The Iowa defense has passed most of its early tests.
Now, a week before Big Ten masters classes begin, is the the final chance to see if the unit can handle the bruising battles to come.
“They like to run the ball with power,” Iowa junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens said of Central Michigan.
“Power and lead. They have a good fullback and are not afraid to hit a linebacker.
“They are definitely going to have similar plays to Big Ten teams. They almost look like a Big Ten team.”
No one is going to mistake Central Michigan (1-1) with Michigan State, the team that beat them 41-7 two weeks ago.
But the Chippewas do enjoy old Big Ten style power running. Their offensive line averages 305 pounds across the front and fullback Tyler Lombardo (6-1, 248) opens holes for Zurlon Tipton (6-1, 219) and Anthony Garland (6-1, 218).
Tipton has 242 yards on 28 carries and Garland has 114 yards on 20 totes.
“They do a lot of shifting,” junior linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “Their running backs are pretty big.
“Just make sure we’ve got our pads up right.”
The Iowa D-line is the youngest unit on the defensive side of the ball. They only have three sacks and two quarterback hurries so far, but have exceeded admittedly low expectations.
“Those guys are playing well,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “They worked hard in the spring, saw progress being made and we’re hardly there yet, either.”
Averaging 272 pounds across the front, the Iowa D-line is going to get a push from the Chippewas today.
“They are going to try to come at us,” senior defensive end Joe Gaglione said. “We’ll try to toughen up, not let that happen.”
The Central Michigan running game never got going against Michigan State two weeks ago. The Spartans got up 24-0 by halftime.
But Tipton still had 62 yards on just 11 carries.
“The key is just playing hard and playing physical,” Kirksey said.
“Coach (Phil) Parker said, ‘If you make a mistake at 100 percent and 100 mph, your effort will make up for that mistake.’”
If the Hawkeyes can slow down the Central Michigan running attack, its puts the ball in the hands of senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff.
Radcliff is a veteran starter, but has also tossed three interceptions in two games this season. He had 16 interceptions in 12 games a year ago.
“You can’t plan for a turnover, but you try to put as much pressure on them as you can,” senior cornerback Micah Hyde said. “You get out here, run around and try to create turnovers.”
The other way Iowa can get the Chippewas out of their comfort zone is to do what Michigan State did — build a big lead.
To that end, James Vandenberg will try to get his first passing touchdown while juggling the backfield with a different cast of characters.
“When they have to have eight guys in the box to stop our run game, it leaves a lot more one-on-ones out wide for our receivers,” Vandenberg said.
Fullback Mark Weisman is expected to start and carry the load rushing after gaining 113 yards in a relief effort last week.
“I’ll prepare the exact same way,” Weisman said. “I’ll be looser out there; have a little more confidence. I’ll probably still stick to downhill running, though.”
This the last warm-up before the Big Ten portion of the schedule starts. Central Michigan is the lowest-rated team Iowa is going to face this season.
If there are any kinks to work out, there no time like the present.
“Get win No. 3,” Hyde said. “Get a ‘W’ and compete. Prepare for the Big Ten and not look beyond that.”
5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT CENTRAL MICHIGAN
1.Central Michigan is averaging 198 rushing yards per game, led by Zurlon Tipton, who gained 180 yards this year against Southeast Missouri State.
2.Quarterback Ryan Radcliff has made 26 consecutive starts. This season he is 31-of-61 for 344 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
3.Coach Dan Enos played for Michigan State and coached there before taking over the Chippewas.
4.Central Michigan has a new black helmet and also a maroon helmet. They have four uniform colors — black, gold, maroon and white. For the home games, no one will know the uniform combination until them come out on the field.
5.The Chippewas are the only team in FBS that has not been flagged this season.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football