You will get nothing and like it, Orange-Man.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Here's The Thing

Every week we'll be bringing you the "most important thing" to watch for that week in Iowa's game. Whether you're an expert or a novice, you'll be able to look for one thing and know, right away, if the Hawkeyes are going to win. This week is particularly easy:

If we stop the run up the middle, we win.

It really is that simple. If you look at film from 2002-2004 you'll find an Iowa team that was damn near impossible to attack up the gut. We forced opponents into 2nd & 9's and 10's which immediately applies pressure to the opponent's Offensive Coordinator. It's the 1st quarter and he's forced to go off script. He wants to establish the run and show those farmboys who's boss, so he calls another run. It fails too, and now they're in 3rd & long. You want to know the only statistic that matters to the great and powerful JHC? Opponent's yards to go on 3rd down. Doesn't sound sexy but if you dominate this category it wins more games than anything else. Turnovers, dropped passes, and special teams are fluky. They're difficult to control and impossible to predict but if you keep your opponent in 3rd & long you will win 100% of the time. This is science and therefore cannot be disputed.

3rd & long forces your opponent to throw and that's when bad things happen, man. You might think throwing is fun, but ask a grizzled Offensive Coordinator and they'll tell you that there are 3 possible results (completion, incompletion, interception) from a pass attempt and 2 of them are bad. It also forces their quarterback to think and there's nothing an OC hates more than that. They don't want some college kid free lancing and making decisions out there. It takes the control out of their hands and it gives them ulcers.

The other result of a passing situation is the sack and nothing fuels a defense more than a sack. All the D talks about all week is hitting the QB and once they get a taste of him on game day they become obsessed. One guy gets a taste and the whole pack wants some. They start passing the QB around like a teen runaway at a biker rally. It's a beautiful thing.

The biggest difference between our good teams and our... ahem... average teams of the last 2 seasons has been our commitment to stopping the run up the gut. As you may know, Defensive Coordinator Norm Parker doesn't do much in the way of adjustments. We give you pretty much the same look in every situation and it's up to you to beat us. Stopping the run is about attitude and focus. I'm not sure how to say this, but basically, our attitude has been soft and our focus has been elsewhere. The strength of this year's team is our defensive line. Kenny Iwebema, Mitch King, Matt Kroul, and Bryan Mattison all have a legitimate shot at 1st Team All Big 10. You think they aren't going to compete? You think one of these guys wants to be the one who doesn't get mentioned at the end of the year? They do their job and we win 10 games. They don't and it's going to be another long season. The success or failure of this team lies in their hands and they know it. You watch the first half of the game today and you'll know it too.

We've been waiting for 8 months and game day is finally here. It's a new season and we can finally get the bad taste from last year out of our mouth. So let's agree to bury it and look forward to this year and starting fresh.
If you're going to the game and tailgating, please follow JHC's 3 simple rules:

1) Don't boo.
2) Don't chuck bottles at people (even if it's a girl in an Ohio State sweatshirt).
3) If you drink, don't drive.

Make us proud out there.

Friday, August 31, 2007

There's a game on Saturday?

Lost amidst all the hub and/or bub about the off-season here at THC is the fact that Iowa actually has a game tomorrow, and it's actually against a different team. It actually never dawned on us until Thursday night that we'd never even talked about the opponent (as JHC put it, "God we're idiots.").

Here's what to expect from Northern Illinois, a team that played Iowa to an even closer game than the 24-14 score suggests: it took a fourth-down TD pass late in the game to push the margin back to 10 points. Sure, the only reason Iowa wasn't kicking was the fact that Kyle Schlicher had already missed two field goals, but still. It was a three-point game with under five minutes to go, and NIU was rolling.

It's tempting to see that the teams were ten points apart last year, look at the fact that the game's in Chicago, and start flipping out that NIU could win. That's probably not the case. A look at the individual matchups reveals that Iowa ought to win comfortably.


Iowa OL vs. NIU DL

This would be the largest disparity in talent between the two teams if everyone was healthy. Unfortunately, LT Dace Richardson remains out while his knee recovers at a slower pace than expected. He might be back for Syracuse, but it's doubtful. The rest of the Iowa line is green, but good. Andy Kuempel and the dulcet-toned Julian Vandervelde have beaten out VHT's(!) Dan Doering and Tyler Blum at the guard spots, and the duo of RT Seth Olsen and C Rafael Eubanks are the most experienced linemen on the team. Best of all, with the Richardson injury aside, the other four linemen have spent weeks together as a unit, which is vital to an offensive line's effectiveness.

NIU fields two returning defensive ends, and one--junior Larry English--is probably the best in the MAC. He recorded 12 sacks as a sophomore last year, and there's no reason to believe he won't improve on that number. Still, he's a rush end, and the Huskies must replace their top three interior linemen on defense. Iowa figures to be able to create gaps between the tackles, and this is a clear advantage for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa WR/TE vs. NIU DB

We all know what happened in the Douglas/Bowman Affair. It's wildly unlikely that they'll be back this year. That's in the past now.

WR Andy Brodell, as you might recall, blew Texas the fuck up. The other likely starter, fellow IGWWR Trey Stross, is the best deep threat on the team. So it's not as if Iowa is doomed at the wideout position. Beyond those two are James "Intimidator" Cleveland and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos-Papadopalis, both of whom are considered assets.

At tight end, Tony Moeaki is peerless in all facets of the game. His backup, second-stringer Brandon Myers... is not. And that's about all that needs to be said about the position.

