116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Wyoming is Drew Van Maanen.
He's a 6-1, 245-pound senior fullback from Parker, Colo. His arms are covered in tattoos. His right arm carries the entire verse from Deuteronomy 31:6: 'Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.'
He also recently shaved the sides of his head, leaving a floppy mess on top. He also has a classic '70s mustache. Van is the free spirit of the west.
Strangers are coming to Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. Led by gifted quarterback Josh Allen, this Wyoming team has had 'You don't belong here' drilled into their heads since Iowa popped up on the schedule.
Yes, Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl got the ball rolling at North Dakota State. You don't need an introduction to North Dakota State.
Can Wyoming go North Dakota State on the Hawkeyes Saturday? Iowa was missing center James Daniels and guard Sean Welsh that afternoon. You guys all know this game is a win-win for Wyoming. It's getting $1 million and has a chance to punch a Big Ten team in the face on its turf.
For Iowa, it's a 'take care of business'-'get ready to be paraded on all of the college football highlight shows like a 10-point buck.' So, lose and you're a dead deer on the hood of a car.
Wyoming rush defense vs. Iowa rush offense
Bohl wakes up in June, walks his dog and thinks about stopping the run. It's a key cog to the power football theme that put the Cowboys in the Mountain West Conference title game last season.
So when the Cowboys allowed 5.31 yards per carry last year, Bohl made a change at defensive coordinator, bringing in Scott Hazelton, who coached under Bohl at North Dakota State from 2007-11.
You probably won't see a ton of changes to the Cowboys' 4-3 Tampa 2 defense. Wyoming linebackers, led by sophomore Logan Wilson, will mess with first-time starter Nate Stanley's head during pre-snap.
Strong safety Andrew Wingard is a star. Expect both safeties to play close to the line of scrimmage (less than 10 yards) and come downhill. The Cowboys will be hyper aware of numbers along the line of scrimmage. With safeties triggering hard, that will leave Wyoming vulnerable, but it can't allow itself to be outflanked.
There haven't been a lot of specifics coming out of Iowa City about first-year offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz's offense.
Saturday is the big unveil, but during recruiting, especially when recruiting a quarterback, Brian Ferentz had to give up some of the goods.
'I sat down with him on my official and he said we're still going to play Iowa football,' freshman QB Peyton Mansell said. 'We're going to run hard and run a lot, but we're still going to throw the ball about 30 times a game. He gave me a crazy stat. It was like when we run the ball more than 40 times a game, we're undefeated. It was something like that and it made sense with how high of quality our line has every year.'
Not exactly undefeated, but Iowa is 26-5 when it's run the ball 40-plus times a game over the last four seasons.
Running backs Akrum Wadley and James Butler are eager to show off their stuff. The offensive line is probably tired of getting yelled at. The best defense against Allen will be to keep him on the sidelines.
Wyoming pass defense vs. Iowa pass offense
Wyoming will mix coverages. Tampa 2 is the base, but you'll also see Cover 1 (numbers at the line of scrimmage) and some Cover 3 (again, eye on the numbers at the line of scrimmage). On passing downs, Bohl's defenses also have shown some zone blitz, with defensive ends dropping into curl areas.
Remember the safety blitz that ended Iowa's chance to seal the victory last year against North Dakota State? You'll see that. Wingard and free safety Marcus Epps are frequently asked to blitz. Stanley is going to be asked to identify and shift blocking. That job gets tougher when the Cowboys bring six and you don't know which six are coming.
We will get a read on how the wide receiver rebuild is going for the Hawkeyes. On Tuesday, senior wide receiver Matt VandeBerg said he counted nine new faces in the wide receivers room since the beginning of the year.
What can true freshmen Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Max Cooper and Brandon Smith bring? Is graduate transfer Matt Quarells ready to go? He's been in Iowa City for less than a month.
Look for Brian Ferentz to shift Wadley into favorable matchups. Iowa showed during the Aug. 12 open scrimmage that it plans to use Wadley in the slot.
Maybe the most interesting thing to see will be how Iowa uses its tight ends. Iowa has eight on scholarship. Between Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson and Shaun Beyer, someone should be a matchup headache for linebackers.
This will be an excellent first test for Stanley. Bohl is a defensive black belt. The Cowboys will run Stanley ragged as far as what he sees and when he sees it.
Wyoming rush offense vs. Iowa rush defense
The beauty of having a quarterback who's touted as the potential No. 1 pick in the next NFL draft is it will keep defenses honest. Iowa defensive backs will have to stay in coverage until Allen has the ball out of his hands.
That could open some things for Wyoming's running game. Now, the Cowboys did lose running back Brian Hill to the NFL draft. His 349 carries last season were tied for most in the nation. His 1,860 yards were third. He declared early for the draft and was picked by the Atlanta Falcons in the fifth round.
