Dec. 18, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- If Las Vegas odds makers are right, the Big Ten will take a black eye in upcoming bowl games. The conference has 10 teams in the post season, and only three are favored to win. Iowa is not one of them.
The Hawkeyes are one of seven Big Ten underdogs. The others are Northwestern, Penn State, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State and league champion Wisconsin. The three favorites are Michigan, Purdue and Illinois.
Being an underdog to Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl might not be a bad thing for the Hawkeyes. Two years ago they were expected to lose to No. 9-ranked Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl and won. Last year they were the underdog to No. 12 Missouri in the Insight bowl and scored an upset.
It is worth noting that Sports Illustrated, perhaps the nation's leading sports magazine, does not agree with the Las Vegas odds makers and predicts that Iowa will beat Oklahoma 23-15, using this rationale: "The Sooners were a shell of themselves at the end of the year. The season-ending knee injury to Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles means Iowa's Marvin McNutt Jr. will be the best receiver on the field. The season-ending ankle injury to the Sooners' Dominique Whaley means the Hawkeyes' Marcus Coker will be the best tailback on the field. The upshot: Iowa will be the best team on the field."
It's encouraging to read that in a respected national publication, but I disagree that the Sooners - absent two offensive stars -- were a shell of themselves the last part of the season. It is true they were aiming for a national championship before losing three of their last six games, but two of those losses were on the road to highly-ranked, explosive teams - Baylor and Oklahoma State - and during those six games the Oklahoma offense averaged 35.2 points.
That's not good news to an Iowa defense that has had trouble protecting leads and getting off the field on third downs. Oklahoma still has an outstanding quarterback in Landry Jones, who led the Big 12 with 4,302 yards passing, plus plenty of good receivers. Roy Finch has been a highly capable fill-in at tailback, averaging 5.7-yards per carry.
With the departure of Joe Paterno at Penn State, Kirk Ferentz is now the dean of Big Ten football coaches. In the 13 years Kirk has been Iowa's head coach, the other 11 Big Ten schools have had a total of 35 coaches.
To win this game the Hawkeyes will need an exceptional defensive performance like they got in beating Michigan, and an offense that grinds out 400 yards, scores at every opportunity and gets some help from special teams. It's likely to take at least 30 points to win this game. Oklahoma has been held to less than that only three times this season, and the Sooners won two of those contests.
The odds makers have made Oklahoma a 14-point favorite at the Insight Bowl. Sports Illustrated says Iowa will pull a major upset. Let's hope the magazine is right.
FOOTBALL COACHES COME AND GO, BUT NOT AT IOWA
With the departure of Joe Paterno at Penn State, Kirk Ferentz is now the dean of Big Ten football coaches. In the 13 years Kirk has been Iowa's head coach, the other 11 Big Ten schools have had a total of 35 coaches. They are listed here by school alphabetically.
Illinois (3) - Ron Turner, Ron Zook, Tim Beckman
Indiana (5) - Cam Cameron, Gerry DiNardo, Terry Hoeppner, Bill Lynch, Kevin Wilson
Iowa (1) - Kirk Ferentz
Michigan (3) - Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriquez, Brady Hoke
Michigan State (5) - Nick Saban, Bobby Williams, Morris Watts, John L. Smith, Mark Dantonio
Minnesota (4) - Glen Mason, Tim Brewster, Jeff Horton, Jerry Kill
Nebraska (3) - Frank Solich, Bill Callahan, Bo Pelini
Northwestern (2) - Randy Walker, Pat Fitzgerald
Ohio State (3) - Jim Tressel, Luke Fickell, Urban Meyer
Penn State (3) - Joe Paterno, Tom Bradley, coach to be named
Purdue (2) - Joe Tiller, Danny Hope
Wisconsin (2) - Barry Alvarez, Bret Bielema