NIU returns two capable (if not particularly talented) cornerbacks in Bradley Pruitt and Melvin Rice. The two started the majority of last season's games, though a combination of two experienced cornerbacks is pretty unremarkable:

"I will cover the flanker on my side of the field."
"I will cover the split end 30 yards away, which is on my side of the field."
"This is terribly complex. Our learning curve is clearly at least a dozen games long."
"I know. Better luck next year, compadre."

For what it's worth, the Man of Steele does not rank either as at least third-team all-MAC, so the starting experience should not trouble Iowa fans.

The Huskies' safeties are similarly unremarkable, neither being especially touted or experienced. While there are very few "weak links" on a Joe Novak team, the Iowa passing game has no reason to fear safeties like Mark Reiter or Spencer Williamson.

Again, the advantage belongs to Iowa.

Iowa RB vs. NIU LB

At their best, AY and Sims were a redux of the dynamite combo from 10 years ago of Sedrick Shaw and Tavian Banks. At their 2006 usual, they were a system of trading one deep flaw for another.

Young was particularly disappointing; the 2005 season, his first back from the torn ACL, was full of brilliance within the first 15 yards from the line of scrimmage. His breakaway speed, meanwhile, was understandably missing. That was filled by Sims, who averaged a flatly absurd 9.9 yards per carry (hellooo, outliers!).

Then last year happened and all hell broke loose. Young never seemed to be 100%, frequently brought down by defensive linemen and almost never testing his speed against the secondary. His yards per carry fell an almost unfathomable full yard; if he's healthy again, then we should expect him to revert to his 1,334 (5.4 ypc) form.

Damian Sims also returns. Sims has come a long way from his true freshman year, trying to run the ball at 160 pounds soaking wet, and he seems ready to take on an expanded role. He spent too many plays in 2006 chasing after his own fumbles, however. That's largely a matter for reps and practice, so he should be able to fix that problem. Sims is more of a Fred Russell than your typical third-down, smallish backs, but the Ferentz/O'Keefe offense has never depended on a third-down back; now's not the time to start lamenting the absence.

While Sims will never be confused for the transcendent talent that was Carlton Tavian Banks (except if this actually happens), Albert Young's ceiling for 2007 closely mirrors that of Sedrick Shaw in 1996. A safe standard for success would be 1,100 yards for Young and 500 for Sims. If the two can't combine for more than 140 per game in 2006, Iowa is in trouble. The first test will be against NIU, and it will be very telling.

As far as the Huskies' defense, the linebackers are for the most part nothing special. They're stout up the middle with Tim McCarthy, but by and large they're smallish (averaging about 220 pounds across the board) and not particularly exciting. They're moderately productive, having given up fewer than four yards per carry during each of the last five seasons, but that's easy when the only good tailback in the conference is standing on your sidelines. Once again, Iowa looks to be at an advantage.

Iowa QB vs. NIU D

Anyone who worries about Jake Christensen's poise here, quite frankly, has not been paying attention to the young man during his career at Iowa. He has displayed uncommon amounts of maturity and leadership, and there's no question that this is his offense and his team. The NIU defense is, while well-coached, just not a fearsome unit. Iowa is across-the-board better.


NIU OL vs. Iowa DL

The Huskies' offensive line has typically been a strength, allowing tailbacks like Garrett Wolfe and Michael Turner to rush for more than 10,000 yards over the last seven seasons. That's very many yards, especially considering Turner only rushed for about 400 yards in 2001. Leading the way is LT Jon Brost, a 6'6" beastman who has started 23 games thus far and will likely hear his name called on draft day two years from now. Past that, sophomore Jason Onyebuagu has earned mountains of praise from the NIU coaching staff, and he will likely garner all-conference accolades before his college career is over.

As far as the Iowa defensive line, well, which line do you think will show up? Will it be the one that terrorized offenses at the end of 2005? Will it be the 2006 line that simply leaned on the offensive line instead of blowing past them? If they're healthy, every single starter on Iowa's side is great. Bryan Mattison is generally the most consistent of the bunch, playing a very Kampman-esque role in both pass rush and run support. Mitch King and Kenny Iwebema battled nagging injuries all year, occasionally missing games. So while it may be unfair to tag them as "mercurial," they've both had some mental lapses (King's personal fouls and Iwebema's unspecified misbehavior) that have negatively impacted the line's performance as well. They've both got to put together 12 good games this season.

NIU head coach Joe Novak is particularly worried about the matchup:
"Iowa is always a big, strong, physical football team,” Novak said. “That’s Kirk Ferentz. That’s Iowa kids. The front four, it’s the most physical one we play all year. I don’t want to play one that’s better than them.

“If we can’t block their front four, Dan or our running backs aren’t going to have a chance.”
More on Dan later.

Gotta say Iowa's at a distinct advantage on this side of the trenches as well.

NIU WR/TE vs. Iowa DB

This is probably the Huskies' strongest unit, and they're facing Iowa's weakest. WR Britt Davis is big, strong, (6'2" 205), and fast--he's their #1 receiver. On the other side of the field will be Marcus Perez, an able kick returner with speed to burn. Combine that with TE Brandon Davis (who, if google serves me right, is Paris Hilton's friend), and QB Dan Nicholson should have plenty of targets to throw to.

As for the Iowa defensive backs, yikes. We all know how Adam Shada performed last year, and let's just hope he's got his confidence back. Bradley Fletcher might have been able to start on the other side, but he decided after too many cocktails that he absolutely had to get behind the wheel. He will not be playing football tomorrow. So it'll be Charles Godfrey, who has been decent.

