It's Friday, which means it's time to preview tomorrow's game. We used to call this "There's A Game On Saturday?", but as it turns out, nobody googles that. So the boring title is your fault.
News, Notes, and News
Here are Iowa's two-deeps. Nolan MacMillan has earned a starting role over Adam Gettis at RG, which we must admit does not worry us in the slightest. MacMillan has been a road grader against EIU and ISU, and considering what even Northern Iowa did to Gettis last year, this is a welcome sign of prosperity on the interior line.
Shaun Prater and Jeff Tarpinian are both healthy and starting. Adam Robinson is the first-string tailback, and Jewel Hampton is the only second-stringer. No other presumptive starters are injured. The only anomaly in the 2-deeps is Christian Ballard sharing starting duties at DT and DE with Mike Daniels and Broderick Binns, respectively; this speaks more to Daniels' progression and Ballard's versatility than anything about Binns. All in all, Iowa is as close to full strength as possible at this point in the season.
On the other side of the ball, Arizona returns massive guard Vaughn Dotsy, who is 6'5" and 360 pounds. Vaughn Dotsy underwent the same type of back surgery that sidelined future New England draft pick Rob Gronkowski for last year's Iowa game, and if Dotsy's in the starting lineup, he's ready to play ball. How Iowa approaches matchups against Dotsy--especially considering the damage he can do off the line in double-team situations--will be key to whether Iowa can be successful on Saturday
Keys to the Game
As with any game between two ranked opponents with a line under four points, this is a contest that could go either way with one errant bounce of the ball or random sprain of an ankle. So if one team loses a key player and the other wins by 11, please refrain from gloating. Because unless you wrote "I am certain that Player X won't survive until halftime," you didn't actually see Outcome Y coming, and you deserve no more credit than any random guesser in that scenario.
That all aside, if both teams stay healthy, Iowa has the advantage on the line of scrimmage. Arizona's offensive line isn't to be trifled with, mind you, and it will likely help lead QB Nick Foles to at least two touchdown drives. But Iowa's defensive line is so good that we can't trust the Arizona to play keep-away from Iowa for very long in the fourth quarter if that's what the game comes to. Moreover, Iowa's DL will either directly force a turnover or two or--at the very least--end a couple drives prematurely.
Meanwhile, Iowa's "rebuilding" offensive line has looked dominant against inferior competition, which sounds an awful lot like Arizona's defensive line's accomplishments thus far. Riley Reiff and Markus Zusevics will likely have their hands full with Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed, but when it comes to action between the tackles, Iowa probably has the advantage on the LOS. Will Reiff and Zusevics hold the line well enough to let Stanzi punish the linebackers on play-action if they cheat against the run? There's your key for the Iowa offense.
Dutiful listeners of the extremely informative BHGPodcast already know my prediction for the game, but here's the deal: if whoever's calling the game this weekend in Norm Parker's stead shares Parker's sensibilities (very likely, that), then Iowa's going to make Foles beat Iowa's base defense over and over, and for 4-9 yards a pop. Foles will probably do that to an extent, but only at the expense of putting Iowa in a position to win if the Hawkeyes manage three or four scoring drives of their own. I expect that to happen. Iowa 24-20 is my call.