Iowa is a big favorite tomorrow for a Halloween match up against Maryland. The Terps, though, haven't looked like the terrible team that lost to West Virginia by nearly 40 points and to Bowling Green by three scores. They have been decent on offense and ran the ball well the past few weeks. So how can Iowa take care of business tomorrow?
Shake off the Cobwebs
A lot has been talked about Iowa taking the bye week to get healthy. Boone Myers should be back, Tevaun Smith ready to go full speed, Leshun Daniels back in the rotation, C.J. Beathard not limping around… Now Iowa needs to come out sharp tomorrow. Coming out of bye weeks has not always been Iowa’s best spot.
In a couple of games this year, the Hawkeyes have looked good early, but little mistakes allowed opponents to stay in the game. Against Northwestern, Iowa punted twice on NW’s side of the field, missed an extra point and a field goal, and only had a 6-point lead after halftime. Of course the second half was all Iowa, but going into the half it certainly felt like a "here we go again"-type of game. It was the same sort of deal against Illinois. Iowa had two drives that went all the way down to the Illini’s 1-yard line and came away with just three points on those drives. And Illinois was able to keep it close all the way until the end. It kind of felt like the missed extra point would come back to haunt the Hawks, but the late fumble by Illinois let Iowa pull away just enough.
While the Hawkeyes have been able to close out games very strong and the missed opportunities early in games haven’t come back to bite them yet, it’s a dangerous game to play. Maryland may not be the scariest opponent, but they have a potentially explosive offense with a good runner at QB.
Roll Down the Hills
Maryland’s quarterback situation has not been on solid ground this year. Perry Hills started the first two games of the year, but then got benched after losing to Bowling Green. But he’s earned his way back into the starting spot and has been pretty good the past two games. He is a huge running threat. Against Ohio State and Penn State he carried the ball a total of 51 times for 294 yards. He does a lot of his damage out of the zone-read, but can scramble and is a threat to break long runs. He had a 75-yard run against OSU and followed that up with a short TD run the next play. He’s had a handful of other 30+ yard rushes. Iowa likes to crash the DE on the run and scrape a LB or safety to take the quarterback, so their tackling on Hills better be sound.
Hills is much less of a threat to throw the ball. He’s completing 52.8% of his throws and averaging only 6.28 yards per attempt. And he has thrown 7 interceptions to 6 touchdowns. He throws a lot of short stuff, quick passes to the wide receivers and little swing passes to the running backs. But he will also look to throw deep off of play action.
Don’t get Tricked
The Terps will use a lot of special personnel packages to try to get the ball in the hands of their best playmakers. Will Likely, a DB and return specialist, has been injected into the offense and is an explosive threat. They will also use the wildcat with fullback/quarterback Shane Cockerille . They will probably roll out something new that Iowa hasn’t seen on film. Iowa’s defense hasn’t been caught off-guard very often this year, but there have been a couple break downs in coverage and a couple of soft spots up front when they get spread out. So they just need to keep playing disciplined defense.
It’s been quite a while since Iowa’s busted out a trick play of their own this year…and with an extra week to be clever, I think we’ll see one tomorrow. The fake punt has to be coming at some point. Another flea-flicker? Some sort of reverse? It’s time to put something new on the film for the final month of the season.
Don’t Turn Over in Your Grave
The Terps are dead last in the FBS in turnovers lost with 24. They have thrown A LOT of interceptions, though most of them were thrown by Caleb Rowe, who likely won’t play. Iowa has only turned it over 8 times this year. And besides the improved play at linebacker and running back, the biggest thing to point at as the difference between this year and last season is turnovers. Iowa has gained 15 turnovers this year and turned them into 56 points. That accounts for a quarter of Iowa’s total points so far this season.
Iowa is flat out a better team than Maryland, but turnovers can be the great equalizer. If Iowa wins the turnover margin tomorrow, they win. The Hawkeyes have avoided any devastating turnovers this year and gotten lucky to force a few very damaging turnovers of their own. Let’s hope that the balls keep bouncing Iowa’s way.
Is anyone else super nervous? It feels like every game from here on out is one of the most important games in a long time. The pressure is getting to me, you guys. Is it getting to the Hawkeyes? That’s the question. I don’t think it is. This team is prepared to get through anything. They’ve found a lot of different ways to win games and tomorrow should be no different. I think Maryland’s offense will be capable and keep the Terps in the game much longer than is comfortable. Iowa hasn’t really faced a capable mobile QB this year and those type of guys have been tough for the Hawks to defend in the past. Hills gets his yards, but ultimately Iowa’s run game is effective against Maryland’s 4-3 and Iowa pulls away in the second half.
Final Score: Iowa 34 - Maryland 23
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