The biggest question surrounding the Iowa football team and its participation in the Insight Bowl is who will be the starting running back when the Hawkeyes kick off the game against No. 19 Oklahoma at 9 p.m. Friday?
“The whole world is waiting on that one, I know that,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said.
And after the question was asked, Ferentz still never really answered the question clearly.
“I say jokingly anybody can play. That’s probably what it will be,” Ferentz said. “It will be a committee effort. And we’ll have a role for Brad Rogers, we’ll have a role for (Jordan) Canzeri, for (Damon) Bullock and Jason White. I think I envision all four of those guys playing. We will go with all four of those guys.”
The best guess for this game is that either Rogers or Canzeri. It doesn’t look like DeAndre Johnson is not in the mix for the Hawkeyes as he was not mentioned at the press conference.
Rogers is the starting fullback this season but played running back when he first hit the campus in Iowa City. So he has experience running the ball in the tailback position.
“Psychologically, we got an advantage,” Ferentz said. “Oklahoma is trying to figure out who our guys are and where are they, where do they get their carries or 12 carries, whatever they may be.
But it is no different than when a player gets injured. If you can’t go, you can’t go and somebody else has to jump in there. The other part of that equation, everybody else has to carry a little bit more responsibility. That has been our attitude.”
Iowa sophomore Marcus Coker carried the ball 281 times this season and gained more than 1,300 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. He will not play though due to a suspension after violating the school’s code of conduct policy.
The “Next Man In” would have been true freshman Mika’il McCall but he continues to be in Ferent’z doghouse and his suspension has carried over into the bowl game.
So that leaves the Hawkeyes with four players — five if Johnson can play — who will all likely see some time in the backfield.
“That’s football.You just got to play on,” Ferentz said. “We will try to be smart about how we approach things and handle things. We will show up and play the game.”
Oklahoma, a 9-3 team which also enters the game short-handed offensively — comes into the game as a 14-point favorite. The underdog role is something Iowa and Ferentz usually relish. And Ferentz would be lying if he said the underdog factor did not have a place in this game.
“I don’t know if it is a huge motivating factor, but it is reality,” Ferentz said. “There is a reason we are the underdogs. And the team we are playing is really talented. On top of it, they are really well coached. It is a tough challenge.
“It is really more about what we do and how we approach the game and, most importantly, how we play tomorrow night. But it’s certainly good that our players understand we’re hardly a favorite and shouldn’t be. We will have to play our absolute best to make this a really good game.”
The Sooners will be without the services of their best wide receiver Ryan Broyles and their leading rusher Dominique Whaley. Both were lost this season due to injury. Oklahoma’s second-string running back also will be out.
Besides Coker and McCall being out for disciplinary reasons, Iowa also will be without senior tight end Brad Herman, freshman tight end Ray Hamilton and freshman linebacker Quinton Alston. All three are going to miss the game due to injury.
Senior offensive guard Markus Zusevics missed practice yesterday and was not available to the media because of what Ferentz called a “24-hour bug.” Ferentz said Zusevics is OK now and will play in the game.
Oklahoma begins the season ranked No. 1, failed to live up to expectations.
Ferentz and Iowa have been in the “favorite” roles before and suffered disappointing seasons. The Hawkeyes tend to play better and play with more urge when they are not highly ranked to start the season.
Oklahoma went through that this season after beginning the season as the favorites to win the Big 12 and to win the national championship. The Sooners suffered key injuries and untimely losses at the end of the season.
“There are challenges both ways,” Ferentz said about being the favorite or the underdog. “There’s always surprises and twists and turns. That’s what makes college football special. At the end of the day, you just can’t predict what is going to happen.”
Big Ten and Pac-12 form partnership for all intercollegiate sports
On Wednesday, the Big Ten Conference and Pacific 12 Conference formed a collaboration for all of their intercollegiate sports. And the pact states that both conferences will play each other in non-conference action in every sport at the school.
The football schedules will start reflecting this from 2017 and beyond. The other athletic programs will play each other starting as early as 2012-13.
“I think they were trying to form a merger without merging conferences,” Ferentz said. “It will help us with scheduling, and instead of going East to play teams like Syracuse and Pittsburgh, we’ll just go West to play teams from the Pac-12.”
Hawkeyes struggling to simulate Oklahoma’s goal-line offense
The Oklahoma Sooners have a new wrinkle to their offense this season. And it involves 6-foot-6, 245-pound freshman quarterback Blake Bell.
Bell will carry the ball for the Sooners in short-yardage situations and has done so this season with great success. He has 34 carries this season and 13 have gone for first downs and 10 others have been touchdowns.
On the season, Bell has scored nine touchdowns in the red zone this season.
“That’s something very unique to Oklahoma and it has been very successful for them,” Ferentz said. “We are going to do our best there. We certainly don’t have a quarterback that looks like that. We don’t have many tight ends or linebackers that look like that either.
“And then the other thing obviously at Oklahoma besides having good players, they are very well coached and the pace they play offensively. That’s a tough thing to simulate and a tough thing to defend once you get out on the field.”
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