Iowa Hawkeyes Have Opportunities Against Western Michigan

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes have their final non-conference game of the season tomorrow against the Western Michigan Broncos. Besides winning their third straight game and getting halfway to that magical sixth win, Iowa will be looking to work out some kinks before Big Ten play begins.

The Hawkeye offense under Kirk Ferentz has always been predicated on running the ball and controlling the clock. Nothing has been different this year as Mark Weisman is second in the Big Ten and third in all of FBS with 425 rushing yards. Against the Broncos the Hawkeyes should continue to hand-off to Weisman but also try to develop the passing game.

Quarterback Jake Rudock is completing 61 percent of his passes through three games and averaging just over 200 yards per game through the air, but it’s been primarily to Kevonte Martin-Manley. This game against Western Michigan will be a great opportunity for a clear second wide receiver to emerge for this team. Don Shumpert is third on the Hawkeye stat sheet in receptions but with just five catches through three games.

Cracking the 30 point barrier would also be an achievement for this Hawkeye offense. Rudock already has become the first quarterback under Ferentz to rush for a touchdown in three consecutive games. Developing that dynamic in the offense is another thing the Hawkeyes should try to do, as it would at the very least give Big Ten teams one more possibility to have to prepare for.

Defensively for the Hawkeyes thus far it’s been a learning process, but there have been a lot of plays made. The Iowa defense has intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble through three games while also holding opponents to 13 of 44 (30 percent) on third downs. The Hawkeye defense’s ability to get off the field is part of what has led to an 11 minute advantage in time of possession.

The pass rush needs to improve for Iowa. Through three games the Hawkeyes have recorded just four sacks for a loss of only 15 yards. Tomorrow’s game should be an opportunity for defensive coordinator Phil Parker to step up the aggressiveness of a defense that is primarily a zone coverage, keep everything in front of you, limit the big play scheme.

Prediction: Iowa keeps doing what it’s done the last two weeks. Weisman grinds it out over the Western Michigan defense and Rudock keeps Martin-Manley busy. The Hawkeyes score enough points to win and the defense keeps the offense on the field. Hawkeyes win 28-16 and get revenge for the 2007 season-ending loss against the Broncos.

Derek Helling is a Big 10 football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DRokSH, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+.

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