Finally, it's time. Let's do this thing.
Fun With Depth Charts
As of Tuesday, there were only three positions up for grabs: Left guard (Rafael Eubanks and Andy Kuempel are co-starters), middle linebacker (Jacody Coleman and Pat Angerer are still locked in a steel cage death match), and placekicker (Daniel Murray and Trent Mossbrucker will join forces like the Power Rangers to become 65% of Nate Kaeding). Considering this should be a walkover, you'll see plenty of both listed starters.
That's not to say the other positions are cleared up:
- Ferentz has specifically said we'll see both Jake Christensen and Ricky Stanzi at quarterback
- There will be no fewer than three halfbacks used, with Shonn Greene and Paki O'Meara getting the lion's share of the action.
- Bradley Fletcher and Amari Spivey are listed as the starting corners, but Jordan Bernstine should get some snaps.
- Jeremiha Hunter is starting at weakside linebacker due in part to Jeff Tarpinian's nagging hamstring injury, but any number of players could get time there. Also, Ferentz didn't rule out Tarpinian playing a little, as well.
- We might use as many as 47 different offensive linemen, including Travis Meade, Julian Vandervelde, Bruce Matthews (who, amazingly enough, has eligibility remaining), my Aunt Beatrice, and a drifter Ken O'Keefe picked up on his way to the game.
Tony Moeaki (foot), Dan Doering (hand), Trey Stross (hamstring), Jeff Tarpinian (hamstring), and Michael Sabers (emotional distress due to having a last name associated with a Celebrity Jeopardy punchline) are all injured and probably won't play.
What to Watch For
When Iowa Has the Ball
What, are you kidding? Watch the quarterbacks. The last time Iowa played a 1-AA cupcake to start the season (the 2006 opener against Montana), the Hawkeyes struggled early, especially with dropped passes. While Iowa pulled away late and won by 34, it was a sign of things to come, as the Iowa receiver corps eventually led to the implosion of the passing game and the psychiatric commitment of Drew Tate.
This line is good enough and experienced enough to run the ball on Maine, no matter who is playing halfback. That shouldn't be a problem (though, if it is, torch the huts and kill the livestock). If you see a marked improvement in Christensen's accuracy, things may be looking up. For those of you who say the line should stop the pass rush as well, and any inprovement can be attributed to that, need I remind you this team scored a whopping 21 points against arguably the worst defense in the history of D-I football last season?
If Iowa jumps on Maine early behind the passing game (no matter who the quarterback might be), the day has gone sufficiently well. If it's a struggle early, watch out.
When Maine Has the Ball
I don't know about you, but I'm watching Adrian Clayborn. He showed signs of his ability in the second half of last season, but the rave reviews of his performance this preseason have me salivating at the prospect of a blazing-fast 285 lb. genetic freak rushing the passer.
Also, keep an eye on the corners. In particular, watch how many snaps Bernstine gets (and who he's replacing), and whether Maine attempts to pick on Fletcher or Spievey. My guess is opposing DC's are going to continue targeting Fletcher throughout this season, given Spievey's accolades. This will be the first sign of who the coaches think is the weak sister in the secondary.
Finally, we should get a decent idea of who will be returning punts. Brodell is unquestionably the most qualified, but he's also one missed fair catch away from crippling the offense. If Maine is stopped and Brodell is deep, you can bet Ferentz has rededicated himself and his team to the special teams greatness of 2002-05.
Miscellaneous, Et Cetera, Other
This is the first game since the unfortunate demise of Olive Court. Parking is going to be the most interesting part of the entire day. Be like me: Pack a roll of $20s and park on top of someone else's car.
I've been thinking about one thing for the last two days:
EEEEEE BIG ASS TURKEY LEG
The smoking ban now applies to all University property, including the parking lots around Kinnick. The solution: Leave for the game an hour early and suck down a pack of Parliaments on the sidewalk. John Mellencamp would do it.
That's it. Let's play football.