The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: Coming off their most impressive performance of the season, the 15th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes hit the road to take on the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington this weekend.
Kirk Ferentz has to be pleased with the way the his team played on both sides of the ball last weekend, making light work of previously unbeaten Michigan State in a 37-6 rout at home. The loss took some of the sting out of a 31-30 loss to Wisconsin just one week prior and moved the Hawkeyes to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play.
Bill Lynch's Hoosiers have long been out of the conference race and currently are still in search of their first Big Ten victory of the season. The team completed a sweep of its non-league slate, but has come up on the short end of four losses in-conference, including a 20-17 setback against Northwestern last weekend.
This marks the 72nd meeting in this longstanding rivalry, with Iowa holding a 40-27-4 series advantage. The Hawkeyes have won five of the last seven meetings, including a 42-24 decision in Iowa City last year.
One of the more balanced offensive attacks in the Big Ten, Iowa has found great success both on the ground (160.1 ypg) and through the air (245.9 ypg) in 2010. The result is an impressive scoring average of 34.1 ppg. Knowing how to finish drives has been a real plus for this team, with Iowa converting 29- of-33 red zone opportunities, with 25 of them resulting in touchdowns.
Tailback Adam Robinson is the driving force in the backfield, rushing for 806 yards thus far on 4.7 yards per carry. He has also scored 10 of the team's 13 rushing TDs to date. Robinson's production has certainly aided quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who has completed 68.5 percent of his passes, for 1,922 yards and 19 TDs, with only two INTs. The receiving corps is chock-full of talent, led by Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who has 30 receptions, for 497 yards and eight TDs.
The offense is not the only side of the ball that has put up big numbers this season. The Iowa defense has been equally impressive, allowing a meager 14.5 ppg. The rush defense has been particularly stout, limiting foes to just 84.5 ypg and 2.9 ypc.
Linebacker Jeremiah Hunter currently paces the team in tackles with 51, but the talented playmaker is listed as questionable for this game with an undisclosed injury. Strong safety Tyler Sash (48 tackles, two INTs) is a close second in terms of tackles and is joined in the secondary by talented corners Micah Hyde (39 tackles, two INTs) and Shaun Prater (38 tackles, three INTs).
Indiana's record doesn't necessarily reflect this team's ability to move the football on offense. In fact, the Hoosiers have one of the better passing games in the entire nation, averaging 312.9 yards per game. Quarterback Ben Chappell has had a strong campaign thus far, completing 64.5 percent of his pass attempts, for 2,445 yards, with 18 TDs. However, his is banged up a bit and is questionable for this contest. There is obvious talent in the receiving corps, headlined by Demarlo Belcher (58 catches, 656 yards, four TDs), Terrance Turner (42 catches, 418 yards, two TDs) and Tandon Doss (40 catches, 503 yards, two TDs).
Coach Ferentz is gameplanning for Chappell nonetheless.
"The only thing there, he may not be thinking run first because he runs the ball effectively, too. Might limit his ability to do that. Key word there is 'might'. I expect him to be in there. He throws that football around pretty well. Does a nice job of running their offense. Did a nice job last year. We're certainly going to prepare like he's going to be in there running their entire offense. I don't know how that will affect the run game a little bit."
The defensive side of the ball is where Indiana has had the most struggles. The team is yielding nearly 30 points per game (29.4) and has given up big chunks of yardage both on the ground (167.5 ypg, 5.2 ypc) and through the air (216.6 ypg). A lack of big plays has also been problematic, with just 10 sacks and 10 takeaways in the first eight games.
Linebackers Jeff Thomas (57 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, one INT) and Tyler Replogle (56 tackles, one INT and one fumble recovery) have led the way for this unit. Weakside LB Leon Beckum (45 tackles, 6.0 TFLs, 3.0 sacks) rounds out the play in the middle.
Despite the rather average defensive numbers, coach Lynch is pleased with the progress on this side of the football, especially the maturation of Thomas.
"It's been something we had hoped and planned would happen. Once all of these guys started coming together and playing, we would improve. Jeff [Thomas] obviously is a big part of it. When he came in last year and went through spring practice, this was all new to him. Not only was it a new school, but think of anybody that comes from a northern California junior college to Indiana University, that is a big adjustment, taking football totally out of the picture, just the academic side and the campus and everything else. Then you mix in the football. We saw in the spring that he was going to be a good football player. Then he went home for a part of the summer and came back for the rest of the summer, got more and more acclimated with what we're doing and then playing, and he is just a football player. The play on the field has certainly helped. His leadership and the way he carries him self is part of it. "