At the safety spots, Kirk Ferentz was overjoyed to get Devan Moylan back. And to be sure, when a coach is excited about getting a walk-on without extensive playing time back to compete for a starting role, that position is in trouble. Essentially, there's little to no proven quality here, and it's a major disadvantage for Iowa.

NIU RB vs. Iowa LB

Garrett Wolfe is gone, and that is wonderful news. Iowa shut him down last year, but he was likely a bit drained, having touched the ball over 200 times in the seven prior games. In his stead is a committee of running backs, led by smallish Montell Clanton, who missed all but the first three games of the season last year.

As for the Iowa linebacking corps, it is once again stout. Mike Klinkenborg and Mike Humpal are both monsters against the run, and incoming starter A.J. Edds could be the best of them all. We know who they are and how good they'll be. Iowa's at a clear advantage here--most likely their best of any matchup.

NIU QB vs. Iowa D

NIU coach Joe Novak had this to say about new starter Dan Nicholson:
Like Iowa, Northern Illinois also is breaking in a new quarterback in Dan Nicholson, a player Novak says has “as much raw potential as any quarterback we’ve had here.”

“Dan’s got to learn how to manage the game a little bit better than he has in the past,” Novak said. “Drop back and rip, he can do that as well as any of them.”
Or, to translate: Bazooka arm, Skittles brain. Nicholson completed a hair over half his passes last season (60-115), and threw just five TD's to go with six picks. Now, Novak is stressing the importance of mental improvement, not lauding Nicholson for it. That is a major advantage for Iowa.

Consider, especially, that all-Universe tailback Garrett Wolfe got just 66 yards on 22 carries against the Hawkeyes last year. This year's running game should be equally as anemic, so NIU will have to depend on the golden arm of a space case, and I am A-OK with that.


NIU kicker Chris Nendick has a golden foot and a funny name. He hit 20 of 27 kicks last year, and he'll probably compete for the Lou Groza award this year if he can add a few more yards to his makes (long of 44 last year). The Huskies' punter, one Andy Dittbenner, is not as good, netting only about 32 yards per punt. KR/PR Greg Turner is decent.

As for Iowa, the duties seem to shake out with Austin Signor handling kicking, and Ryan Donahue punting. Damian Sims and DJK are returning kicks, and Andy Brodell will likely return punts.

No clear edge here.


Joe Novak is a wily old fart. He's been coaching since the early '70's, and he knows the game about as well as anyone. NIU has long been well-coached, and Iowa should not expect a disorganized opponent on Saturday.

Whether or not you think Iowa can match them in preparedness depends on whether you think the 2006 mid-collapse Kirk Ferentz will show up, or the 2002-2004 "why isn't this guy running the NFL yet?" Ferentz returns. Based on what we saw during the Alamo Bowl, it's probably safe to say the collapse is over.

Based on all this, it's really hard to imagine how Northern Illinois can win. Iowa ought to be able to move the sticks on a much more consistent basis, and a final score around 27-10 seems right.

The Morning After - Cyclone Edition

Let's get this out of the way right now -- we didn't start this site to attack Iowa State.

This is about Iowa, the Big 10, and college football. So just know, going into this season that this isn't the place to get your Cyclone abuse on. Iowa State lost, 23-14, last night in their season opener to Kent State. 1st year Head Coach Gene Chizik sounded tighter than a drum on his radio show the other night and I can only imagine how he feels this morning. I doubt he slept at all. It's going to be a long season for those guys and but I think he's got them going in the right direction. That's all I'm going to say about them. We have an Iowa game to think about so let's do that.

OK, I will say this to the guy in the photo above. Wearing a sweatband to watch other men play football angers the football gods. It's Division I football. It's the Big 12. It aint intramurals. So your team loses and you're a little bummed out? Go play intramurals, brother.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Big 10 Preview: Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a complete enigma. I have no idea how good they're going to be, and I don't really feel like doing research to find out. So, rather than write a half-ass preview, I got a Wisconsin football expert to write the preview for me. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Wisky preview, courtesy of ZTA sorority social co-chair Tabetha Smith

I interviewed Tabetha at Brother's Bar & Grill in Madison.

HS: Thanks for meeting with me to talk Badger football, Tabetha.

TS: I can't believe I'm back at school already! Oh my God summer was so fast! I'm so excited about football! We should get some cheese curds have you ever had cheese curds oh my God they're so good! I love this bar. It's so awesome! Madison is the greatest pla - um, waitress? Can I get some cheese curds? I just love cheese curds!

HS: Yeah, we've established that. Can we get to the foot -

TS: How could you not come to school here? Madison is the best! I love it here! You can always go to State Street and go to the bars. I bet you guys don't have any bars in Iowa City, at least not any like we have here.

HS: Actually, we have a Brother's in Iowa City, just like this -

TS: Oh my God! You guys totally stole our bar! Stealers!

HS: I think it's a franchise -

TS: Whatever, stealers! Gosh, this Miller Lite sure is good. It's so fresh here! Did you know they make Miller Lite in Milwaukee?

HS: Yeah, I heard that somewhere. Can we get to the football? What do you think of Brett Bielema?

TS: Oh, he's soooo cool! He's totally a Wisconsin guy.

HS: Actually, he went to Iowa. He played for Hayden Fry.

TS: No way! He's from Wisconsin! You can tell it just by looking at him. He's so cute! Oh, good, our cheese curds are here. I'm so hungry!

HS: (Happy to get a chance to ask a question as she stuffs her face full of cheese curds) So, the big story has been P.J. Hill dropping a bunch of weight this offseason. Do you think that's going to make him a better running back this season?

TS: Grumble grumble hungry grumble grumble

HS: We'll get back to that later. What about the new quarterback, Tyler Donovan?

