Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wishing Upon a Star, Or Five

Kirk Ferentz has made a career out of turning one and two star prospects into future NFL players. So, when Iowa pulled in an elite recruiting class in 2005 people went from thinking about Big Ten championships to possible national championship contention. Now, four years later, we can look back and see that, once again, star rating systems mean very little when it comes to a Kirk Ferentz coached team.

Collegefootballnews.com recently did a feature on the top 50 five star busts from the class of 2005. Unfortunately, all three of Iowa’s five star players from that class made the list. Here’s what collegefootballnews had to say:


45. OG Dan Doering, Iowa – While Doering has been a valuable and versatile
backup for the last three seasons, that’s not what you expect from one of the
nation’s top-ranked offensive line prospects. Unable to crack the Hawkeye
starting lineup, in part because of injuries, he has one more year to get
noticed, possibly as the replacement for Seth Olsen

33. OT Dace
Richardson, Iowa – For Richardson, the talent has always been there, but the
health has not. After laying the groundwork in 2005 and 2006 for a terrific
career, he was felled by a series of knee injuries that required surgery. The
problems interrupted much of his 2007 season and shelved him for 2008. He
remains cautiously optimistic that he’ll resume his career

4. TE
Tony Moeaki, Iowa – Persistent injuries over the last two seasons have prevented
Moeaki from maxing out his full potential. He’s made 46 career grabs, peaking at
the beginning of 2007 with an eight-catch, three-touchdown effort against
Syracuse. He’s hoping to put it all together next fall, provided the NCAA grants
him a medical hardship for the eight games he missed two years ago.Worth the
Hype? Not quite

So according to collegefootballnews, Iowa had three of the top 45 busts of the class including the fourth biggest of 2005. It is hard to argue against that, as all three haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of their potential. The one point that can’t be overlooked is that all three of these players have been seriously unlucky with injuries. Tony Moeaki has shown flashes of greatness at times but has also turned into Iowa’s very own injury prone version of Ken Griffey Jr. or Grant Hill. Like the article says, all three remain optimistic to make an impact in 2010 and make one final run at reaching that potential.

The 2005 class will always be looked at as a disappointment. But, as long as ranking are around there will always be players who get overlooked. For every Jake Christensen (****, 15th Ranked QB) somewhere there is a Dallas Clark (walk-on, high school QB).

Due to having to take a year of prep school after 2004, Shonn Greene is technically listed as a 2005 recruit as well. From the 51st rated running back to consensus All-American and Doak Walker award winner, I’ll take a handful of three stars the caliber of Shonn Greene any day.
Photo Courtesy of Scout.com

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Five Reasons it was Great to be a Hawkeye in 2008

With the 2008 college football season recently coming to an end, it's the time of year when everyone starts to reflect on the past year and begins looking forward to the 2009 season. Today, I look back on the Iowa Hawkeye's 2008 season and briefly recap five moments that made this season memorable.

Honorable Mention: Iowa beats Iowa State
It’s always nice to beat those pesky Clones. This was the first real test for the Hawks. Iowa State always seems to really get up for this game and Iowa was able to match their intensity. Iowa wins 17-5 while not giving up a touchdown to ISU for the second consecutive year.

5.) The Defense:
The 2008 Hawkeye defense was one of the elite groups in the conference. Iowa ranked 10th amongst all FBS schools in stopping the run, by only giving up 98 yards per game. Iowa also didn't give up an offensive touchdown in its first three games for the second straight year. Iowa fans got the pleasure to watch a Hawkeye ‘all-timer’ in Mitch King finish out his career as a second team All-American and Big Ten Defensive Linemen of the year. Along with King, this defensive unit was a squad that benefitted greatly from senior leadership. There were only three seniors on the first team, but all three played huge roles. Matt Kroul was the unsung hero on the defensive line for the fourth consecutive year, and Bradley Fletcher had one of the most quietly stellar years for a Hawkeye cornerback. Oftentimes, Fletcher was overlooked on a defense full of talented players, but his senior campaign ranks with the likes of Jovon Johnson and Charles Godfrey's for the best of a Ferentz recruited cornerback. Additionally, on the opposite side of the field was Amari Spievey, who provided a huge boost with his solid play. Spievey returned to the Hawkeyes after a year hiatus in community college.


