10. Rushing Roulette. Tony Dorsett, Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, Curvin Richards, Curtis Martin, LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis and now Ray Graham. Few teams have more consistently or effectively found and exploited talent at the running back position than the Pittsburgh Panthers. While Iowa defenses have had a remarkable run of success the past few years in stopping the run, all bets are off with this dude. This Saturday expect Graham to rush for a total yardage amount that has a "00" attached to it as the house losses big.
9. Dream Time. Iowa has played six straight games against FBS opponents in which the difference in the final score has been a mere five points or fewer. Each game has gone down to the last possession and clock management has played a crucial role in determining the final outcome for the Hawkeyes, of which they've ended up on the losing side in four of the six. To better manage these last minute situations Kirk Ferentz will be utilizing a new strategy he devised over the summer on a recruiting trip after watching Inception at a Motel 6 on pay-per-view with Ken O'Keefe. The details of the strategy are top secret and will be unveiled on Saturday to be sure, but I can report that the totem Ferentz has chosen is an egg timer from Target, which is....troubling.
8. Fast Times at Kinnick. When Pittsburgh head coach Todd Graham was hired by Tulsa in 2007 the former defensive coordinator knew right away to be successful his offense needed to be one in which he would hate to coach against. He hired offensive savant Gus Malzhan away from the University of Arkansas and preceded to learn from the best at how to build the ultimate no-huddle, high intensity offense that would prove to be a nightmare for defenses. Under the pressure of Pitts offensive intensity this Saturday, expect to see the Hawkeyes defense resemble most 1980s teen sex comedies, which is to say while you watch the game you'll laugh plenty and be grossed-out more than a few times while the Hawkeyes put their screwball antics on display. It will all end in a soft-core sex scene on the scoreboard with Iowa losing their virginity for the second time in a week.
7. Face Off. Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham says he's all about Facebook while Kirk Ferentz is on record for disliking all forms of social media. Graham believes in a high-octane offensive approach whereby his team eschews huddling, calls plays on the way back to the line of scrimmage, and snaps the ball within five seconds of it being spotted, all so they can run as many plays as possible. Kirk Ferentz, on the other hand, believes in huddling and milking the clock in order to win time of possession. Todd Graham uses metric analysis to understand his opponent's tendencies so he can gain every possible advantage. Kirk Ferentz believes in using the same offensive and defensive system no matter who the opponent is, to ensure player consistency and precision. Todd Graham uses iPads while Kirk Ferentz draws it up in the dirt. On Saturday, expect Graham's progressive football ways to have Iowa fans thinking of Ferentz in the past tense.
6. Line In The Sand. After sending three D-linemen onto NFL rosters, Hawkeyes fans think they know a little about strong defensive line play. Expect to be impressed by the 2011 Pittsburgh Panthers whose strength is a deep, experienced and talented defensive front that Pitt coach Todd Graham has raved about all summer. The Panthers rotate a half-dozen linemen in a new 3-4 scheme. They're led by fifth-year seniors Myles Caragein, Chas Alecxih and Justin Hargrove and rising sophomore star Aaron Donald, an end. Pass-rushing linebacker Brandon Lindsey (who had a team-high 10 sacks last year) is on four national award watch lists. Graham has already proclaimed this group to be the clear-cut best defensive front in the country and so far they have been all that and a ton of sacks. On Saturday as Marcus Coker runs into one brick wall after another, and James Vandenberg gets repeatedly hurried, pressured and sacked, expect to find yourself wishing Pitt's D-line would play a bit more like Iowa's D-line from last year.
5. Boss of the Moss. Pittsburgh quarterback Santino Sunseri is Sicilian, a four-year member of the Pittsburgh Panthers Cosa Nostra, and a "made man." He is a ruthlessly confident captain on offense and was on the Big East All-Academic Team a year ago, so he's truly a wiseguy. When he and his crew come into Kinnick this Saturday to "conduct a little business," you can be sure some Hawkeyes are going to get roughed up, the defense is going to get killed, and the refs --- if they know what's good for them --- will be looking the other way.
4. Is This Mike On? Some have noted how football and rhetoric have a few things in common. For example, in rhetoric an epizeuxis is a rhetorical device where the speaker uses the repetition of words in immediate succession for vehemence or for greater stress. Similarly, in football an offensive coordinator might call the same running play in succession for emphasis or to establish strength. However, in rhetoric an effective communicator steers clear of tautological levels of redundancy, as this will only undercut his message. In football a capable offensive coordinator will likewise avoid disproportionate repetitiveness and monotony, although for different reasons --- so the opponent does not decapitate his offensive playmakers. This Saturday expect Iowa's message to be simple, "our offensive coordinator is an oxymoron."
3. Church Lady. Iowa special teams have been anything but special. In particular, the Hawkeyes have had difficulty covering kickoffs. Currently they are 85th nationally in touchbacks, 103rd in kick return yards average, and 109th in total return yards. It was just a couple of years ago that this was an area of strength; the 2008 Iowa Hawkeyes were a top ten ranked special teams on kick coverage. Which begs the question, "What the hell happened?" Last week Iowa State averaged over 31 yards per return and they weren't exactly starting those returns in the end zone. If the Hawkeyes don't clean up this two-year mess in the making this week, then expect short fields, short tempers, and very long odds.
2. A Numbers Game. In 1908 the University Pittsburgh football team took the field with numbers sewn on to their jerseys, a completely novel idea at the time that changed football jerseys and history forever. Pittsburgh has always understood historical strength in numbers, for example, their football teams have claimed nine National Championships while Iowa can barely lay claim to one; and, Pitt boasts 86 players that have been chosen as first-team All-Americans whereas Iowa has had but 64. It doesn't stop there either as Pitt's football history reveals numerous examples of their superiority, too many to cover here. This Saturday expect Pitt to secure yet another numerical advantage over Iowa, 3 wins to 1.
1. Marvin McNutt. Need I say more?