With Hill in the league, the Cowboys are looking for a running back. Sophomore Milo Hall (5-8, 190) will get the first shot against the Hawkeyes, but don't be surprised to see a running back committee approach, with junior Nico Evans and sophomore Kellen Overstreet seeing carries.
Bohl loves true freshman center Logan Harris (6-3, 308). Harris is homegrown, from Torrington, Wyo. Still, he's a true freshman.
Iowa's front four, at least to start the game, will include a 6-7 sophomore end (Anthony Nelson), a giant sophomore tackle who's played 86 career snaps (Cedrick Lattimore), a 6-1 veteran tackle (Nathan Bazata) and a three-year starter at end (Parker Hesse).
You will see 6-8 junior Matt Nelson make his debut at tackle. You will see true freshman A.J. Epenesa play between 20 and 30 snaps.
One thing that really warped the NDSU game last season for Iowa's defense was all of the motions and sets that took Iowa defenders out of position. Wyoming can play power, but it also shows some spread concepts, with one back, a tight end and three wide receivers.
Wyoming pass offense vs. Iowa pass defense
Here's where it will get dangerous for the Hawkeyes.
Allen has had NFL eyes plastered on him since the end of last season. NFL Network draft analyst and former pro scout Daniel Jeremiah calls Allen a 'more athletic version of Joe Flacco.' Lots of QBs will be in the 2018 draft. Allen will be at or near the top of a talented list.
With zero scholarship offers coming out of Firebaugh, Calif., the 6-5, 233-pounder supplements a strong passing arm with quick feet and intelligence. He won't coast. Remember, zero scholarship offers.
Allen does lose his top three receivers from 2016, including Tanner Gentry who's trying to make it with the Chicago Bears.
Wyoming won't be afraid to work the middle of the field. Iowa's linebackers will be tested on crossing routes. Once the LBs overcommit to the crossers, you'll see pivot routes.
Iowa starts in the minus here. Corner Manny Rugamba will serve a one-game suspension this week for an undisclosed violation of team policies. He's generally considered Iowa's top corner. Sophomore Michael Ojemudia replaces him. These are Ojemudia's first vital snaps. Rugamba's absence likely changes defensive coordinator Phil Parker's plans for sub packages. True freshman corner Matt Hankins will see time in nickel, which, depending if the Cowboys can get anything going on the ground, might be out there a lot.
It will be interesting to see if Iowa's front four can pressure Allen or how blitz-happy Parker might get in week 1.
Iowa is replacing its punter, kickoff specialist, punt returner, kick returner and has had a change at field goal kicker. That's all.
Kirk Ferentz wanted more octane out of special teams. LeVar Woods was named special teams coordinator and Ferentz had $50,000 peeled out of his salary to pay Kevin Spencer, a longtime NFL special teams coordinator who was hired as a special teams quality control assistant in June.
The punter is sophomore Colten Rastetter, who beat out true freshman Ryan Gersonde, the lone specialist on scholarship. Junior Miguel Recinos won the kickoff and field goal duties in a tight battle with Keith Duncan.
The surest sign that Ferentz isn't dinking around with special teams is Wadley on kick return and VandeBerg returning punts. That's your No. 1 RB and No. 1 WR out there.
1. The Hunted — When Iowa is at its best you usually can argue that it's the hunter. Check Michigan last year for one example. The Hawkeyes seem out of sorts when they are the hunted. The Hawkeyes are a double-digit favorite in Kinnick Saturday. This sets up to be a comfortable opening victory and then on to the Iowa State rivalry. Or does this set up to be North Dakota State 2: The Last-Second Field Goal of Justice?
2. Nerve maintenance — Stanley met with the media for about 20 minutes this week. Outwardly, he seemed maybe slightly nervous. He's probably a lot more comfortable with a helmet on and looking over a secondary than answering questions about his hometown (apparently there are three towns with different spellings of 'Menomonie' in Wisconsin). This is where QB coach Ken O'Keefe becomes worth his weight in gold.
3. Speaking of firsts — Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz will call his first-ever play in a game that counts. You can certainly argue that the way Iowa plays the game, the plays call themselves. Inside zone, outside zone, traps, play-action pass. Of course, it's not as easy as that. The real work is done during the week. The curtain is going up on a very important stage in Brian Ferentz's career. Here we go.
WYOMING WILL WIN IF ... QB Josh Allen has time to pick apart a secondary that, simply put, is vulnerable.
IOWA WILL WIN IF ... The Hawkeyes rush for 200-plus yards and do that in 45-plus carries. Win time of possession decidedly and win the game.
PREDICTION: Iowa 34, Wyoming 17
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