The Pylons -- Michigan Stadium edition
1. The bye factor
I have to thank diligent poster Garth Algar for the idea and link on the "Myth of the bye week."
Since 2002, the Hawkeyes are 1-3 after a bye.
The losses are 19-10 at Ohio State in 2003, that crazy onsides kick in a 28-27 loss at Northwestern in 2005 and a 27-24 loss at Illinois in 2008. The victory was momentous, a 33-7 pummeling of Ohio State at Kinnick during Iowa's Big Ten co-championship run in 2004.
From the Wall Street Journal story:
"In the Big Ten in particular, byes seem to hurt more than they help. The Big Ten's 11 teams are a combined 17-32 since 2002 when playing conference games on extra rest. Ohio State, which is 56-10 in Big Ten play over that span, is 1-3 on extra rest against conference opponents. Among the defeats was a 2004 loss to Northwestern, the Buckeyes' only loss to the Wildcats since 1971. Penn State and Iowa also are 1-3."
Last weekend, South Carolina beat former No. 1 Alabama after a bye. Purdue won at Northwestern after a bye.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said repeatedly after the Hawkeyes left the field two weeks ago against Penn State that Iowa needed the bye to heal wounds and recharge the battery.
"You don't get to choose, but this year if I had to chose, I would have picked this week," Ferentz said. "For once, we were lucky. Maybe I should go buy a lottery ticket. We were lucky. I don't buy them and I don't bet on games either. After watching last weekend, people who do [bet on football] are sick. Wow."
2. Tarp a go?
Senior linebacker Jeff Tarpinian is making the trip to Ann Arbor, where the Hawkeyes arrived mid-afternoon Friday.
Big Ten rules state that teams can travel 70 players to conference road games. Also, Big Ten teams are allowed to put up 70 players in a hotel the night before a home game. (Just FYI on that last part, that's why you might see a few players walk into Kinnick in ties Saturday mornings.)
So, the fact that Tarpinian is going says Ferentz must feel good about his chances of playing. Or he wants Michigan thinking he has a chance to play.
The senior suffered a neck/shoulder stinger during the Ball State game. He played just a series or so after his replacement, Troy Johnson, suffered a concussion against Penn State. When Tarpinian went the sideline shaking his arm, true freshman James Morris stepped in.
Tarpinian isn't 100 percent and will likely be limited, at best. He could perhaps be used in nickel packages on third down. Johnson is ready to play and is poised to make his third career start. Morris, who never played a minute of middle linebacker during his stellar career at Solon, held up well against the Nittany Lions.
Could see a blend of all three. Tarpinian (6-3, 238) could be a better fit for Iowa's next two games, when the Hawkeyes butt heads with mirror images Wisconsin and Michigan State. Morris will play, too, but he's still a true freshman at 6-2, 215.
If Tarpinian gets on the plane, who's off?
Here are some possible areas:
-- Does Iowa travel three kickers? True freshman Mike Meyer likely is No. 1. Senior Daniel Murray, who's made big field goals in his career, is ready after fighting through a hip flexor strain suffered late in fall camp. Sophomore Trent Mossbrucker was displaced by Meyer.
-- Anthony Hitchens? He dropped his redshirt and is in the running back miasma. But is he a first-team special teamer? That would be worth a seat on the plane. If not, who knows?
-- What do you do with second-team specialists? Does No. 2 punter Eric Guthrie and No. 2 long snapper Casey Kreiter go?
OK, we're getting granular here, probably too much, but it's Friday and we've examined every possible angle there is to examine.
3. Scout Denard
It was the biggest question before the week began. Who is going to be the scout team version of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson?
The winner was senior receiver Nick Kuchel.
Kuchel, a senior walk-on, won a Drake Relays title in the 110-meter high hurdles as a sophomore at Kingsley-Pierson High School. He's fast, he's probably not Denard Robinson fast, but not a lot of players in the Big Ten or country are.
I don't see any tricks coming out of the Hawkeyes here. I'm not sure they will be able to draw much from what it did against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Tech relies on a running QB, but it's the triple option against Michigan's spread. Plus, Josh Nesbitt isn't the passer that Denard Robinson is. Maybe the only comparable peg is weakside contain. Robinson could challenge an Iowa D-end on the zone read. Iowa's DEs can run, but they can't run like that.
4. Feature back
I was asked earlier this week by a Michigan site if Iowa RB Adam Robinson has settled into the feature back role.
I replied with Iowa running back Adam Robinson has settled into the "only back role."
See what I did there?
Robinson isn't in the same weight class as Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell (6-2, 230) and Larry Caper (5-11, 220), but, at 5-9, 200, he does compare somewhat to Edwin Baker (5-9, 208), who broke off a 61-yard TD against Michigan.
My opinion on Robinson is great balance and strength to go with a great understanding of the offense and good enough speed. Let me know what you think. In the chat this week, folks said they'd like to see more 20-yard plus runs out of Robinson. Not sure if that's the be-all, end-all stat for a back, but it's a fair opinion.
Two freshman sit behind Robinson. Marcus Coker (6-0, 230) tore off the redshirt, but a broken collarbone in camp set him back immeasurably, Ferentz said. He's an intriguing prospect, but does he know theplaybook, who to block and what route to run? Brad Rogers (5-9, 215) is a redshirt freshman. He moved to fullback early in fall camp. He's very much in the running back plans, but also remains the No. 2 fullback.
IMO, the gauge on Ferentz's confidence in playing them on meaningful snaps is illustrated with this quote: "They're going to be fine, but a year from now I'll be feeling a lot better about them."
It's not dire. Robinson is a full-service back. At 5-9, 200, is he built for the long haul playing a physical brand of football in a physical conference?We'll see. No turning back now.