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September 25, 2009

Hold off on that Kool-Aid -- for now

Let's get something straight right away. I'm not ready to start drinking the Hawkeye Kool-Aid or jump on the Kirk Ferentz bandwagon. 

Yeah, the Hawkeyes are 3-0 and they've got several winnable games down the road. They'll play in a bowl game somewhere.  Still, it's way too early to get drunk on sugary drinks and start rambling about a run for the Big Ten title or landing a berth in a BCS bowl.

However, I have seen enough that I might be tempted to at least take a sip or put one foot on the running board of that wagon.

The main reason?

The defense. I was skeptical of the defensive line -- as I'm sure others were -- but if the Arizona game is any indication, that bunch is going to be just fine. Tackles Karl Klug and Christian Ballard already are helping fans forget they don't have Mitch King and Matt Kroul anymore. And you had to be impressed with how 282-pound defensive end Adrian Clayborn sprinted across the field to chase down Arizona running back Nic Grigsby from behind. That was a big-time play.

The linebacking was always going to be solid, and Tyler Sash and Amari Spievey are all-Big Ten-caliber players in the secondary. 

Why the skepticism?

The offense. The line still isn't settled and if quarterback Ricky Stanzi keeps getting off to shaky starts, it'll rear up and bite the Hawkeyes one of these days, like maybe Saturday night at Penn State.

So what's going to happen in that game? Who knows? It's hard to get a handle on it. Penn State hasn't been tested. Do we really know if Joe Pa's bunch is deserving of a No. 5 ranking? If Mississippi is an example of what a Top 5 team is supposed to look like, that doesn't say much for Penn State, does it? The Rebels were downright awful Thursday night.

Iowa's recent success against Penn State has been well documented. A big reason, in my view, is that while Penn State has opened things up some on offense, the Nittany Lions still favor a smash-mouth, physical style and that's Iowa's game. The Hawkeyes can stand up against those teams. It's the finesse teams like Northwestern that tend to give Iowa fits.

Iowa fans like to remember last year's game, when the Hawkeyes ruined Penn State's unbeaten season. But don't forget the 27-7 loss the last time Iowa played in Happy Valley. That was just two years ago. The Hawkeyes were embarrassingly bad in that one.

So, let's play and see what happens. Too bad it's on at the same time as the Iowa State-Army game. I'll be there and I'm looking forward to it. It should be an interesting game. Just wish one of them was an 11 a.m. kick.

Now, if Iowa wins, heck, I'll be ready to belly up to that Kool-Aid bar and hop on the bandwagon with both feet. Until then, anybody know where I can get some Templeton Rye?

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