Okay, okay. So this week has not exactly gone as planned. Granted, there's been only one new departure from the 2-deeps, but Sweet Fancy Moses is it ever a bad one. Let's just work through it, people. Ignoring it isn't going to... oh god, can we try ignoring? Can we can we can we?
When Iowa has the ball
Running game? Um... yeah, about that. Here's a pretty quick list of all Iowa needs to establish the ground game tomorrow.
1. Open holes
2. A competent running back
3. Clever gameplanning to maximize mismatches
In short: FUCK WE ARE FUCKED.
As far as the line goes, first of all, it's worth noting that both Vandervelde and Calloway are back, though it's unlikely that either is at 100%--Vandervelde, in particular, will probably not play much more than half the snaps--if he struggles, even fewer. But their return means it's plausible we've seen the last of Dan Doering and Adam Gettis, and that is good news.
But then there's the Bulaga situation, and as you could have guessed, there's really no telling what happens at LT now. Ferentz may not even know at this point. You could plausibly see Reiff, Richardson, Calloway, Doering, or MacMillan at the position at some point in the game. If ISU had a defensive line, that would be a serious problem, and it might be anyway. But this shouldn't be a repeat of 2005, when ISU had a Jason Berryman going bananas on... who was it? Was it Lee Gray? Pete McMahon? Therapy has pushed the memories from our minds.
Luckily, Ricky Stanzi is a weapon at QB--90% of the time, anyway--and Iowa State probably doesn't have the horses to keep the passing game in check for four quarters. That would require even more regression than what happened between the Outback Bowl and UNI game--something we're not going to predict.
But it's that last 10% of snaps when Stanzi does something that causes us to write STANZI and then whatever he was trying to attempt, also in capital letters, and that, as we all know, is the international sign for Things Have Gone Awfully Wrong Here And It's Time Your Children Learned Some New Swear Words. You would think Stanzi would know better than to surprise linebackers by throwing a ball at their faces. You would think, and you would be wrong.
But without help from special teams or the Clones' mistakes--both wholly unpredictable factors--this doesn't look like more than a 2 TD game from this team. The key is getting the other drives into field goal range before they peter out--or at the very least far enough that ISU's not working with a short field. That's hardly a given.
When Iowa State has the ball
Just like Bret Meyer before him, Austen Arnaud is a known quantity at this point. He's a smart player and has a quick enough release that Iowa pressure in and of itself may not be effective. If this sounds eerily similar to Bret Meyer and Seneca Wallace, well, yeah, that's hardly an accident. At the same time, if Iowa sits in a soft zone and lets ISU have 6 yards a pop over the middle, then tightens up in the red zone where there's less ground to cover, then we're basically back to the last two years. It was good enough to beat Iowa one of those two times.
As CrossCyed pointed out in our weekly podcast, ISU goes four-deep at receiver and has a quick son of a bitch at tailback in Alex Robinson. Point of emphasis here: Their A. Robinson is A-Robs, ours is A-Rob. Something to be aware of before you find yourself agreeing with an ISU fan for 5 minutes before realizing you each thought the other was complimenting your running back.
And speakng of similarities in the running game, A-Robs has similar agility to UNI's Carlos Anderson, which means if the Oley Bullshit Fest of last week happens again, ISU's just gashing Iowa on the run and it doesn't really matter what the hell the defense does to stop Arnaud. You want to see Iowa melt down and lose by a huge margin? Step one, have the linebackers replicate their performance from last week. We're pretty sure Dr. Octopus--and by that we mean Norm Parker, of course--has already made that abundantly clear.
Turnovers are usually impossible to predict. Usually. But if faced with the prospect of choosing which QB's going to manage the game better between Arnaud and Stanzi--in Ames--you have to go with the known quantity until Stanzi proves himself capable of beating a team on the road by himself. He's got the talent, he's got the weapons, and he's got the experience. He's just also got the STANZIBALLS, and that is how angels lose their wings.
So with the sudden departure of what could have been the most laughably lopsided matchup of the day with Bulaga facing whodat DE Chris Lyle and an Iowa secondary that we don't trust to cover two good receivers, much less three or four, we're inclined to say
23-17 ISU, with the margin of victory being a touchdown gifted to the Clones by a Stanzi turnover in Iowa territory. Yes, that's unbecoming of an Iowa blog to predict, but we'd be more than happy to be proven wrong on this one. Plus, it's not like it matters what we predict; it's not like if Iowa loses, Ferentz is going to be in the locker room and say "boys, we almost had this... if that damn Internet had some more faith in us! I told you Twitter was bad news!" That doesn't happen. So we're saying 23-17 unless Stanzi takes a big step forward, at which point hooray GO IOWA AWESOME and we'll pretend this prediction never happened. 35-3 IOWA. Sure, it sounds pretty lopsided, but I've got a good feeling about the way our defense is going to bounce back. I'll even predict over 100 yards for Brandon Wegher. Just a hunch.
But in the meantime, GO HAWKS! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!