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September 16, 2009

Ask The Expert: Iowa

This week Arizona heads on the road to take on a tough Iowa team from the Big Ten. To get some expert perspective on this big game, GOAZCATS.com got in touch with Tom Kakert of HawkeyeReport.com.

What are the strengths of this year's Hawkeye team?

The strength of this Iowa team coming into the season is on the defensive side of the ball, where they return eight starters. Thus far they have been pretty solid and had five interceptions this past weekend against Iowa State.

The strength of the defense lies at linebacker with seniors Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds team up with junior Jeremiha Hunter. The secondary is solid with cornerback Amari Spievey, who is an NFL prospect, and Brett Greenwood and Tyler Sash at safety.

Greenwood had two picks this past weekend and Sash had three, while earning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors. Up front the player to watch is defensive end Adrian Clayborn.

What are the weaknesses?

As far as weaknesses, I would probably say the offensive line. They performed much better this week against Iowa State after struggling against Northern Iowa in the opener. Part of the problem has been that they have not been able to settle on a starting five yet due to injury and suspension.

Tackle Kyle Calloway and guard Julian Vandervelde returned to the lineup this past week and that will help. But, the Hawkeyes were without tackle Bryan Bulaga due to an unspecific illness this past weekend.

Bulaga is a likely high NFL Draft pick when he gets to that point, but the junior is a real achor up front. I think once they get things settled, it will be a good offensive line, but right now it is still unsettled.

Tell us about Hawkeye quarterback Ricky Stanzi.

Ricky Stanzi, who started 11 of the 13 games last year. Once he took over the full-time job in the fifth week of the season in 2008, he improved as the season moved along. He was playing his best football in the final two games of the year against Minnesota and against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.

Stanzi added about 30 pounds of muscle in the off-season and is throwing the ball pretty well. But, the concern thus far this year as been some suspect decision-making on his part, especially in the first half of games. He has a lot of talented receivers to spread the ball around to, which is something Iowa hasn't always had in the past.

What is the Iowa injury situation?

Iowa is relatively healthy going into this one. All of the injuries, if you want to call them that, have been of the heat cramping variety during games. The only real injury discussion this week would be about Bulaga and there is a decent chance that he returns to the lineup. Iowa will also get cornerback Shaun Prater back from a two-game suspension and I suspect he will be in the mix for playing time almost immediately.

Who is the best Hawkeye player we have never heard of?

That's a tough question. I guess I would probably say Tyler Sash on defense and Tony Moeaki on offense. Sash seems to have a real sense for the game as at safety and a real nose for the football. Last week he had three interceptions and he has had six in the last four games, dating back to last year.

Moeaki has missed a lot of time in his career due to injury, but his stock is on the rise. In the opener, Moeaki caught 10 balls, including one for a touchdown. Iowa State kept him check this week, but he is a favorite target for Stanzi and he is also an outstanding blocker.

In your opinion, what does Iowa need to do to get a win on Saturday?

Iowa's mode of operation is really pretty simple. On offense, they like to be pretty balanced between the run and the pass. Last weekend against Iowa State, they threw the ball quite a bit in the first half, including several downfield, but Iowa ended up being just about equal between run and pass. They want to grind it out and not make turnovers.

On defense, I guess you would call the Hawkeyes bend, but don't break. They try to limit big plays over the top down field and stop the run to set up longer passing downs in every series. The Hawkeyes aren't flashy, but they seem to get the job done on both sides of the ball.

What does Arizona have to do to pull off the upset?

For Arizona to win, I think they have to finish ahead of the Hawkeyes in the giveaway/takeaway battle. The Iowa coaches try to instill the players not to make big mistakes and give up the football. But, if the Wildcats end up winning this one it will be because Iowa didn't take care of the ball or blew assignments that caused big plays. It really comes down to that.

Matt Anderson


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