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Harty: Hawks can handle the Chippewas

[ 0 ] September 21, 2012 |

At first glance, the Iowa football team’s 2012 schedule seems to have two spots where fans can exhale, one of course, being the Oct. 6 bye week.

The other today against Central Michigan, although Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz probably would cringe if he knew I was saying that the Chippewas had little to no chance of defeating his team.

But that’s what I’m saying.

I’ll go even further by predicting that Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg will throw a touchdown pass today, something that didn’t happen in the first three games.

But don’t expect Iowa (2-1) to put a serious beat down on Central Michigan (1-1) because it’s unlikely that this offensively-challenged Iowa team could do that to any FBS opponent, even one that’s picked to finish near the bottom of the Mid-American Conference standings, as is the case with Central Michigan.

A game similar to the 27-16 victory over Northern Iowa seems more likely. Iowa controlled the line of scrimmage against the Panthers and the outcome never really felt in doubt.

It should feel the same way today or Ferentz will have some explaining to do.

Under no circumstance should a Big Ten team lose to a team from the MAC — Ferentz also would cringe at that statement — unless the Big Ten team is horrible and the MAC team is extraordinary.

That’s hardly the case with this matchup.

Iowa isn’t horrible and Central Michigan is about as far from being extraordinary as a team can be.

The Chippewas are ranked in a Top 25 poll, but it’s hardly worth celebrating. Central Michigan is ranked 13th on Jeff Sagarin’s list of the 25 worst FBS teams as of right now.

Michigan State was kind enough to play Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant, Mich., two weeks ago and it was no contest with the Spartans cruising to a 41-7 victory. That’s the same Michigan State team that looked inept during a 20-3 loss to Notre Dame last week.

Ferentz adheres to all the unwritten rules about coaching etiquette, one of which is to always respect your opponent. He was very complimentary of Central Michigan while assessing the matchup earlier in the week, pointing out that Central Michigan has had two weeks to prepare for Iowa after being idle last Saturday.

The Chippewas also rushed for 324 yards during a 38-27 victory over FCS opponent Southeast Missouri State on August 30 in the season opener.

“I think if you look at them they are team that runs the ball really well,” Ferentz said.

No disrespect to Ferentz, but he’s exaggerating because Michigan State held the Chippewas to just 72 net rushing yards on 22 attempts two weeks ago. That’s not running the ball really well, that’s barely averaging three yards per carry and the 72 rushing yards are five fewer than Iowa running back Damon Bullock had in slightly more than a quarter against Northern Iowa.

Iowa is not at the same level as Michigan State on defense, but the Hawkeyes have done better than expected under new defensive coordinator Phil Parker. They should have enough firepower to contain the Chippewas.

As for Bullock, his chance of playing seems slim to none. There is no gray area with a concussion. You either pass the tests or you don’t.

There is no need to rush Bullock back with Mark Weisman waiting to add to his legend and with true freshman Michael Malloy waiting to make his debut at running back.

The same goes for true freshman Greg Garmon, who is recovering from an elbow injury against Northern Iowa. You have to think that Ferentz would prefer to rest Garmon and have him be healthy for the Big Ten opener against Minnesota.

Sophomore Jordan Canzeri also might figure in the mix at running back, but something tells me that Ferentz will still be reluctant to use him, especially if Iowa bolts to an early lead. Barely five months have passed since Canzeri suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

“It’s just a matter of does he look good enough and is he confident to play,” Ferentz said.

It’s also a matter of whether Canzeri will be needed or not. Iowa shouldn’t need him against Central Michigan.

Key information for Saturday:

  • Hayden Fry was in his final season as the Iowa coach the last time the Hawkeyes faced Central Michigan in 1998. Iowa won that game 38-0 at Kinnick Stadium.
  • Iowa could be without running backs Damon Bullock (head) and Greg Garmon (elbow) who are nursing injuries. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said during the week that Bullock was doubtful and Garmon was day-to-day. Sophomore Mark Weisman is expected to start at running back after starting the first three games at fullback. Weisman shifted to running back after Bullock and Garmon were injured against Northern Iowa. He finished with 113 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
  • Sophomore running back Jordan Canzeri has received medical clearance to play five months after suffering a torn anterior cruciate in one of the first spring practices. Canzeri started against Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl last season.
  • Iowa fans are encouraged to wear green today to support former Hawkeye defensive back Brett Greenwood, who is recovering from a brain injury. Greenwood collapsed Sept. 9, 2011, while working out at his alma mater Pleasant Valley High School. His heart stopped beating temporarily and he was in a coma for 27 days.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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