Wine Online: Run, Hawkeyes, Run! - Hawkeye Sports Official Athletic Site
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Wine Online: Run, Hawkeyes, Run!
Lots to consider when looking ahead but one constant remains...the ground game
Former UI staffer George Wine is like the rest of the fans of the Hawkeyes:  Anxious to see more of Marcus Coker.
Former UI staffer George Wine is like the rest of the fans of the Hawkeyes: Anxious to see more of Marcus Coker.
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Aug. 28, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Before turning in your office-pool football predictions, here are some things to consider about the Hawkeyes in particular and the Big Ten in general.

Experience is an obvious advantage in any sport, which means Iowa's football team will be at a disadvantage against every team on its schedule. The Hawkeyes return only 11 starters (including a kicker), and all 12 opponents return more, some a lot more. Michigan and Tennessee Tech both have 21 starters back, including Tech's entire offensive unit. Iowa State, Louisiana-Monroe, Penn State, Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan State and Purdue all return at least 15 starters. For the Hawkeyes to be competitive, inexperienced players must grow up fast.


On the bright side, only one head coach among Iowa's opponents has more longevity at his school than Kirk Ferentz has at Iowa. That, of course, is Joe Paterno, who is beginning his 46th season at Penn State. Kirk is starting his 13th year at Iowa. Pat Fitzgerald, beginning his sixth season at Northwestern, is a distant third.

Four Iowa opponents - Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Pittsburgh -- have new head coaches. Giving Iowa additional continuity are Norm Parker and Ken O'Keefe, the only coordinators Ferentz has had. In addition, staffers Lester Erb, Eric Johnson, Reese Morgan, Phil Parker, Darrell Wilson, Scott Southmayd and Chris Doyle have all been with Kirk at least 10 years.

Quarterback is considered the most important position on offense, if not the entire team, and 10 Iowa opponents return their quarterback. Four of the best are Dan Persa of Northwestern, Denard Robinson of Michigan, Kirk Cousins of Michigan State and Taylor Marinez of Nebraska. Iowa State and Indiana are the only foes without a veteran quarterback.





Finally, keep a close eye on Iowa's running game that will feature a veteran line and a dynamic tailback in sophomore Marcus Coker. If the Hawkeyes consistently move the ball on the ground they'll have a good season. Last year they finished 8-5, winning eight games in which they ran for at least 120 yards, and losing five in which they failed to reach that total. Football teams that successfully run the ball are winners.


Iowa opens the season with junior James Vandenberg under center. He started and played all the way in two games as a red-shirt freshman, but saw only limited action last season.

Some pre-season publications predict Iowa to sweep a four-game non-conference schedule, but that seems like a bit of a stretch. It's true that three games are at Kinnick Stadium, but they are all against teams expected to contend for conference championships.

Indeed, Sports Illustrated projects Pittsburgh and Louisiana-Monroe to win at least a share of the Big East and Sun Belt titles, respectively. Tennessee Tech is a favorite in the Ohio Valley Conference. Iowa State is not expected to be a factor in the Big 12, but the in-state rivalry game is at Ames, where the Hawkeyes have recently struggled, losing four of the last six.

The Big Ten has a new look, with Nebraska as a new member and divisional play in football. Absent from Iowa's schedule are two nearby rivals, Wisconsin and Illinois, along with Ohio State. How will the divisional format work out? Will the two best teams meet for the conference championship? Or will they both be in the same division, leaving one out in the cold?

Will Michigan and Ohio State --both in the NCAA's doghouse because of rules infractions - be contenders as they almost always are? Or will the newest member, Nebraska, win the first 12-team championship, as some believe it will?

Finally, keep a close eye on Iowa's running game that will feature a veteran line and a dynamic tailback in sophomore Marcus Coker. If the Hawkeyes consistently move the ball on the ground they'll have a good season. Last year they finished 8-5, winning eight games in which they ran for at least 120 yards, and losing five in which they failed to reach that total. Football teams that successfully run the ball are winners.

So run, Hawkeyes, run!

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