4.) 12 Points
This year will always be remembered as the year that ‘could have been’. I’m not a huge fan of playing the ‘what-if’ game but it’s hard to ignore the fact that Iowa’s four losses were by a combined 12 points. Thirteen additional points in 2008 and Iowa would have had a truly remarkable season. Of course there were reasons they didn’t score those twelve points, but just this once, you have to think about what could have been.


3.) Iowa Blows Out South Carolina in the Outback Bowl
Any of the next three could have been number one. Iowa winning 31-10 against the Gamecocks in the Outback bowl was a huge momentum builder heading into next season. This was a big win for the Hawks as they returned to a January bowl after staying home for the holidays in 2007. The win was also significant as it was the only Big Ten win during the postseason. The reason this checks in at number three is because South Carolina was out-matched by Iowa and was limping into bowl season after terrible finish to the year. Had Iowa jumped Michigan State for a bid in the Capital One Bowl, an Iowa/Georgia match-up would have been more suitable for the Hawks.


2.) Shonn Greene
Shonn Greene turned the 2008 season into his own personal highlight reel. Week in and week out Iowa fans were able to see Greene shredding through Big Ten defenses and rewriting the Hawkeye record book. Greene left his legacy on Hawkeye history as his 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns are both single season records. When looking back years from now on the 2008 season the one thing that might stick out is the individual performance by Shonn Greene. This also could have been the number one moment of the past Hawkeye season. But, like Shonn Greene has said in countless postgame interviews he didn’t do this alone.


1.) Iowa Upsets Penn State
Everything about this game was memorable for Hawkeye fans. Whether it be Penn State’s three and out on their opening drive to Daniel Murray’s game winning field goal. In a night that Iowa needed everything to go right, it did. Well, at least in the second half. Not only did Iowa upset the number three ranked team in the county while also effectively ending Penn State’s national championship hopes, but Iowa had many more positives coming out of this game. This upset vaulted Iowa onto the national stage and really got the ball rolling as Iowa would win the rest of their games. In addition, Ricky Stanzi was legitimized as the man under center by engineering a game ending drive into field goal range. And, for good measure, Shonn Greene got his 100 yards while the fans showed support with the first ever ‘Greene Out’. This is one that Iowa fans will savor forever.




So there ya it my top five Hawkeye moments from 2008. Do you agree/disagree?


All photos courtesy of Hawkcentral.com

Monday, January 26, 2009

Big Ten or Little Eleven?

For today's opening post I will take a look back on the 2008/9 Bowl season and reflect on how I thought the Big Ten conference stacked up during bowl season.

As we all know the Big Ten conference has started out the new millennium in a less then stellar fashion. The Big Ten has only managed to make its claim to one national championship and even that was considered a major upset (2002 Ohio State). While, over the same time span, the Big 12 and Pac 10 have each crowned two champions and the SEC has four titles including three straight.

This along with the recent big game choke jobs by Ohio State, the collapse and rebuilding process by Michigan, and USC’s dismantling of every Big Ten team put in its’ way has fans and media alike wondering if the Big Ten is still an elite conference. Every year the thought of the Big Ten lacking true speed and elite athletes is pounded into our heads during bowl season.

Heading into this season’s postseason festivities it was an understatement to say that the Big Ten needed to have a superb bowl season this past year in order to get the conference prestige back to what it once was. Fast forward to now and we are left with a bitter taste of a 1-6 showing and no college football until August. Ouch.

But was it really as bad as the record might indicate? Or could it have possibly been worse? There were some positives to be had, but some bad and ugly games for the Big Ten conference.

