MADISON, WI - OCTOBER 1: James White #20 of the Wisconsin Badgers rushes past Brandon Chapek #51 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers October 1, 2011 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
Sure, Iowa just played nobody, in flagrant disregard of the rule of football which is to get the guy with the ball. But what do we really know? What was so important about naptime in the middle of the season? What does it all mean, Basil? The Takeaway has the answer.
CONGRATULATIONS TO IOWA FOR NOT EMBARRASSING ITSELF THIS WEEKE--oh god damn it AJ Derby. For basically the fifth week out of the last five weeks, the Big Ten was underwhelming on the gridiron last Saturday, highlighted by Nebraska rolling over and dying at Camp Randall and however it is you feel like categorizing both the Penn State-Indiana and Ohio State-Michigan State games. Of the six Big Ten teams mentioned, I saw one impressive performance, and that was obviously
But in true Iowa fashion, the Hawkeyes couldn't even execute a bye week correctly, with AJ Derby getting arrested for Clayborning a bus window way out in the boonies (insofar as Iowa City has "boonies," anyway). Pat covered that amply and there's no reason to get all into it again, but... doesn't it feel like Derby just passed his first test as future leader of the Hawkeyes? ARRESTS FOR EVERYBODY! THUG CAPITAL OF THE WORLD! /Cyclonenation'd
Back to this week's action, though... ugh. I realize that after Iowa gets wrecked by Steele Jantz (currently 99th in I-A passing efficiency) and damn near loses to Tino Sunseri (77th), the Hawkeyes don't really have the luxury of counting chickens in the conference basket before they hatch. This is a conference loaded with mobile quarterbacks (Iowa's bane this year), and the only immobile white guys left on the schedule are Kirk Cousins, Dusty Kiel, and I guess Matt McGloin since the Gingered Reserve is probably going to be the QB Iowa faces the most this week.
At the same time, though, Iowa's schedule looks tantalizingly conducive to a darkhorse division title, because Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Illinois (three lethally mobile quarterbacks, two of whom are competent passers) are all off the docket this season, and both Michigan and Michigan State have to come to Kinnick. Yes, Penn State hosts Iowa this year, but that QB situation is just a disaster area, and Iowa's isn't. Iowa may be the slightest underdog according to Vegas, but I see one team that can throw this year and one that just can't, and when that's the case, it generally doesn't matter where the game is played because the team with the more balanced offense is probably better suited to win the game.
Am I predicting Iowa faces Wisconsin in the inaugural Big Ten Championship? No, because I still don't trust this defense -- even though I've been flat-out stunned at the ineptitude of every remaining Iowa opponent outside of Michigan at some point this season. I do think Iowa needs to be in that conversation, though. Or at the very least, if Iowa gets past unranked Penn State and unranked Northwestern, it's time to start thinking postseason. Lose one of those two, and this is what you get for presumption. Lose to both Penn State and Northwestern, and forget the Pitt comeback -- it's going to be a long year.
In fact, you know what the Pitt comeback reminded me of? The United States rallies against
Croatia Slovenia and Algeria in group play of the 2010 World Cup. Yeah, they were thrilling and they made me very, very happy. They also were not portenders of great things happening in elimination play, because usually, if a team needs to pull two miracles just to get itself into a tournament, it's probably not going to put together a run for the ages. Similarly, Iowa's 3-1, but it was much closer to 2-2 than 4-0, and the defense isn't liable to just fix itself on its own any time soon.
There's not much controversy about MVPs. On offense, if one had to pick an MVP of this point of the year, it's almost certainly James Vandenberg. JVB stepped into the starting role the moment Ricky Stanzi finished his glorious Hawkeye career, and he's been an asset in every game played. Marcus Coker and Marvin McNutt have been standouts at times, but being that Iowa has gone no-huddle in each of the last two games, this is clearly Vandenberg's offense first and foremost.
As for the defense, Jordan Bernstine is the most valuable player on that side of the ball and I will hit you with either a baseball bat or a kamikazi Jordan Bernstine if you disagree. It's not even close. Bernstine is my dude.
Here's to hoping Big #4 gets drafted this year, as a matter of fact. He's earned it so far.