TS: (Finally taking a second to swallow) Oh my God! He's really hot. He's in my agricultural journalism class.

HS: Agricultural journalism?

TS: Um, yeah! We only have, like, the best agricultural journalism department in the country!

HS: Does anyone else even offer that? I don't think Iowa State even has ag journalism.

TS: It's very prestigious. OK, seriously, you have to have some of these cheese curds.

HS: In a second, but do you think Donovan is the answer?

TS: Oh, totally. He's going to do - hey Jessica! (What appears to be a small cow makes her way to the table) This is my friend Jessica. She's in Kappa, but we're still BFFs. HAHAHA! Ohmigod Jessica, have some cheese curds! (Jessica dives into the plate like she's Greg Louganis)

HS: Can we talk about P.J. Hill now?

(Jessica suddenly come to life): P.J. Hill? He's in my marketing class. He's so cute!

HS: You two think everyone on the team is cute, don't you?

TS: Um, yeah! I mean, they're football players! Oh my God Jessica, my summer was so great!

HS: Ladies, I hate to break up the reunion, but can we get to the de -

Cow: My summer was so awesome! Wow, these cheese curds are good!

HS: Girls, the defense?

TS: Did you go out with that boy you liked?

I gave up and went to the bar, hoping that we could get to the rest of the team if I waited a few minutes. Two hours and half a bottle of Gentleman Jack later, I went back to the table. Tabetha had finished the majority of our pitcher of Miller.

HS: So, can we talk about the defense? What do you think of -

TS: You want to get some chicken wings?

HS: Fuck it.

The hell with the BTN, put me in THE CLONE ZONE!

The Big Ten Network has been taking its lumps for its role in hostage-like negotiations, and rightfully so. There's something confusing and backwards about a network acquiring rights to games before taking care of distribution, but clearly I've got a lot to learn about negotiation and corporate greed.

Anyhoo, if the deal gets done, then you'll pay a little more per month and you'll be able to watch the games. If it doesn't, then you can go somewhere that does get it--either a friend's house or an establishment. Regardless, though the posturing is irritating, it's only moderately inconvenient and expensive.

Not so for Iowa State fans (both of them). Literally the only way they can enjoy tonight's game against Kent State (without putting on National Guard uniforms, anyway) is by entering... the Clone Zone. It's not nearly as cool as it sounds, so quit dreaming of cloned human zombies and explosions.

No, the Clone Zone is a subscription-based internet service that provides exclusive(!!!!!) ISU sports content, including tonight's game against Kent State and the September 22 Toledo game. Seriously. Only on the computer. As far as THE CLONE ZONE goes, the press release breathlessly asks:
Have you ever wanted to watch the weekly or post-game media conferences, take a virtual tour of the locker room, listen to post-practice interviews with student-athletes, view historical footage or coaches’ TV shows or walk with the team on the way to the field?
On behalf of everyone who has ever lived: No.

So Iowa State fans are relegated to sitting inside at their 15" cow-powered computer monitors to watch choppy game footage from a very limited amount of cameras. Certainly Iowa State wouldn't have the temerity to charge their fans anyth
Monthly subscriptions cost $8.95 and a yearly subscription costs $79.95.
Oh god. 80 bucks a year? Eighty? Well, fine. For that kind of money, I'm sure the service will be impecc
Toledo, as host of the football game against ISU, will be responsible for providing the video feed to Iowa State for the web cast. The audio will likely be the Rockets’ radio team.
God I love the Cyclones.
Actually worse than cloned human zombies.

Big 10 Preview: Purdue

Fact: Joe Tiller wears a girdle under his dungarees.

Fact: I have a friend in his 30's who still wakes up in a cold sweat with night terrors because he's afraid of Gene Keady.

Fact: Purdue is known for being horrible defensively, yet they've sent more guys from the defensive side of the ball to the NFL than Penn State this century.

Fact: The stupidest (and ugliest girl) I've ever met flunked out of Iowa State, went to Purdue, and graduated with honors.

Fact: Defensive Coordinator Brock Spack originally worked in the San Fernando Valley as a fluffer for Johhny Wadd.

Fact: Purdue hasn't won an outright Big 10 title in Joe Paterno's lifetime.

Fact: During spring practice, Defensive Coordinator Brock Spack asked for ideas on a nickname for his defense, in an effort to get them to play with a nasty attitude. There was a full minute of dumb silence, followed by Offensive Coordinator Bill Legg saying, "how 'bout the Maginot Line?" Despite the best efforts of Spack, the name stuck.

Fact: Dustin Keller is the best tight end in the Big 10.

Fact: Giving up 5 YPC on the ground will give you plenty of free time to watch big time Division I college football on television in January.

Fact: The only way to make people forget you missed a game because of a paintball injury is to get stabbed in the chest.

Fact: 3 Boilermakers is the perfect amount. Never drink 4.

Fact: I started out writing a "real" preview, like a "journalist", but then I read Brian's at mgoblog and decided everyone would be better served if I just led you to his Purdue preview. Enjoy.

Holy fucking buttfuck FOOTBALL STARTS TODAY

Right now I look like this, but without headphones. Or pants.

The posts today will likely be erratic, nonsensical, and unimpeachable evidence of serious chemical imbalances. We do not give a fuck. Football! FOOTBALL!

Tonight's main event is #2 LSU at #6054 Mississippi State, whose coach's most notable achievement thus far is evading the fans in pointy white hats. It will be an unmitigated slaughter between two teams that Big 10 fans haven't got much reason to care about... except for the fact that it is motherfucking FOOTBALL!

