Another week, another new story at running back for the Hawkeyes. Against Northern Iowa, fullback Mark Weisman splashed for 113 yards and three TDs, after, of course, running backs Damon Bullock (concussion) and Greg Garmon (elbow) left the game. This week, true freshman Michael Malloy and sophomore Jordan Canzeri will enter the mix. Malloy has been in the plans all along and might've seen the field last week, but turned up with the flu. Canzeri tore his ACL in late March and has rehabbed to the point of return, which is likely to happen today. Whoever happens at running back -- Weisman is the No. 1 today -- they will benefit from an O-line that took a step forward last week. For CMU, noseguard Matt Losiniecki (6-3, 280) and end Joe Kinville (6-4, 263) lead up front. Watch for strong safety Jahleel Addae in run support. He's CMU's best defender. He's active and plays with abandon. Advantage: Iowa
It's a nagging question/stat, but, yes, quarterback James Vandenberg doesn't have a TD pass this season. He knows it. You know it. It's a head-scratcher that going into week four a QB who had 25 TD passes a year ago is waiting to pop the cork in 2012. But what does it mean? There's no Marvin McNutt, who last season set nearly every Iowa receiving record last season. Also, there's a new offensive coordinator. It's not an excuse, but it's all new and it's going to take time. CMU coach Dan Enos played at Michigan State and coached at Cincinnati and MSU under Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio. They have similar defensive philosophies, pressuring with the front four and "bending and not breaking." This doesn't mean the Chippewas won't blitz. CMU starts three sophomores in the secondary, including both corners, Jason Wilson (6-0, 174) and Dennis Nalor (6-0, 178). Advantage: Even
Zurlon Tipton, a burly 6-1, 219-pound junior, leads the Chippewas' ground game with an impressive 8.6 yards on 28 carries. He also has three TDs. Anthony Garland is the No. 2. Also a big back at 6-1, 218, Garland averages 5.7 yards on 20 carries. Keep in mind, the CMU O-line, which features three seniors, faced off with Michigan State two weeks ago. The Chippewas rushed for just 72 yards on 22 carries. CMU did a lot of damage against Southeast Missouri State in week 1, but SEMO is an FCS school that won three games last season. Again, with Enos, expect a Michigan State-like philosophy. You will see two-tight end sets and a fullback, but you'll also see four wide. CMU has a pair of all-MAC tackles in Eric Fisher and Jake Olson, but Olson, an draft-pick caliber OT, is out for this game after leg injury against MSU. Advantage: Iowa
QB Ryan Radcliff can bomb it. He was 19th in the nation last season with 273.8 passing yards a game. He was CMU's MVP last season, is a team captain and is in his third year as starter. He's approaching CMU records, but lacks a "resume" victory. Sophomore wide receiver Titus Davis (6-2, 190) earned freshman all-American last season with 40 catches for 751 yards and eight TDs. He is one of the MAC's more explosive players, with great size and speed. Flanker Cody Wilson (5-10, 195) is third in the nation with a reception in 31 consecutive games. With the other receivers stretching the secondary, Wilson works the underneath of a defense. Jerry Harris (6-1, 187) and Courtney Williams (6-1, 212) have good size and could pose problems. Iowa's secondary matched in zone much better last week after a few busts against Iowa State. The Hawkeyes' pass rush is still a work in progress. Advantage: Iowa
Senior kicker David Harman is trusty, with a career percentage of 78.6 (22 of 28). He's made just three from 40-plus in his career and has just one attempt this season. Punter Richie Hogan averages just 33.83 yards a punt and CMU's net punting is No. 117, allowing 31 yards on two returns. Jerry Harris is one of many kick returners, and Cody Wilson does punts. The Chippewas are 62nd and 89th in the nation in those categories. True freshman punter Connor Kornbrath had his first adversity of the season last week, when he downed his own 11-yard punt. "It looked like he was going to cry after the bad one. I was thinking about crying myself," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz joked. Garmon showed some juice in kick returns, taking one 39 yards last week, but he's iffy with the elbow injury. Advantage: Iowa
1) Iowa might be playing with fire in what could be a "malaise" game. With just three wins last season, CMU is, on paper, Iowa's weakest opponent this season. Iowa begins Big Ten play next week with a trophy game at Kinnick against Minnesota. This is sort of along the lines of the Arkansas State game in 2009, when the Hawkeyes couldn't get it in gear and eeked out a 24-21 victory. This team is in a different place and has to be smart enough to know it can't afford malaise. 2) The Chippewas' season has had a weird rhythm to it. It started with SEMO, a non-descript, and then ramped up to a rare -- and probably never again -- home matchup with Michigan State, a 41-7 loss. Last week, the Chips were off and now it's Kinnick. It's hurry-up-and-wait. That could play in their favor or not. 3) With his bullish style and genuine smile, Weisman seemed to give the Iowa huddle a much-needed shot of energy last week. Expect that to carry over, whether it's Weisman or Malloy or Canzeri. Each has a different story and will bring new energy to the field. Advantage: Iowa
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It carries the energy and vibe over from the Northern Iowa game a week ago. Iowa has the brute force to run over CMU, but it has to conjure that. Here's where the usual pep talk about the passing game goes. It's a work in progress, yes, but at some point it will cost Iowa a game if it can't get into gear. You might argue it already has. This will be a good test for a defense that might be finding out how good it can be.
It just plays all out with nothing to lose and it gets the running game rolling. CMU has a pair of Big Ten-sized backs. If they can get Iowa's safeties peeking into the backfield, Radcliff is a good enough QB with terrific weapons to make the Hawkeyes pay. The Chippewas will have to withstand Iowa's physical punch, specifically on defense. This is where a week 2 game against Michigan State, even though it was a 41-7 loss, comes in handy.
PREDICTION: Iowa 41, CMU 17