The need to know
What: Iowa vs. Ball State
Where: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City
When: 11:00 AM
Out: Jewel Hampton (torn ACL), Bruce Davis (torn ACL), Jason White (sprained knee), Paki O'Meara (concussion)
Questionable: Daniel Murray (hip flexor)
Very Probable: Marcus Coker (collar bone)
Keys to the game
Clean up special teams: This is a no brainer. Iowa lost last week largely because of its terrible special teams play. Ball State has been excellent thus far on special teams. The Cardinals rank 7th in the country in kickoff returns, while Iowa's kick coverage is 5th worst. Ball State is 10th in net punting and their kicker has made all five of his field goals inside of 30 yards (though he's missed all 4 longer than 30). I don't need to go into how bad Iowa's special teams have been...they just need to be better.
Re-establish dominant offensive line play: The first two games of the year, Iowa's offensive line looked ahead of schedule. Adam Robinson had big holes to run through and Ricky Stanzi had all day to stand back in the pocket to find open receivers. Last week this was not the case. Arizona was able to completely shut down Iowa's running game (though Iowa barely ran the ball) and was able to get pressure on Stanzi, especially late in the game. Ball State's defensive front seven are not that good and the Hawkeye offensive line should be able to control the line of scrimmage.
Stop the run: I don't expect Iowa to have any problems with this today, but Ball State does have a decent ground attack averaging about 180 rushing yards a game. However, they are not good at all throwing the ball. They use 2 quarterbacks, but neither is very efficient. The Cardinals rank 109th in both pass yards per game and in passing efficiency. So, if Iowa stops the run, then Ball State will have a very difficult time moving the ball down the field at all.
Ball State might just be a worse team than Eastern Illinois, but I don't think this game will be quite as lopsided. The weather looks like it might make for a sloppy game and I expect after the first couple of series, Iowa's offense will step back and try to work on a few things that haven't been executed well the first 3 weeks. Still, I should win without much difficultly.
Final score: Iowa 31 - Ball State 6