The end of the 2011 college football season is upon us as the Sooners take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in tonight's Insight Bowl. Its not where Oklahoma wanted or thought they would be when the season started but it is what it is and OU fans should expect nothing less than a win. Joining us on today's Q&A is Adam Jacobi from SBN's Iowa site Black Heart Gold Pants as well as Eye On College Football.
Adam was kind enough to join us on last night's SoonerNation podcast and then followed it up with a Q&A session today. Check it out after the jump!
CCM: I have to ask about the running back situation. What's going on there and who will get the bulk of the carries for Iowa tonight?
AJ: Ferentz has been keeping this answer close to the vest, and while it would be tempting to think that walk-on junior Jason White (who has split time between DB and RB) will get the carries since he was the one available to the press earlier this week, the reality is that Ferentz doesn't let freshmen talk to the media and all the other running backs with the team right now are freshmen, so White was by default the only running back that could talk to the press.
The running back situation will probably include freshmen DeAndre Johnson and Damon Bullock as the main ball-carriers (or at least the recipients of most of the playing time, as Iowa's going to be doing a lot of throwing), and Jordan Canzeri is a small-ish change of pace back that should see some time as well. There's no earthly way Ferentz trusts any of those guys in pass protection, though, so expect to see fullback Brad Rogers in there for blitz pickup in spread formations as well. Rogers began his career at tailback, but he has flourished since moving to FB and he'll be leaned on heavily here.
CCM: Quarterback James Vandenberg has been efficient in taking care of the football. Is he capable of putting the team on his back if the running game is shutdown?
AJ: Well, that's precisely what he did against Pitt when Iowa went no-huddle spread in the last 10 minutes of the game and scored 21 points for the 31-27 comeback win. Iowa has tinkered with the no-huddle four-wides and five-wides here and there during the season, so this situation without Coker and McCall isn't entirely out of the comfort zone of either Vandenberg or Kirk Ferentz, but Iowa has a tall task awaiting it on offense.
CCM: Who else deserves a mention on offense?
AJ: Marvin McNutt is the Hawkeyes' best wide receiver of all time, and he was a huge factor in the success that Iowa achieved this year, limited as it may have been. As I mentioned in my Key Matchup for CBSSports.com, Jamell Fleming is going to be a fantastic matchup, and Oklahoma's ability to keep Fleming away from situations where he'll be chasing McNutt (fades, slants, crossing patterns) and instead covering him (outs, hooks, posts, other single-move routes) is going to be crucial in the success of the OU secondary.
CCM: The Hawkeyes finished last in the Big 10 in pass defense and the Sooners struggled in the passing game to end the season. Who wins this battle tonight?
AJ: Iowa faced some truly mediocre quarterbacks this season -- many of whom couldn't hang onto a starting job over the course of the year -- and the Hawkeyes almost uniformly made them look like All-Americans. It is not difficult to get the Hawkeye secondary out of position or to cause a breakdown in coverage as long as OU has the pass protection, and this is where I remind you that Iowa's defensive front is really not good. I expect the Sooners to throw for about 300 yards and at least three scores in this game.
CCM: Give us a score prediction.
AJ: The last team I thought was going to run Iowa off the field was Michigan, and Iowa won that game. I am worried that Oklahoma will run Iowa off the field though. The Iowa defense is slow where it needs to be fast and small where it needs to be big, and not nearly smart enough (especially in the secondary) to cover the differences. Both teams will be playing up-tempo enough that I think this'll be a high-scoring affair, but I just don't see enough on Iowa's defense to keep the Hawkeyes in the game. 41-28, OU.