Sports Network Preview: Iowa @ Arizona

Sports Network | September 15, 2010

GAME NOTES: A battle of Top-25 teams takes place in the desert on Saturday night, as the ninth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes pay a visit to the 24th-ranked Arizona Wildcats.

Both teams come in undefeated, with Iowa beating up on Eastern Illinois (37-7) and Iowa State (35-7), and Arizona having hammered both Toledo (41-2) and The Citadel (52-6). It’s obvious neither team has been tested to this point, so it will be interesting to see if they come out swinging, or take a more conservative approach and bide their time in trying to establish their respective game plans.

Iowa has won its last four games, dating back to last season, in which the Hawkeyes have allowed a grand total of 28 points. Going back a bit further, UI has won 17 of its last 19 and 19 of its last 22 games, dating back to the middle of the 2008 season.

Arizona has been downright stingy on defense as well, as it has yet to allow a touchdown this season. The Wildcats are coached by Mike Stoops, a former All- America DB at Iowa in the mid-80’s, who has amassed a record of 35-39 in his six-plus years at the school.

Iowa is led by Kirk Ferentz, who owns an 83-55 mark in his 12 years at the helm.

The all-time series between these two teams in tied at 6-6. The Hawkeyes have won four of the last five meetings, the most recent of which occurred in Iowa City last year with home team claiming a 27-17 victory.

Iowa isn’t the flashiest offensive team, but effective nonetheless as it averages 36 points and 457 total yards per game. Balance is the key as the Hawkeyes can beat you either on the ground (227 ypg, six TDs) or through the air (230 ypg, three TDs). QB Ricky Stanzi has hit the mark on nearly 71 percent of his throws through the first two games, and 11 different players have caught a pass.

The UI run game boasts one of the Big Ten Conference’s top backs right now, as Adam Robinson has turned his 38 carries into 265 yards and four scores.

Coach Ferentz knows his team is going to have to play its best game thus far to compete with the Wildcats on their home field, saying recently, “It’s going to be a good challenge on a couple of fronts. We need to handle the trip well, and more importantly, we’re playing a tremendous opponent. So it’s going to be a big step for us, and we’re going to need a great week of preparation to get ready for it.”

Defensively, the Hawkeyes are yielding just 216 total ypg, with their effort against the run being especially strong (71.5 ypg). They have yet to allow a rushing TD, and they’ve gotten solid performances from guys like Jeremiha Hunter (14 tackles), Jeff Tarpinian (11 tackles) and Karl Klug (10 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, one sack and two QB hurries), among others.

Ferentz spoke about the changes the Arizona offense made following last year’s meeting between the two teams in Iowa City, “Certainly after our game, they went on and had an excellent season, made a change at quarterback, shifted their philosophy a little bit offensively. And he certainly responded and did very well last year. And they’re off just to a tremendous start this year.”

Arizona QB Nick Foles is hitting better than 83 percent of his passes for 287 ypg with three TDs and two INTs this season. Juron Criner has clearly been the Wildcats’ top playmaker on the outside, having hauled in 12 balls for 236 yards and a score, while the run game features Nic Grigsby, who has scored five TDs and is averaging 8.4 ypc through two games.

The UA defense boasts four players with double-digit tackles to this point, led by Paul Vassallo with 14 and Joseph Perkins with 13. Justin Washington has logged a pair of sacks, and the team as a whole averages six TFLs per game. Also helping matters is the fact that the ’Cats has recorded five turnovers thus far.

Coach Stoops is hopeful his team will be focused on the task at hand, and fully expects the home crowd to play a big role, “I think what you always want to do is create this environment of winning and involvement and understanding of how much difference they can make in a game.”

He continued, “We’re going to need them this week. Louder than ever.”

This is an intriguing matchup on several fronts, not the least of which is to see how the Hawkeyes perform on the road and whether or not the Wildcats are as good as they’ve appeared in their first two games. This game really could go either way, but we’ll give Iowa the narrow edge.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iowa 27, Arizona 23

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