Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Iowa Player Watch

Two games left to go, and both games are a must-win for Michigan if they have any hopes of catching Nebraska in the Legends Division. Saturday will be Senior Day at the Big House...the last home game for all the seniors, and they need to go out with a win, no matter who the quarterback is.  We all know Ohio State is the last opponent, and rightfully so, but Michigan cannot overlook Iowa, which Michigan leads the series 40-13-4. Last season the Wolverines lost to Iowa at Kinnick Stadium 24-16. That loss derailed the hopes and dreams of all Michigan fans in Brady Hoke's first season, and yet they still went on to finish 11-2, but without a Big Ten title. Michigan has also lost 3 in a row to Iowa--another streak I foresee coming to an end on Saturday, and another bonus for the seniors since they have yet to beat the Hawkeyes.  The game on this coming Saturday will tell a different tale--a tale of two different teams heading in two different directions. The Hawkeyes are 4-6 (2-4 Big Ten), and have no identity in which to speak of. The quarterback play has been erratic at best, and the running game has slowed down considerably. Defensively Iowa isn't any better---they're ranked in the 50s nationwide in both pass and run defense. Yes, they've won 2 Big Ten conference games but when you look closer, they've lost their past 4 games. Let's figure out what's going on:

James Vandenberg

With any team, the success of the team is determined by the success of the quarterback. In Iowa's case, the job has been left to James Vandenberg. Unfortunately for Hawkeye fans, that's not a ringing endorsement. Last season he threw for over 3,000 yards, 25 TDs, and just 7 INTs. This season however, he's thrown for just shy of 2,000 yards so far and get this--5 TDs and 6 INTs. Why such a sudden downturn in scoring? How did this happen? I think the answer comes down to the hiring of Greg Davis as offensive coordinator; a position I don't think he will be holding after this season. I know he's in his first season, and he took over for the departed Ken O' Keefe. Davis is also guess what--the quarterbacks coach. Yes, Davis had some great stuff happening with the Texas Longhorns, but he almost seems out of his league at Iowa. I try to not blame coordinators for the lack of production the players have--after all it is the players who run the system that's implemented. Yet, Vandenberg was supposed to be better than this. If the pattern continues that he has shown so far this season, and against Michigan's No.1 rated pass defense, then Vandenberg will most likely struggle against the Wolverines.

Damon Bullock

For a good share of the season, FB Mark Weisman had a good hold on the starting job. Weisman had run for 661 yards and 8 TDs, which is good for a 5.8 ypc average. However, Damon Bullock has since taken over that spot in light of Weisman's ankle injury. Bullock began the season as the starter and had two good games against Northern Illinois and Northwestern so far. Bullock has 518 yards on the season for a 3.8 ypd average, and has only 3 TDs. Bottom line is that the rushing game isn't producing a whole lot without Weisman in the lineup, and as much as Bullock tries, he doesn't have game-breaking speed. He didn't have exceptional stats against Indiana or Purdue--two far worse teams against the run than Michigan is. So don't be too fearful of this guy on the field--he could get 80 yards and a TD, and a couple receptions but that could be about all he could get.

Keenan Davis

The production has been poor from the quarterback, but that's not the fault of the receiving corp. While it's a loss for Iowa with Marvin McNutt leaving after last season, the guys who are left there are still trying to make a difference. Senior Keenan Davis is the best of the bunch with 46 receptions for 560 yards and one TD. I think it's safe to say that Davis is an impact player, and if he could get more touchdowns then he might be on the radar more come time for the 2013 NFL Draft. As it stands now, he could very well be a 6th to 7th round pick and end up on someone's practice squad. One of the knacks going against him is not only his quarterback, but the fact that he hasn't had a 100-yard receiving game yet. Kevonte Martin-Manley is right on Davis's heels as being the most productive Hawkeye receiver, and by the time the game is over on Saturday, Manley could very well surpass his teammate. After all, Manley does have two 100-yard receiving efforts, and only 2 games with fewer than 4 receptions. I can't say there is a deficient lack of talent at receiver but again, it all boils down to the quarterback and I don't envision a solid game from Iowa at all offensively.

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