I'm going to do some laps around the office butt-naked now.

More later.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Now It Begins: Big Ten Blogger Roundtable #2

This week's Big Ten Blogger roundtable is brought to you by Around the Oval. Without further ado:

1. Which player from your own team are you most looking forward to watching?

I think I speak for all of us at THC when I say, unequivocally, it's Cedric Everson. A quick recap of The Entertainer's first month on campus:
We already have two corners who can get burned for 60 on a short pass (go back and watch Iowa-Indiana 2006 if you don't believe it). What we don't have - and what we haven't had since Tom Knight - is a corner capable of intercepting everything within a 15-foot parameter. Get the man an entourage, and we may get brilliance like this:

2. Which player from another Big Ten team are you most looking forward to watching?

Again, I think it's unanimous: J Leman, Champaign's resident stud linebacker and mullet-sporting patriot. Sumbitch had 152 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 14 Billy Ray Cyrus comparisons, and zero haircuts.

Leman might not be the best linebacker in the conference (I'm genuinely scared of James Laurinaitis, and not only for his dad's role in the WWF's Legion of Doom), but he's certainly the most photogenic.

3. If your team was an action movie star, who would it be?

Harrison Ford. No matter what role you give us, or who you put in the cast, you know what you're getting. Regardless of whether the script calls for it, Harrison Ford will get himself into a situation which will put his family in danger. He inevitably snaps and kicks someone's ass and punches/headbutts a couple of bigger guys in the teeth, all in his ongoing quest to find his wife/son/freedom. It always ends up looking a little like this:

Like Ford, Iowa will inevitably run a never-ending string of draw plays, off-tackles, and wide receiver screens on offense and a base 4-3 cover 2, regardless of whether the game plan calls for it. And, inevitably, it works well enough to knock out a couple of teams they shouldn't beat. If you like it, great. If not, we don't give a damn, just as long as you GIVE ME BACK MY SON!

Preseason BlogPoll: Week 2

This is the final bit of pure speculation you'll see with this poll. A team like Oklahoma State has a chance to fight their way back in by beating Georgia, who took their spot this week. Other teams, like Iowa and Arizona, have 1 shot to prove themselves before they're tossed into the scrap heap, never to be heard from again.
For one weekend, everyone's undefeated, everyone's hopeful, and everyone's got a shot at a National Championship. This is really it. All of the talk of next year, the coaching changes, and the work in the the offseason is over. It's time to deliver the goods on the field. Take a deep breath, give your team one last appraising look, and get on the fucking train because this is going to be the greatest ride ever.

You excited?

1Southern Cal 25
2LSU 24
3West Virginia 23
4Michigan 22
5Texas 21
6Oklahoma 20
7Virginia Tech 19
8Florida 18
9Arkansas 17
10Louisville 16
11Ohio State 15
12Oregon 14
13Penn State 13
14California 12
15Wisconsin 11
16UCLA 10
17South Carolina 9
18Florida State 8
19Nebraska 7
20Alabama 6
21Rutgers 5
22Georgia 4
23Arizona 3
24Iowa 2
25Hawaii 1

New Additions:
Dropped Out:
Oklahoma State

Alex Kanellis is out for the year

Rough news for lineman Alex Kanellis, he of a rocking moustache: No football this year.

Kanellis had been battling post-concussion syndrome over most of training camp, and doctors have recommended that he continue to sit out. Said Ferentz:
"I can't see how he would (play this year)," Ferentz said. "Let's say everything works out that he could come back, he really hasn't played offensive line (except for) maybe 10 days or something like that."

"He's missed so much time right now that it would unrealistic to think he's going to go out there and play," Ferentz said. "And that's such a small part. Right now it's just what's in his best interests."
The good news is that Kanellis can use this season as a redshirt, so he won't lose any eligibility. The bad news is that it's clear from Ferentz's language ("what's in his best interests," etc.) that there are still brain issues that need to be resolved.

We can only imagine what sort of hell this must be for Alex. He has been a lauded football player for so long, and here he finds himself physically capable of playing. Even his cognition is back where it should be. To be told by a doctor that a full recovery from a concussion isn't good enough to let you back on the field must be frustrating and agonizing beyond measure.

Let's be clear: multiple concussions are absolutely nothing to screw around with. If Kanellis was having issues days after the injury, then that's a clear sign that his brain can't take much more. While he could truthfully look you straight in the eye and tell you he's fine right now, getting his bell rung again would potentially be disastrous. It's quite conceivable, therefore, that his football career is already over.

Unfortunately, "you'll be able to tie your shoes when you're 60" is probably scant consolation for Alex. We wish him the best of luck and health in his recovery.

(photo obtained from

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Big 10 Preview: Illinois!!

Someone Put The Eyes In Illini! MEEEEOOWWWWW!

The Fighting Illini hail from Champaign-Urbana (pick a city and stick with it, cocksuckers). Their campus has long been home to gentlemen of questionable ethical standards, and current football coach Ron Zook is no exception. He has spent the last off-season luring highly rated prospects to a team that is 1-15 in the Big 10 since 2005, which is clear and blatant evidence of lying, bribery, and possible instances of recruits’ grandmothers being held hostage by men wearing fake Indian headdresses. Nonetheless, the NCAA has decided to let Zook continue his felonious ways for at least one more season without reproach; the thinking must be that his current rate of success is worse than any sanctions the NCAA can impose. That seems fair.
WILL LEITCH says: col-lege foot-ball?

