The Quarterback Thing
A lot has been made of Iowa’s quarterback situation, but I think how Joshua Dobbs plays is going to have a bigger impact on the game than whether it is Rudock or Beathard taking more snaps. Dobbs has completely turned Tennessee’s season around. He’s only played in the final 5 games, but took Tennessee from 3-5 with not a single good win, to 6-6 and a bowl game.
He’s really a difference maker with his feet. Iowa hasn’t let mobile QBs totally kill them on the ground this year, but mobile QBs extending plays with their feet have had success throwing it down-field as coverage breaks down. Iowa needs to take away both. Don’t let rack up yards on the ground. Dobbs, in Tennessee’s 3 wins, racked up 305 rushing yards and 6 rushing TDs. He had no rushing TDs in the two losses when he played. So keep him out of the endzone.
When throwing the ball, Dobbs has had most of his success with some long passes. In the wins, he’s completed passes of over 30 yards…in the losses, he hasn’t. Iowa’s had its share of long pass plays going against them and needs to be on alert again. Dobbs has thrown an interception in 4 of his 5 games. Iowa has just 12 interceptions this year, but needs to be able to capitalize when Dobbs makes a mistake.
Run the Ball
Another thing more important than which Iowa quarterback plays more…the Iowa running game. It’ll be Mark Weisman’s last game. Jordan Canzeri will hopefully be fully healthy. LeShun Daniels should also be back. And maybe Akrum Wadley will have shaken off his fumbleitis.
Even with that stable of running backs, the play calling is going to need to help. Iowa needs to attack vertically to keep the Volunteer defense out of the box. I’d also like to see more of the Jonathon Parker sweep. Since the fumble on it, that motion has been one of the most effective things Iowa’s offense has done.
The run game could get a boost too, depending on how C.J. Beathard is used. In the couple of games where Beathard has been rotated in, he’s run a shotgun zone-read based package. The different look hasn’t been super effective in boosting the run game, but the wrinkle of Beathard keeping the ball could help open things up a little.
Avoid the Weird and Wacky
Lots of turnovers, blocked kicks, punt returns for TD, etc… When games get weird, do they ever go Iowa’s way? If you just line the two teams up and have them try to out execute the other, I think Iowa comes out on top. And of course that’s the type of game Kirk Ferentz is going to want to play. Tennessee needed 3 turnovers and a punt return for a TD to beat Vanderbilt in their last game. And Iowa lost to Nebraska by letting too many wacky things happen in that game.
B1G > SEC
The B1G is currently sitting at 5-4 in bowl games, the SEC 5-5. Iowa can secure a winning record for the conference and a losing one for the SEC with a win. Urban Meyer said Wisconsin’s win over Auburn helped give the Buckeyes confidence going in to play Alabama. The Hawkeyes should have a couple games now to draw confidence from.
Ferentz also has a pretty good record against the SEC in bowl games: 4-2. And most of those games have been against teams with better seasons than Tennessee’s this year.
The last half of Tennessee’s season was trending up, while Iowa’s was trending down (at least in terms of wins). Dobbs was injected into the offense and the Vols’ numbers have gone up. But, looking a little closer, most of those offensive stats were inflated by a big win over lowly Kentucky. So, while Dobbs mobility will give Iowa a few problems, I don’t expect a ton of points out of Tennessee.
Iowa will rotate QBs. I think we’ll see similar numbers out of both guys and the controversy will live on strong throughout the off season. I expect the play calling to be a little more aggressive and feature a classic Ferentz bowl game trick play or fake. As a result, the run game will open up a little bit. Weisman will get another 2 TDs. Kevonte Martin-Manley will get the reception record (you have to think KF wants that to happen considering the current record holder…). And Iowa, hanging on to a small lead, finally puts the game away in the fourth quarter.
Final Score: Iowa 31 - Tennessee 21