Four Factor Friday: Northern Iowa

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Realistically I could put all four factors as offensive production and that would do it for the post. I'm not worried about Iowa's defense. I'm not worried about special teams. The outcome of this game lies almost solely on the offense. Though, defense or special teams could really help them out with some points. The defense came close twice against Iowa State...one on the 50 yard interception return by Morris, the second on his fumble recovery that he fell on top of instead of trying to scoop and score (which I think he had a change to do, even if it was like 80 yards or so).

Anyway, writing "FIX THE OFFENSE" over and over again isn't going to do, so here are 4 different factors.

Start fast

This applies to both sides of the ball. Last week, the defense gave up a 10-play, 75-yard drive to start that game that quickly put Iowa behind 6. Phil Parker has been making great adjustments at half and the defense has only given up one score in the second half in the first two weeks. But Iowa can't afford to get behind early and allow UNI to build their confidence (which I'm pretty sure they are already thinking they should win this game.

The offense's opening drive was its longest (77 yards) last week, but ended in a field goal. While that is acceptable, the Iowa fans aren't going to sit around happy for very long if the offense doesn't score touchdowns.

Establish the run

Iowa State pretty effectively shut down Iowa's rushing attack by keeping its very talented linebackers in the box. But we saw Iowa run the ball very well a week prior against Northern Illinois. UNI is more like NIU than ISU in its defensive front 7. Like NIU, the Panthers have smallish defensive ends. While that caused problems for Iowa in pass protection, the tackles really pushed around the small DEs when run blocking.

UNI only gave up 3.6 yards per carry against Wisconsin and they will load the box and bring down a safety, so it won't be easy. But I think Iowa can get 4+ yard per carry and maybe, just maybe, do enough on the ground to open up the pass game.

Exploit the mismatches

This kind of goes along with the "establish the run" as I think Iowa will have an advantage in the trenches. But it also speaks to the passing game. Iowa failed to take advantage of the commonly used man coverage on the outside receivers. Especially when it was 5'7" Jeremy Reeves. That should have been an auto-fade and it was often just a short pass over the middle.

The tight ends also provide mismatches all over the place, but haven't really been used to their potential. The 1st-and-goal from the 3 series was a perfect example of misuse. Iowa went 3 TEs, ran the ball twice ineffectively, then threw to the FB on a broken 3rd down play and failed to score. Play-action of first down to one of those lumbering TEs is a TD most of the time.

I also think Iowa can do more with the Zach Derby motion out wide thing they do. I think he's maybe been targeted once in the half-dozen or so times they've used it. It seems like that motion could be used for more. Why not stop it short and use him as a lead blocker? How about something crazy like a TE-sweep? At least something different.

A big play

This needs to come from somewhere. The offense, the defense, special teams, where ever. It's what I was talking about in the lead. Let's score a defensive touchdown and relieve some of the pressure on the offense. Something. Anything.

Prediction

For the third week in a row, the defense plays well and keeps UNI at bay, especially in the second half. The offense struggles again, but is able to pound the ball and generate enough push to put up 20 points.

Final Score: Iowa 20 - UNI 13

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