What You Should Know

Illinois is a basketball school, and as mentioned before, those teams are usually pretty fun to meet on the gridiron; nine times out of 10 they suck out loud. Since 2003, that’s been the case for the Whining Illini. The Zooker is back for his third season, and it should be his best yet. Granted, his winning percentage is, according to calculations, “negative eleventy thousand,” so it’s not as if he’s got much more room to drop. Well, unless he volunteers for Locks For Love, then gets busted jacking off in the warehouse.

Aside from the highly plausible confluence of Vidal Sassoon and man juice, the Illini have a slew of young blue-chippers around, including a top-rated wide receiver who joined the team in the spring (probably to save his aunt’s life). Zook is fortunate that the Illini faithful have thus far been more patient than his former employer—as if that’s hard to pull off—because his record thus far has been far worse than the 8-5 year that got him kicked out of Gainesville. Zook is, as a matter of fact, 4-19 in his two seasons at Illinois. 3-19 if you want to be an asshole and only count teams that are in the (ugh) “Bowl Subdivision.”
WILL LEITCH says: Gainesville... that's in Florida.

What You Should Fear

They have a defense. As a matter of fact, they were much stouter than the Hawkeyes on the defensive side of the ball; they gave up only 3.3 yards per rush to Iowa’s 3.6, and they held opposing QB’s to just 182 yards per game through the air. Central to the rush defense is all-Big 10 middle linebacker and THC favorite J Leman (right).

All of that is a bit misleading, of course; opponents spent a sufficient amount of time leading the Illini that they ran the ball 58% of the time; Illinois could stack the line and play for the run more often than not. Regardless, they also spent most of the time losing for the three years prior to 2006, and they were giving up about two full yards more per run then. So let’s not pretend they haven’t nutted up a lot.

Anyway, just about everybody is back on defense; leading the way are cornerback Vontae Davis and Leman. Juice Williams cannot possibly misfire on more than 60% of his passes again (right? um… right??), and he’s got some talent to give the ball to now. In other words, it seems like they can’t possibly suck as bad as they usually do. The degree to which they will improve still, of course, remains to be seen.

The offense looks like it should be good enough. Williams is a physically talented QB who spent much of the offseason working on his mechanics with famed quarterbacks coach, Blaze McHeed. McHeed quickly discovered that the Juice is actually left handed. This should help him in the upcoming season, but he needs to stop letting his mind wander on the field. That seems odd, doesn’t it? An Orange Juice that can’t concentrate.


WILL LEITCH says: Oh shit, a camera. All right, chin down and to the right, eyes up, work the bangs. We can do this, Leitch!

What You Can Probably Laugh At with Confidence

It is the Illini. There’s lots to laugh at. For one, Orange Juice doesn’t even have the silliest name on the team; that would belong either to the aforementioned Aurrelious Benn (SPOILER ALERT: Joaquin Phoenix suffocates him in Gladiator) or the Mullet King (again, right). Questionable parenting aside, there’s also that 2-30 conference record since 2003.

Most importantly, you should take great glee in the fact that their fan base universally hates Iowa. They despise us as a school, team, and fan base. Yeah. Think about it, Iowa fan; do you even care about Illinois? On the list of Iowa rivalries, there’s Iowa State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin dominating the top three; past them, Iowa fans usually care more about the Michigan and Ohio State games more than the rest of the Big Ten opponents. And there’s this team just four hours away that fucking hates our guts. It’s time to relish that fear, to feed on it, and to shove our own apathy back in their mouths.

So, our apologies, Illinois fans. Sorry that you still feel the need to whimper about our assistant coach busting your boy Lou Henson handing out free cars. Sorry that we get all the seriously hot girls from Chicago who spent more time looking good than earning their way into the U of I. Sorry that nobody cared enough about your shitty team to cultivate a rivalry before someone finally called Henson on his shit. Seriously, our bad on this one. And any time you guys want to stop clinging to our nuts, that’s fine.
WILL LEITCH says: We don't get why everyone mocks the bangs anyway. The Zooker recommended them highly. They smell great.

So, Can Iowa Beat Them?

The short answer? Of course Iowa can beat them. It’s Ron Zook vs. Kirk Ferentz. It’s in Kinnick. It’s not as if we’re talking about Michigan here. But it’s not all party favors and streamers here. First of all, as mentioned before, they have a defense. Second, Iowa only took last year’s game by a 24-7 margin; it’s not as if 18-point swings have never happened ever. Realistically, though, the 2008 tilt in Champaign looks much more threatening from the Hawkeyes’ perspective.

If Vegas were to put a spread on this game right now, it would probably look something like Iowa -13.5; for a game in Kinnick against a bottom feeder, even a 2-6 Iowa squad ought to win by two touchdowns. Depending on what both teams do in the first half of the season, that number could swing wildly, but it probably won’t. If it does move much, it’ll probably be in Iowa’s favor. If it dips below 10, Iowa’s season will be in the toilet and you may as well pick up a gambling habit to numb the pain. Once more for the hell of it, J Leman (right).
WILL LEITCH says: Hel-lo, sailor!

What They’ll Do the Rest of the Year

This is awfully tough to figure out; who knows how much the Illini are actually going to improve? Will they implode if Missouri takes the first game by a couple touchdowns or if they can’t get out of the Carrier Dome with a win? What if the Indiana faithful will the Hoosiers to a win in their Big 10 home opener? How Illinois starts the first four games will be crucial to how they finish the conference season. They could go 4-0, or they could go 1-3 (it’s relatively safe to assume that the Illini can take out Western Illinois).

