves Damon Bullock
, with 10 carries for 20 yards, as the only returning experience. This article
mentions incoming freshmen Greg Garmon
and Barkley Hill
as possible replacements. At receiver, the Hawkeyes must replace the excellent Marvin McNutt, but Keenan Davis
, who gained 713 yards and caught four TDS, returns, as do Kevonte Martin-Manley
, and tight end CJ Fiedorwicz. On the line, which often is a strength for the Hawkeyes, Iowa returns two full-time starters from last season, including coach's son James Ferentz
On defense, the Hawkeyes return leading tackler James Morris, linebacker Christian Kirksey, and interception leaders Micah Hyde and Tanner Miller. Iowa must replace sack leadersBroderick Binns and Mike Daniels and DL Tyler Nielsen. Iowa will be starting over at punter, but PK Mike Miller (14-20) returns.
Again, on paper this is a mismatch, but that's been true even when the Hoosiers have inexplicably held their own against Iowa. The Hawkeyes are always a solid and well-coached team, but they have enough question marks at offensive skill positions and on defense that perhaps the Hoosiers will be in a position to surprise.