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"Can You Believe It?"  2002 Heisman Trophy runner-up Brad Banks made his triumphant return to football in the state of Iowa this weekend, as his Iowa Barnstormers defeated the Spokane Storm 43-42 in the second game of the Arena Football League season.  His introduction brought the near-sellout crowd to its feet, evidence that, even after 9 years, Banks' star still shines bright in the Hawkeye State.  Banks didn't disappoint, either, throwing for 244 yards and 5 touchdowns and adding 44 yards and 2 more scores on the ground.  As Mike Hlas writes:

To University of Iowa fans, Brad Banks playing quarterback for the Iowa Barnstormers might be like George Clooney doing community theater or Alicia Keys singing in a karaoke bar. Banks was the soft-spoken, dynamic-playing leader of the 2002 Hawkeyes, the team that tore through the Big Ten season without a loss and transformed Iowa football in this millennium.

But while Banks' tight end and two of his blockers from that ‘02 team continue to make millions in the NFL, Banks is a newcomer in the carnival-barker's arena game who is paid, well, not millions.

Is this a sad story? Not really. Not whatsoever if you saw the enthusiasm with which Banks played Friday night in Wells Fargo Arena, as his team edged the defending ArenaCup-champion Spokane Storm 43-42 in a typically manic AFL encounter. Not if you saw the smiles he had after the game.

Iowa doesn't return home for another three weeks; Chicago comes to town on April 16.  And we might be there.  We heart Brad Banks.

DAHMICIDE.  Iowa baseball opened its home schedule over the weekend, taking two of three games from Western Illinois in a split series (Iowa hosted the Friday and Saturday games, with the Sunday game played in Macomb).  The Hawkeyes dropped game one 4-2, despite a solid start by Jared Hippen and shutout relief effort from the exquisitely-named Patrick Lala.  Iowa won Saturday's contest 5-4 despite a late rally from the Leathernecks, then took Sunday's game 6-2 behind a strong outing from Matt Dermody.  Iowa (9-11) spends the week hosting South Dakota State and Michigan State, as Big Ten play starts and the season begins in earnest.  The Hawkeyes play thirteen games in the next eighteen days, a pace that won't let up until the regular season ends in late May.

Player Transactions, this time with 100% More Transactions!  As Mas Casa predicted in last week's podcast, incoming quarterback recruit Jake Rudock plans to redshirt.  Given that there are three quarterbacks on the active roster and A.J. Derby remains a freshman after his own redshirt season, the move makes sense in every way.  Rudock could be called upon if needed, to be sure, but those odds appear unlikely barring the emergence of some sort of Angry Iowa Quarterback Hating God, and that acronym would include a Q not followed by a U, so your argument is invalid.

While it will surely be less reported, the bigger story may be the arrival of Mark Weisman, a fullback transferring to Iowa from Air Force.  Weisman, a former two-star recruit who committed early to Air Force despite interest from Iowa and Michigan State, will enter as a redshirt freshman and have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting for a season.  Planned Sick Days, who has some inside info courtesy of his brother-in-law, brings the knowledge.


Both Illinois and Wisconsin will rotate back onto Iowa's football schedule in 2013-2014.  Wisconsin rotates off the schedule next year (and the year after) thanks to the new Big Ten divisions, marking just the third and fourth times the teams haven't played in the last 76 seasons.  When the series renews in 2013, Illinois and Iowa will meet for the first time in four years.  Absent from Iowa's first four schedules in the twelve-team Big Ten: Ohio State, which will not face the Hawkeyes until at least 2015.  Clearly, they're afraid.

In an attempt to make cavernous Carver-Hawkeye Arena less spacious during women's basketball and volleyball games, the athletic department plans to drop a set of curtains from the rafters to cut available seating by about 7000 seats.  It's assumed the curtain would cut off end zone seats, but the announced plan would reduce seating by nearly half; the end zones might not be enough.

BHGP has obtained EXCLUSIVE FOOTAGE of spring football workouts at Northwestern, including what appears to be some sort of trick play.

Marc Morehouse finishes his "Four Downs" series, the best depth chart series not taking its name from something in the Urban Dictionary.

In light of Bruce Pearl's firing at Tennessee over alleged violations of NCAA recruiting rules, Deadspin relives the first great Pearl-related scandal, the Deon Thomas recruiting fiasco.  For those too young to remember, Pearl -- then an assistant of Dr. Tom Davis -- recorded a conversation with prized Chicago recruit Deon Thomas in which Thomas admitted to receiving gifts from Illinois assistants.  Daniel Libit is right about one thing: Nobody came out of it looking good, least of all Pearl.

Better late than never, Name of the Year reappears in anticipation of NOTY Bracket Week.  La'Peaches Pitts may have received a top seed, but look for Taco B.M. Monster to make a move from the bowels of the bracket.