Assuming they’re not world-beaters, they’ll probably be rolling into Iowa City with a 3-3 record, losing to Wisconsin, Penn State, and either Missouri or Syracuse; the Other Orange team won by a deceptively close 31-21 margin in Champaign last season, and they’re also a team on the rise. So once they leave Iowa City with another notch in the L column, life gets a bit better. They have dates with Michigan and An Ohio State University on deck, but the other three games are very winnable (Ball State, Northwestern, and a trip to Minnesota). 6-6 is a fair prediction, as is the subsequent massive over-reactionary contract extension that will keep Zook in the Big 10 for about another decade. This, Iowa fans, should thrill you beyond words.

What we can be sure that they’ll do this year is fill about 40% of their stadium, complain about Iowa, and wear way too much orange for someone who isn’t traipsing through a forest at 5 a.m. with a rifle on their shoulder.
WILL LEITCH says: Orange makes me look splotchy!

"We" would like to thank Mr. JHC for his invaluable help in this nuanced look at the Illinois football team in 2007.

Nicks, Dings, and Bruises

A quick look at who's spending time in the ice tubs...

Starting LT Dace Richardson (Jr.) continues to be out as he recovers from offseason knee surgery, and he is expected to be out for at least another week. Starting RT Kyle Calloway (So.) has shifted from the right side of the line to take Richardson's place.

Second-string LT Bryan Bulaga (Fr.) is questionable for Saturday's game with a shoulder injury.

Starting C Rafael Eubanks (So.) is nursing a sore foot, but should be back at practice soon. He is still expected to start this Saturday.

Reserve RT Alex Kanellis (Jr.) is still receiving treatment for post-concussion symptoms, and we'll know more later this week. He should be considered "out" for Saturday.

Reserve WR Paul Chaney Jr. (RFr.) is out for Saturday with a toe injury, and he will most likely miss the Syracuse game as well. Second-string WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (RFr.) will replace Chaney as a kickoff returner.

Starting WR Trey Stross (So.), who missed last weekend's scrimmage with a sore hamstring, is expected to start against NIU.

OL Rob Bruggeman (Jr.) continues to recover from major knee surgery and is questionable to return this season. Bruggeman was listed the second-string C at the time of his injury this spring.

Reserve LB Jeff Tarpinian (RFr.) is still recovering from a back injury and is out for Saturday.

Second-string QB Arvell Nelson (RFr.) and second-string CB Bradley Fletcher (Jr.) are both out with judgment sprains, while starting WR Dominique Douglas (So.) and reserve WR Anthony Bowman (So.) remain out indefinitely with ruptured retard tendons.

[UPDATE: Second-string DT Karl Klug (RFr.) will miss 4-6 weeks after foot surgery. Jesus.]

Monday, August 27, 2007

Big 10 Preview: Northwestern

Four days in and we've finally reached Northwestern, red headed stepchild of the Big Ten. So can I get some Charlton Heston (NW '45) up in this motherfucker?

There. Now I'm inspired.

So, where do we start with the Wildcats? They were the only team in the country last season to pull a Michigan State against Michigan State. They were the only 1-A team to lose to New Hampshire (to be fair, they were the only 1-A team to play New Hampshire). And, after an absolute hammering of Iowa in November, they enter the season as the only team on this year's schedule with a 2-game winning streak against our beloved Hawkeyes.

The Good News? Well, the schedule is about as easy as they come. NU opens against Northeastern, Nevada, and Duke (the Duke game will actually be played in a chemistry lab) before opening Big Ten play. The Cats also sandwiched in Eastern Michigan in mid-October (St. Mary's School for the Blind and Retarded was already booked). That should be four wins. That's important, because Northwestern can win at most three games in the conference, and that's only if they catch every single break along the way.

Head coach and local legend Pat Fitzgerald, coming off the successful prosecution of Scooter Libby, is another year older and another year wiser (though still not wise enough to lose the douchebag sunglasses). Cats fans are hoping to say the same about quarterback CJ Bacher, who had a Drew Tate-esque ability to throw the ball into triple coverage at precisely the wrong moment. It's going to be difficult to improve on last season, though, as Northwestern's best receiver graduated and the new #1 just went down with a broken arm. That probably won't help halfback Tyrell Sutton, especially when the Cats' ninja running attack is predicated on spreading the defense. Sure, the spread offense is always scary to us Iowans, but the question remains: Is there anyone on this offense that actually scares you?

As for the defense, there's still no D in Northwestern. The defensive line is average at best, the secondary is Adam Shada bad, and the linebackers (which you would presume to be a strong suit, given the coach) are atrocious beyond words. They fucking suck (OK, so maybe not beyond words). When Northwestern plays Minnesota, the team that wins the toss better receive, because nobody's getting stopped by either of those defenses.

Probably the best news of all for Northwestern fans comes off the field. First, they finally got a legitimate blog at Lake the Posts (when counting down the 10 worst losses in the history of the program this July, LTP ranked the 2000 loss to Iowa as #2 AND #6). Second, their first three games will be shown on the Big Ten Network, thereby ensuring casual fans can't watch on television and might be compelled to actually show up. Well, that or they sit in a froo-froo coffee house and discuss Robert Frost and the Pythagorean theorem. Fucking nerds.

As for the prognosis, I tipped my hand earier. The Cats can and should win their four non-conference games. They get Minnesota and Indiana at home, both probable wins. But, while they could catch Iowa flat-footed (again) or take it to ILLINI or Sparty on the road, I don't see another win on the schedule. That is a 6-6 season, 2-6 in the conference. Bank it.

A new Scothawk video is up

Many of our Iowa-based readers are probably already familiar with the work of Scothawk, a local gentleman with a penchant for making really, really cool highlight reels for the Hawkeyes. Doing so was particularly easy in 2002 and 2003, but his work in 2004 was nonpareil--I defy you to keep a dry eye during the season-end tribute.

