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Can the Iowa Hawkeyes Start the Football Season 4-0? 2

Posted on August 21, 2010 by JA Allen

Everybody has "high hopes" for the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2010.

With such high expectations for the 2010 Iowa Hawkeye Football team, the non-conference schedule in September takes on slightly more significance than normal.

These contests will serve as more than warm-up games for Big Ten Conference play.  Each and every non-conference opponent can burst the Hawkeye dream of winning the Big Ten with a shot at playing in a BCS Championship Bowl, maybe even for the National Championship.

These are the first four games of the season––four games that Iowa must win to get off to the start they need heading into Conference play.  Do they have the right stuff to beat these four teams?

September 4th – Eastern Illinois at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City

Eastern Illinois will open the 2010 season at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

The Eastern Illinois Panthers enter the season with a National FCS Ranking of 18.  They had an 8-4 record in 2009 and made an appearance in the FCS playoffs.

The Panthers belong to the Ohio Valley Conference and in 2009 they won the conference title, going 6-2.

They will come into the 2010 season without an experienced quarterback at the helm, although sophomore Brandon Large is expected to get the nod to start on September 4 against Iowa’s vaunted defense.

But Large should find some security in the fact that he has a seasoned surrounding cast, including all-conference offensive line center Willie Henderson.  The offense is anchored by running back, Mon Williams in his senior season. Last year Williams had 191 carries, gaining 870 yards, scoring nine touchdowns.

Coach Bob Spoo, starting his 23rd season at Eastern Illinois, considers the Panthers real contenders this year with depth and experience at many key positions.

The Panthers return 15 starters––seven on offense and eight on defense.  Senior C.J. James, the Panthers starting cornerback leads the defense with 44 tackles and 5 interceptions in 2009.

Their linebacker corps is also largely intact as they return to 4-3 with senior linebacker Nick Nasti as their leading tackler.  The Eastern Illinois Panthers are predicted to finish as No. 1 in the Conference again this year according to the Sports Network.

The Panthers are not strangers to visiting the Big Ten on the road.  Last year Eastern Illinois visited Big 10 Rival Penn State losing 3-52 in Happy Valley––not a very happy conclusion––but certainly not unexpected.

With the memory of Northern Iowa weighing heavily on the minds of the Hawkeye players and coaches, Iowa should have no problem winning their first non-conference game of the season played at Kinnick Stadium before a stadium packed with Iowa fans.

September 11th – Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City

The test for Iowa State in 2010 will be on defense.

It will be a real shame if the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry ceases once the Big Ten Conference realigns because it is a special weekend for Iowa fans as families divide for the game with different loyalties to support––but reunite to celebrate!

Last year Ricky Stanzi had one game in the first half and then another, better game in the second half in Ames as the Hawkeyes traveled across Interstate 80 to reach Jack Trice Stadium.

In the first half, Stanzi was not sharp, throwing errant passes that allowed for missed opportunities or resulting in interceptions.  The running game was seemingly stalled until the freshmen could develop.

Much of the offense was spent airing it out but the running game grew during the game, gaining much needed yardage.  Stanzi improved and the defense came up big with Cyclone turnovers and miscues.

Iowa State improved under the direction of new head coach Paul Rhoades, ending with a winning season and an upset win over Nebraska in Lincoln, no less.  The Clones played the Minnesota Gophers and won the Insight Bowl in December of 2009.

There is much promise on this Iowa State team which returns almost all their offensive personnel from last year including QB Austen Arnaud––who has another year of experience under his belt with the new spread offense.  Adam Robinson returns as running back and the offensive line has much experience and some depth.

The question for the Iowa State team is defense.  Unless their defense jells quickly, expect Iowa to leave them exposed and scored upon.  Iowa’s defense should be able to ruffle this Clone offense. Iowa will win this one at home.

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