Rules for Game Planning Iowa:
Do not game plan the unknown. There is no unknown when playing Iowa. They play offensive rock-scissors-paper with just a rock and a pair of scissors; the paper they leave back in the office file drawer. They run 9 plays, and for each situation, choose 1 of 2 or 1 of 3. It is Lombardi offensive football all the way: they execute their handful of plays extremely well, or they lose. Since you have paper and they don't, you have 150% of their options. It's a super-sophisticated game theory problem! (You also have 10 years of identical film to study. So, rock-paper-scissors and near-statistical certainty.)
Do not try to beat the Iowa defense, unless you are a top 5 team, talent-wise. You can't. You will complete some underneath routes over the middle -- before they pick you off a couple of times. (They lead the league with 16.) They appear to have fixed that 250-lb.-human-covering-track-stars issue. They will not miss tackles and they will knock you senseless. They are tough as hell in the red zone, and lead the league in red zone D, are second in scoring D, third in total D.
Do try to beat Iowa by beating their offense, by:
a. On third and short, in a game critical situation, with Greene in the game, blitz to the fullback and blow him up (MSU and IL did), everyone else key on Greene. It's the one time you will take him before he is going downhill. So far this year, their tendency in this situation is nearly 100%. The one time they didn't run this play, in this situation, uh, they threw for six (IN).
b. On third and long, assume play action waggle right (remember, they play with only rock and scissors, no paper), and blitz and overload the backside, so that the RB in max protect has to choose between two guys. One will blindside the QB and likely strip him (MSU and IL did). Their QB is much more comfortable throwing on the run, but he can't see what's behind him.
c. Hope that the OC, with the game's best RB and a strong O-Line, scripts pass first. Iowa has now lost four games in which it controlled the LOS. Iowa is the rare .500 team that is second in the league in rushing D, and third in rushing O -- and second in league first downs. Iowa is a statistical anomaly of the first rank, and it ain't the players' problem. For a Lombardi enthusiast, this OC is weird.
d. Hope that the OC, with the game's best RB, conducts his only run-centric series with the freshman #2 back -- even when that series straddles a quarter break, and the game's best RB isn't tired because he's been blocking all quarter. For some reason, Iowa will go out for hamburger when they have steak at home. Beats me, too.
e. Remember that the OC scripts the game on Tuesday, and makes no in-game adjustments based on what is actually happening in front of his face. You may not believe what you are seeing, since you're watching the actual game. But it's not, actually, a set-up for something deceptive. Lombardi thought deception was for wimps. No wimps at Iowa. QED.
f. Remember that Iowa has run maybe two reverses all year to punish teams for collapsing the middle and attempting to stop Greene's cutback on the zone read. Sell out for the zone read, single cutback, and cross your fingers that Greene doesn't send one of your DBs to the hospital. Now, another guy might say, I have a slash (ex-QB) at flanker, they're collapsing on Greene, let's run that reverse a few times and then throw off it. But that guy? His name is Zorn, and he don't live in Iowa City.
g. Iowa fullbacks touch the ball every third game, and one of the wideouts (DJK) is curiously thin in his involvement. It's very charitable of them, removing 2-3 eligible receivers from every pass play. If your strong safety doesn't get nosy and you have decent linebackers, their seam route won't work and you have a shot at stopping Greene if your D-Line is active enough. (If you let the O-line get to the second level, the game is over and you have lost -- unless of course, the OC has decided not to run the ball. He does that in about half of their games.)
h. There is no quick-read pass checkdown capability in the Iowa offense. Your linebackers will have a blast playing north-south. No side-to-side stuff against this team.
i. If you double the TEs on the crossing routes, the QB may well throw it in there anyway, because no one has doubled them before IL, and he is too young to check down beyond his first two reads, and because they're running max protect with both backs out of the action anyway.
So, the strength of the Iowa offense is its strength. They might be tougher in the trench than OSU this year. You might catch them when they choose to ignore their primary strength. No one thinks they have played their best game yet. It's just that they don't believe in running what works until it doesn't, and strangely lack confidence that what we're seeing in the games and in the stats each week is actually true. Oh well.