Gene Chizik and the Cyclones leaving Ames for Iowa City Thursday afternoon.
Have I ever mentioned I hate this game? I hate this game. I hate this game. I hate this game. I have no idea why we still play these hillbillies when we could schedule a game which, you know, might have some benefit beyond giving Ames' sheep a weekend off. I fucking hate this fucking game.
Fun With Depth Charts
The current injury report looks pretty good. The only player declared definitively out for Saturday is Jeff Tarpinian (and, let's face it, Jeremiha Hunter has looked more than capable at weakside linebacker in his absence). Both Moeaki and Stross are considered a go (though I'll believe it only when I see it). Doering, who has a broken hand, apparently got a new cast that allows him to play, as well. Barring a blowout, I doubt we see much of him.
As for the depth chart itself, obviously the biggest news is Swingin' Dick Stanzi taking the top line at quarterback. This might not simply be Stanzi getting the first crack at ISU's defense and reverting to two-headed quartermonster, either. When asked if Christensen would get some snaps at quarterback, Ferentz didn't rule out anything:
Q: Do you anticipate any kind of [quarterback] rotation at all?
FERENTZ: Don't have a set plan right now, but we'll just play things by feel. We'll see how the game plays out. But at this given point, no, we'll just kind of see how things go. They'll both work this week in practice.
Q: Is Jake getting any playing time at all then?
FERENTZ: It's possible, but we haven't -- we haven't really we'll see how the week goes, too. This will be his first there are a lot of firsts, but this is Rick's first week of practice after starting a ballgame, and we'll see where his head is at and see how he's practicing, too. We've had a couple situations like this, and we're not unpleased with anybody. It's just a matter of doing the best at any given time.
If Stanzi comes out hot, and the offense is clicking, Jake might well ride the pine all day. Then again, if he makes mistakes, the hook might be Spurrier-like.
No other significant changes in the depth chart from last week. Still a two-man race at left guard (Eubanks and Vandervelde) and kicker (Mossbrucker and Murray) with no end in sight. The returning injured players have not been listed, however; if Moeaki survives the week of practice without losing a hand or having his middle toe bitten off by a rabid badger, he could start. Also possible - though not as likely - for Stross.
When Iowa Has the Ball
Iowa State is 2-0 after games against the Jackrabbits and Golden Flashes. There's a Rolling Stones joke in there somewhere. Anyway, here are the total numbers:
ISU vs. South Dakota State
ISU vs. Kent State
Jumpin' Jack Flash
In two games against a DI-AA school and a mid-level MAC program, Iowa State outgained its opponents by a whopping two yards, and it wasn't the offense's fault. When South Dakota State wanted to pass, they threw it all over the field (primarily underneath slant routes and screen passes) without any serious pass rush. When Kent State wanted to run, they annihilated the front seven. To be fair, Eugene Jarvis of Kent State is an experienced back who ran for over 1600 yards last season; also to be fair, he amassed only 51 yards in a neutral-site game against BC one week before hanging 139 on ISU, and BC's defense will never be mistaken for the Steel Curtain.
The reason Iowa State has won by a total 51 points while outgaining its opponents by 2 yards is simple: turnovers. South Dakota State repeatedly took it down the field against ISU's defense, only to watch their quarterback throw a screen pass into a defensive lineman's chest (two of the five picks went to linemen, one to a linebacker, one to a defensive back, and one to a fill-in wide receiver in garbage time). Kent State was more of the same; huge chunks of yardage given up, only to be saved by an untimely fumble. This is a lucky defense, which should not be confused for a good defense. This is not a good defense.
If there's a less shitty part of the Iowa State defense, it's the secondary, which has generally limited the long ball and forced opponents to look over the middle, where the linebackers closely resemble the receiving dummies used during the NFL Quarterback Challenge.
Iowa State linebackers Michael Bibbs, Fred Garrin, and Jesse Smith
If Shonn Greene gets going downfield (and he should) and Swingin' Dick Stanzi shows some patience and wears down the Cyclones underneath, yards should not be a problem. More than anything, I worry about the occasional brainfuck idiotic pass over the middle that we've seen from both SDS and JC this season; Iowa State will make them pay for those.
When Iowa State Has the Ball
Sure, they've scored a lot of points, but Iowa State's offense has done it on a remarkably short field. Against SDSU, Iowa State's average starting field position was its own 44, and that doesn't even include a pick six. Its scoring drives averaged a miniscule 35 yards. Kent State was even more ridiculous; the average starting position was midfield (and that even includes a garbage time pooch punt that pinned ISU at its own 4), and scoring drives averaged just 30 yards. Clone Chronicles described last week's field position as "awesome." That, my friends, is opportunism run amok.
The good news? In two games where they scored 92 points, Iowa State's longest offensive drive is only 69 yards, and that was the drive that opened the season. On nine drives where ISU took over inside its own 30, it has scored zero points and ended in 3 fumbles, 2 turnovers on downs, and 1 punt (the other 3 ended with the half). In other words, if the offense can move the ball and avoid turnovers and leave Iowa State in its own half of the field, odds are the defense can either get a stop or force a mistake out of the young ISU offense before giving up a score.
The ISU running game has primarily been through the quarterback position. Alexander Robinson, ostensibly the starting running back, ran for 74 on 15 attempts in week one before missing last week. Any way you look at it, the running game shouldn't be of particular concern. However, ISU is now running a Purdue-like spread pass attack, emphasizing short routes that chew apart soft zones like, say, Iowa usually plays. Ruh roh? Maybe not. I think last season's Northwestern game shows how Parker & Co. will attack a spread passing offense from now on: cheat the corners up ever so slightly from their usual positions, go man/matchup zone on the tight ends and slot receivers with safety help over the top, and contain with the front four and middle linebacker.
Much has been made of the two-headed quartermonster of Arnaud and Bates, with special attention paid to Arnaud's ability as a passer and Bates as a runner. Don't be fooled; Arnaud ain't Drew Bledsoe back there, and Bates can throw if necessary. Both are fully-developed quarterbacks (at least in the Juice Williams sense of the term) and fully capable of beating you through the air and on the ground. Ferentz has stressed containment from his defensive line this week, and I would expect more blitzing than usual - especially inside from Coleman and Hunter - in an attempt to prevent the scramble and close running lanes. Nonetheless, if you thought Meyer was a problem with his feet, you haven't seen anything yet.
Fortunately, they also haven't seen anything yet. Playing in front of 16,000 illiterates, drunk on methanol and basking in the post-coital afterglow that can only come when a man makes love to his own livestock, at Jack Trice for 2 weeks doesn't prepare either one of the ISU quarterbacks for their first road game at Kinnick. Arnaud, who has started both games, has shown a particular tendency for coughing it up early. If the crowd gets him rattled and Arnaud makes a mistake, the train might derail before it ever leaves the station.
Of course, there's also Adrian Clayborn...
Mr. Arnaud, Your worst nightmare. Mr. Worst nightmare, Austen Arnaud...
Stanzi plays conservatively, Greene runs wild, and Arnaud makes a couple of early mistakes. Bates does enough scrambling to give me a aneurysm; my family knows where to scatter the ashes (you might want to avoid section 136, row 43, seat 9 for a couple of weeks). Nevertheless, Iowa goes up 7 at the half on a 60-yard run by Greene, controls time of possession, and forces a couple of turnovers en route to a 31-17 win.
I fucking hate this game.
OK. Bring it on, motherfuckers.
Clayborn photo via John Schulz of the QC Times