There's also a section of outstanding individual plays, including Tim Dwight rearranging the Arizona punt returner's chest cavity (mildly illegal). And as goosebumps moments go, what better play than The Kick?

But more to the point, Scothawk has posted a 2007 preview video, and--as usual--it absolutely rocks. It's probably the first non-ironic highlight video with a -10 turnover margin for its favored team, but it actually works in the context of the video (moreso than, say, the ill-advised foray into quotes from 300). Give the man his dues: he can litter the first half of a video with absolutely awful Hawkeye football and still have you fired up for 2007 by the end of it. The video is here, and the editor is Scothawk. Love it.

Keeping The Man Busy, Week 1

Here's why athletic directors are frowning this morning...

Unfortunately, trying to give the cop a contact high never works: Arkansas defensive end Marcus Harrison has learned an important lesson. Actually, many important lessons. Namely, if you're going to drive, wear your seat belt. And don't speed. And have a valid driver's license. And don't take drugs with you. Really, though, if you're going to ignore all those rules, why not go all the way and hotbox your whip at the same time?

Harrison faces a litany of charges after learning all those lessons late Friday night, according to police reports. Apparently when cops pull you over, they get suspicious if your car smells like you've choked out a skunk or twelve. It's all there: Blunts under the front seat, ecstasy in his pocket, restricted license, no seat belt, and speeding (who speeds when they're high?!).

My favorite part is Houston Nutt's response: Coach Houston Nutt said Saturday that Harrison had violated team rules and would not play in the No. 21 Razorbacks' season opener against Troy on Sept. 1. Nutt said Harrison could face further disciplinary measures. Seriously? Felony drug possession and DWBAF (driving while blazed as fuck) might merit more than four quarters of suspension? Welcome to Fayetteville, or as Marcus Harrison calls it, NAZI GERMANY.

Thus concludes today's Herpetology 101 lesson with Professor Click Clack: South Carolina safety Emanuel Cook won't be with the team for the near future, after being caught in a car that contained a loaded gun. The state of South Carolina considers guns to be like alcohol, in that they're super-dangerous until one's 21st birthday. Cook, being 19, was still two years away from the magical date that imbues him with powers of discretion, so he was arrested and suspended from the university. Supposedly, neither the car nor the gun belonged to Cook, so TOBC has begun a tireless campaign to clear his safety's name without showing any disregard for the law.
Spurrier said the university's policy on guns is "a good rule. Got to treat those things like a rattlesnake."
Rattlesnakes will blow your brains out, and those of dozens of others.

One may certainly wonder what the hell Cook was doing with someone who had a loaded gun near the dorms ("My RA pisses me off sooo much!"). Awkward snake analogies aside, guns are almost uniformly invitations for serious trouble. While the specifics of the case make it sound like Cook will be back soon (did not have the gun on his person, no priors, is very good at football), he would be better off to discontinue association with his cohort. At least until his 21st birthday, anyway.

"Are you ready to behave yourself?" "Yes absolutely." "Then welcome back." "May I change my answer?": Wisconsin has re-suspended defensive end Jamal Cooper for "conduct detrimental to the team." Cooper was disciplined last season for poor academics, sitting out the opener against Bowling Green. With Bret Bielema's unusually assholish approach to discussing discipline with the media, it's unlikely that we'll ever find out what he did wrong. That will not stop us from rampant speculation, of course. My guess? Liquid heat in the players' jockstraps. Long live the Tri-Lambs, baby.

[UPDATE: Whatever it is, he is done for good at Wisconsin. Hope it was worth it, Coop.]

Worst. April Fool's prank. Ever: Penn State safety Anthony Scirrotto was cleared of most of the charges against him stemming from an April 1 incident. A judge ruled that there was no evidence to suggest Scirrotto instigated the brawl at a party that left fifty dead one student unconscious and at least another hospitalized. We applaud Scirrotto's decision not to announce into a microphone, "I, Anthony Scirrotto, will start a brawl forthwith, consequences be damned!" and then turn the tape over to authorities. He still faces a felony charge of criminal trespass, which is what you get when you show up to a kegger and respond to the request of $5 with a rainmaker to the face.

Initial Preseason BlogPoll: Week 2

Not a game has been played and we're already into week 2 of the blogpoll. We're the media and that's how we rock it. You'll notice a few minor changes. I dropped Arkansas and South Carolina a few spots based on some shenanigans over the weekend. I also added Georgia to the poll and removed Oklahoma State. Head to head, I think Georgia would beat OSU 7 out of 10 times so I made the change. I read Dawgsports frequently and he has me believing. If you aren't reading Dawgsports, you should be, it's one of the only foobaw blogs I check daily.
Just like last week (and next week, and the week after that), we're looking for your comments and those of other bloggers before we officially submit our Poll for this week. Tell us what you think.

1 Southern Cal 25
2 LSU 24
3 West Virginia 23
4 Michigan 22
5 Texas 21
6 Oklahoma 20
7 Virginia Tech 19
8 Florida 18
9 Arkansas 17
10 Louisville 16
11 Ohio State 15
12 Oregon 14
13 Penn State 13
14 California 12
15 Wisconsin 11
16 UCLA 10
17 South Carolina 9
18 Florida State 8
19 Nebraska 7
20 Alabama 6
21 Rutgers 5
22 Georgia 4
23 Arizona 3
24 Iowa 2
25 Hawaii 1

New Additions:
Dropped Out:
Oklahoma State