In an effort to educate, preview, and most importantly, make fun of, the upcoming teams which dare play the Cardinals, OTP is proud to present the Know a ’10 Opponent series. Like we always caution, previewing and attempting to quantify the unquantifiable, especially two months away from the season is basically begging for failure, but we’ll fling some poo and see what sticks, shall we? I mean, after all, we predicted like 10 wins for BSU last season and we totally nailed that one, didn’t we? I can’t find the results, so let’s just go with that. So sit back, boys and girls, and know your ’10 opponents.
Remember the last Know a ’10 Opponent we published? How we talked about the potential upset of a Big 10 foe, and needing just a little bit of help from Purdue for that second win over a BCS conference school to become a reality? Remember how we compared Purdue to Indiana? How we said that while the talent gap between the MAC and Big 10 is sizeable, it wasn’t insurmountable? Yeah… sort of different rules apply to this one. Yes, Iowa is in the Big 10 as Purdue, and yes, they have 11 men on the field at any given time. But the similarities between Iowa and Purdue pretty much end there.
Ball State will venture into Kinnick Stadium on September 25 and be the presumptive heavy underdog. It is the 4th game for both teams, with Iowa playing host to Eastern Illinois and Iowa State as well as a road contest at Arizona the week preceding the BSU game. Iowa will most likely be in the Top 10 by this game, and most everyone who isn’t associated with the BSU program will give the Cardinals about the same shot at success as I have of bedding Erin Andrews. And Hannah Storm. On a primetime Sportscenter special moderated by Scott VanPelt. (Note: Read: Not good odds at all. -Ed.)
Perhaps history will tell us something about this Ball State-Iowa matchup. Granted, most know the only BCS conference school the Cardinals have beaten is Indiana, but there’s bound to be something to recall historically about these two titans of the gridiron that makes the expectations of this contest manageable. What’s that? They’ve played before? Awesome! How’d that turn out? A 56-0 drubbing in 2005? Stellar. Fuck you, history.
While it’s sort of a tradition to poke fun at the school or the area, Iowa is a great school in a great conference. And making fun of the locale would sort of be self-deprecation. Anyone who has been to Iowa and north central Indiana knows you can pretty much switch the two and no one would be the wiser. Corn, chain restaurants, and that typical midwestern aura means I can’t even make fun of the city. Have you no decency, internet justice? Not only does our team stand a snowball’s chance in hell, I can’t even mock the most basic things about Iowa? This sucks.
What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Frankly, Iowa has had a good run in recent history. 4 double-digit win seasons in the last decade, along with only 2 losing seasons and 1 .500 season. They’ve finished four of the last ten years ranked in the Top 10 of the final AP poll, and have been to 8 bowl games (2 BCSers) over that time frame, winning 5 of them. They’ve also either won or shared the Big 10 title twice over that time frame and despite our hatred for the Big Ten, that’s an accomplishment. Hell, more than we can say about conference titles.
Recently, Iowa is one of those programs, it seems, where they are good for one giant upset per year. Last year they defeated Penn State on the road. In 2008, it was Penn State at home. They seem to also be good for one inexplicable loss, last year to Northwestern and in ’08 to Illinois. Could Ball State take the place of some bottom of the barrel Big 10 team and turn the 70,000 fans at Kinnick into a tear-stained mess of upset?
The Man Who Wears the Headset
Everyone knows Iowa’s head coach Kirk Ferentz. Not because he’s an exceptional coach (which he is) or because he’s flashy and attention seeking (which he isn’t). No, most know Ferentz because everytime a marquee job opens, Ferentz is linked to it in some way, shape, or form. The “rumors”, “speculation”, and “interest” usually result in a contract extension and a pay bump, but through it all, he’s stayed at Iowa, becoming the Dean of Big 10 coaches with the longest tenure of any current head men (You know… save for JoePa, which we clearly missed with the original post. -Ed.).
Ferentz’ record at Iowa is 81-55, with a 49-39 Big 10 record. I think most Iowa fans will tell you that the consistent performance and success they have enjoyed recently is because of Ferentz, but part of me does wonder if Hawkeye faithful will eventually demand more than the occasional Big 10 title and the standard 8 to 9 wins. Perhaps this year?
Ferentz is also the highest paid coach in the Big 10, and the highest paid state employee in Iowa, with compensation of just a smidge over 3 million last year. That’s a lot of corn, son.
Players and Stats of Note
Iowa returns 6 starters on offense and 8 on defense, but it less about how many and more about whom. On offense, the Hawkeyes return QB Ricky Stanzi, RB Adam Robinson, WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and two from the offensive line. Stanzi is the straw that stirs the drink for the Hawkeyes, going for 2400 yards and 17TDs last season. Perhaps most importantly, he loves him some America…
Defensively is where the Hawkeyes are strongest, returning 8 from a dominant unit last season that gave up only 280 yards per game and never allowed more than 28 points. The defensive line for the Hawkeyes is daunting, returning all four starters that combined for 252 tackles and 27 sacks. That doesn’t bode well if the BSU offensive line can’t muster some significant improvement from last season.
How Worried Are We?
AHHHHH!!!!!! CODE ARGYLE!!!! This is serious business. Essentially, this is a game that 95% of BSU fans will tentatively pencil an L in, and we like to call those fans “realists”. The Threat Level for this game isn’t about how worried we are. Truthfully, we aren’t worried at all about a loss, as acceptance is the first step to peacefulness. What we are worried about is somehow being embarrassed. Do I think that’s a likely occurence? No. But the possibility is there, and it’s a real one.
So the threat level hits a record high so far this preview season, akin to walking into a honky-tonk in Central Kentucky, requesting the Pet Shop Boys, and then ordering a Long Island Iced Tea while wearing boat shoes and an ascot. The likelihood of getting beaten is high, you simply hope you don’t get put in a coma.
Bottom line, Cardinals fans is measured and realistic expectations. Even worst case scenario curb stompings won’t upset me all that much considering the talent on that side of the field. A 14-24 point loss I would consider “expected”, less than 14 and I’m actually somewhat happy, and if we win, I’m driving to Muncie and tearing down the goal posts. Let Stan Parrish try and stop me.
This is one of those games where (at least to me) “success” is defined as moments of good play, an injury-free day, and not getting our innards blasted all over the field. All three of those things happen and it’s a successful Saturday.
For your Iowa reading pleasure, check out BlackHeartGoldPants, easily one of the best collegiate blogs out there. Funny, on point, and actually knowledgeable about the sports they cover, it’s a seamless mix of knock your socks off stats, info, and insight as well as dick and fart jokes. That is a symphony of excellence. You can check them out here, as well as their Ball State preseason coverage here and here. Enjoy.