Friday, November 23, 2012

Kinnick Stadium: Is it Black Friday or a Red Friday on Senior Day in Iowa City?

The 14th season of Iowa football under coach Kirk Ferentz will close out on Black Friday for 2012.  Can Iowa reach 5-7, with a signature win over a Big Ten Legends Division leader, Nebraska?

It has been 31 years, since Iowa opened its third season under former coach J. Hayden Fry, and pulled out a 10-7 win over Nebraska.  Iowa has not beat Nebraska since, in four games played, since that remarkable 1981 win to open a Rose Bowl season for the Hawkeyes.

Nebraska is likely headed to the Rose Bowl themselves, if they can win today or Michigan loses on Saturday @ Ohio State, and with a Cornhuskers win in the Big Ten title game over Wisconsin.  However, the Heroes Game between Iowa and Nebraska comes first.

So, after watching Red Dawn on Thanksgiving night in Cedar Rapids, how will the Nebraska Cornhuskers come into Kinnick Stadium on Black Friday?  The Cornhuskers make the trip down I-380 to Iowa City   on Black Friday to face a beat up Iowa team.

The winds have arrived too, as the teams will have to deal with 20-30 mph winds.  It will be cold in Iowa City today.

Iowa's new OC Greg Davis has arrived in Iowa City with mix results.  A 4-7 record isn't what Iowa faithful expected.  But, can Iowa generate enough offense on Saturday to pull off an upset?

In 2010, Nebraska finished 10-4 with wins, such as a 48-13 win @ K-State, 51-41 @ Okie State and 31-17 vs. #7 Missouri.  But, Texas, who finished 5-7 in '10, under OC Greg Davis, were able to pull out off a big win over Nebraska in Austin.  In 2012, can new OC Greg Davis for Iowa pull out the same result?

With a win in the Heroes Game, Kirk Ferentz will join J. Hayden Fry with a 5-7 mark in their 14th season at Iowa.  OC Greg Davis will complete another 5-7 record, with a win over Nebraska, as well.  Odd trivia questions in college football, but a signature win indeed for Iowa in '12.

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa senior quarterback James Vandenberg, along with 18 Hawkeye teammates, are preparing for their final game in an Iowa uniform. The Hawkeyes host No. 14 Nebraska Friday (11:07 a.m., ABC) in their final game of the season.

The Hawkeyes are facing a ranked opponent for the second straight week, with one less day to prepare, as the Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers meet on Black Friday for the second straight year in the Hy-Vee Heroes Game. Iowa's first practice of the week came on Monday evening, which is usually a non-practice day for the Hawkeyes.

"The most difficult thing is the Monday part," said Vandenberg, following practice on Tuesday. "You have one less day to prepare and recover physically before you have that first practice. I feel like we are over the hump in that regard; now we want to have two more good practices in our preparation."

Through the eyes of a quarterback, Vandenberg knows Iowa has a tough challenge ahead.

They are a talented defense," said Vandenberg. "They do a good job of limiting you in the run game and the pass game. Like a lot of other good teams, if they get you in third and long, they can do things to make your protections hard and get in some coverages that will make it hard on us. We certainly have to stay in front of the chains to give ourselves a chance on Friday."

With a short week for preparation, Vandenberg and his senior teammates haven't had too much time to think about Friday's contest being the final game of the season.

"Certainly you take the one game approach," said Vandenberg. "But when it comes down to it on Friday, there is going to be a lot of emotion. Having that last opportunity to play in front of 70,000 great fans; to play for coach Ferentz and play with 105 of my best friends. It's not something you worry about now, or that it has hit me yet. Certainly on Friday there will be emotions involved."

So, what can we expect on Senior Day in Iowa?

Well, Iowa fans may want to hope the Nebraska Cornhuskers arrive flat and over confident?  Can the Cornhuskers be looking too much ahead at the Big Ten title game?  They only need a win or a Michigan loss.  A win earns them the spot, but at 4-7 (Iowa), combined with last season's 20-7 easy win over Iowa, does Nebraska expect much from the Hawkeyes today?

  • Iowa needs a balance attack on offense - senior QB James Vandenberg, sophomore RB Mark Weisman, the Iowa O-Line and the Hawkeye receivers need to click at Kinnick Stadium.
  • Iowa must play solid in all three phases of the game. Special teams are important.
  • The horizontal passing game introduced by OC Greg Davis hasn't been pretty at Iowa in '12.  Iowa's passing game needs to get the WRs more involved and Iowa's TEs need to attach the seams of the defense, as they did @ Michigan last Saturday.
  • The offense will have to keep the down and distance manageable.  Iowa's offense did put up 10 points in the first half @ Michigan, but couldn't keep up beyond 14-10.
  • The defense needs to get off the field vs. Nebraska.  Michigan rolled on Iowa last Saturday and failed to force a punt on the Wolverines, until the game was out of reach.  Iowa lost 42-17.
  • By the way, Nebraska lost @ Michigan last year, 42-24.  Who beat Michigan last year?  Iowa.  Who beat Michigan this year?  Nebraska.  Can the Iowa-Nebraska game flip this year, with Iowa at home?
  • Iowa's defense must force Nebraska to punt and/or settle for field goals.  Iowa isn't talented enough to settle for a Big 12 style touchdown fest.  Iowa needs a grind out style NFL upset.
  • Iowa football isn't sexy, but over the nearly 14 years of the coach Kirk Ferentz era, Iowa has won some big games.
Can Iowa win?   It will not be easy.  The stars and planets will have to be in alignment   How will the winds at Kinnick be for both teams?

Our Pick: Iowa 20, Nebraska 19, though it is still very possible that Nebraska will be heading to the Big Ten title game next weekend.  Michigan needs Iowa's help today, then they must take care of business @ undefeated Ohio State.

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