The Ugly:
Wiconsin 13 – Florida State 42, Minnesota 21 – Kansas 42, Penn State 24 – USC 38
When Minnesota blazed out to a 7-1 start some people may have been tricked into thinking that they were an above average team. A quick glance at their schedule would show that their four out of conference games were against Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, Montana State, and Florida Atlantic. And then their three Big Ten wins were against 2008 conference bottom dwellers Indiana, Illinois, and Purdue. The Golden Gopher’s true colors began to show towards the end of the year and they finished out losing their last five games. So, while it was still ugly, it wasn’t a shock that Minnesota would lose by three touchdowns to Kansas.

Next, we have Wisconsin, who was plagued by inconsistencies, under-achieving, and poor quarterback play all season long. They ended the regular season by squeaking by an overtime win against FCS opponent Cal Poly. As you can see, Wisky had little to no momentum heading into the bowl season. And, it certainly showed as they were manhandled by an ‘athletically superior’ Florida State team.

Finally, we have the 2009 Rose Bowl. This quintessential dagger to the heart for Big Ten fans every year and this was no different. This one fits into the ugly category because it was the one that Big Ten fans needed the most in order to claim conference superiority. And, the game was long over early on, and was not as close as the 14 point spread indicates.

The Bad:
Missouri 30 – Northwestern 23, Georgia 24 – Michigan State 12
Both of these games weren’t brutally ugly (see Wisconsin/FSU) and may have actually shown some signs of encouragement for the Big Ten. I was a firm believer heading into the bowl season that Michigan State would be dominated by a far superior Georgia team. And, although they did lose by double digits, MSU actually had the lead heading into halftime. And they managed to keep it relatively close against the preseason number one team.

Northwestern, on the other hand, played an excellent game against Missouri. Missouri was another team that had preseason national championship expectations. The Wildcats held Missouri well under their season long offensive averages. Missouri was only able to score two offensive touchdowns including a seven yard touchdown pass on a shortened field in overtime. This effort, in my mind, solidified the Wildcat’s 9-4 season. This could fit into the ‘Good’ category as Northwestern actually led much of the game, but it’s hard to make a claim for a higher conference prestige when you are having too many “good losses”.

The Good:
Iowa 31 – South Carolina 10, Ohio State 21 – Texas 24
The Hawkeye’s managed to nab the only win for the Big Ten via a blowout win against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Iowa was a bright spot in the Big Ten this season and really began to mold down the stretch. The Hawkeye’s outscored opponents by a combined 86-10 over the last two games. This win gives Iowa momentum heading into the 2009 campaign.

It was hard for many to get excited for the 2009 Fiesta bowl. As it looked like another OSU beat down on the national stage. We have all seen that movie one too many times. Texas came into the game with a legitimate argument that they should be playing in the national championship. While the Buckeyes entered the game with a 10-2 record and just barely squeezed into the BCS bowl picture. Ohio State played up to the level of the Longhorns and were beat by a touchdown pass with 16 seconds left in the game. It’s a shame because this was one game that the Big Ten, and Ohio State in general, could have really used to start reshaping the conference perception.

So there you have it. The Big Ten finished with a 1-6 overall record and 0-2 in BCS games. But was it really as bad as it seemed? Hypothetically if Ohio State had not have been chosen to be in a BCS bowl you could have realistically had these match-ups:

Rose Bowl: Penn State vs. USC
Capital One Bowl: Ohio State vs. Georgia
Outback Bowl: Michigan State vs. South Carolina
Alamo Bowl: Iowa vs. Missouri
Insight Bowl: Northwestern vs. Kansas
Champ Sports Bowl: Minnesota vs. Florida State
Motor City Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Central Michigan

While the games would be slightly less high profile for each team besides Penn State, in these situations, I could see the Big Ten finishing with four wins during bowl season (Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, and Northwestern). While a 4-3 record certainly isn’t going to blow anyone out of the water it could have very well began talk of the Big Ten’s resurgence heading into 2009.

So, what are your thoughts? Was the Big Ten’s bowl season as bad or ugly as it seemed? How many games do you think the Big Ten would have won had OSU been leapfrogged by say Boise State for the final BCS slot? And, would you be willing to trade a 1-6 record for a 4-3 record knowing that you were playing in less high profile games?