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Hawk Central Huddle looks at Iowa's homecoming game against Maryland Rodney White, rodwhite@dmreg.com

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You've got a little bit of what you wanted, Iowa fans.

The Hawkeyes were dominant again. Wisconsin was throttled. The Big Ten West is officially in play (not that it ever really wasn't). 

So that means every game takes on intense fan obsession status, starting with Saturday's homecoming game against Maryland.

Let's break down the projected starting lineup before a blustery 11 a.m. start on ESPN2. 

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OFFENSE

Quarterback: No. 4, Nate Stanley (6-foot-4, 242 pounds, junior) — What more is there to say right now? What a six-touchdown tour de force with memorable plays and impressive poise. The wind could provide some unexpected tricks this weekend, though.

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Next-man-up mentality has been huge for Toren Young and Iowa's RBs Dargan Southard, msouthard@gannett.com

Running back: No. 28, Toren Young (5-11, 221, sophomore) The seesaw at this spot continues, after Ivory Kelly-Martin was ruled out last week because of a concussion. He's still looking for his first 100-yard game, but he notched a career-best 96 yards against Indiana last week.

Fullback: No. 46, Austin Kelly (5-11, 245, senior) I'ts certainly not good that Brady Ross is gonna be sidelined. But I also don't know how you don't smile at Kelly's touchdown moment last week. Give that second-string fullback the ball (when it's sensible!).

Tight end: No. 87, Noah Fant (6-5, 241, Jr.) — How bout those snap counts? We suppose Noah Fant is doing all right. Another touchdown and a 100-yard game on the ledger last week sure indicates his head is in the right place.

Tight end: No. 38, T.J. Hockenson (6-5, 250, Soph.)  Hockenson deservedly shared national award honors with Fant this past week after his 107-yard, two-touchdown performance. That he's able to share such a tight-end spotlight is good news for his (eventual) pro future.

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Split end: No. 12, Brandon Smith (6-3, 219, Soph.)  Smith is slowly trying to find his place in this Iowa offense. Stanley's burgeoning confidence is helping. Three more catches for 43 yards last week, and he's up to 13 receptions on the year.

Wide receiver: No. 84, Nick Easley (5-11, 205, Sr.) — The highlight of Easley's four-catch day was being on the receiving end of Stanley's Ben Roethlisberger imitation. It's just fine being Johnny-on-the-spot.

Left tackle: No. 77, Alaric Jackson (6-7, 320, Soph.) — Everything is coming up aces for the offensive, including on the line, which has been part of an effort the past two weeks that has seen the first back-to-back 40-point Big Ten road performances in program history.

Left guard: No. 59, Ross Reynolds (6-4, 295, Sr.) — Iowa has given up just six sacks this year. That's great — the next-best mark in the Big Ten is 10, by Penn State, Rutgers and Wisconsin. There was a dreaded sack last week, though, and Reynolds gave it up. Oops. “It’s very bothersome," the fifth-year senior said. "That shouldn’t happen. No matter what rush they give us, that’s not allowed."

Center: No. 69, Keegan Render (6-4, 307, Sr.) — We're getting closer to the time when people start looking at division-title scenarios. Not Keegan Render. "The only way (a division title is) going to happen is us winning. It doesn’t matter what other things happen outside of us." Oh boy! Insert those one-game-a-time-isms.

Right guard: No. 76, Dalton Ferguson (6-4, 308, Sr.) — Even with Iowa's offensive-line pedigree, it's kind of amazing that the sacks number is so solid when you consider the guard trio (which also includes Cole Banwart) has a combined 14 starts among them entering this weekend.

Right tackle: No. 74, Tristan Wirfs (6-5, 320, Soph.) This is the only place left to put a random home-game stat on homecoming weekend. Iowa is 403-220-16 at home in its history and 58-43-5 in homecoming tilts themselves. Iowa is 14-5 in homecoming games in Kirk Ferentz's tenure.

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Earlier in his press conference, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz referenced the preparation for the 2010 Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

DEFENSE

Left end: No. 98, Anthony Nelson (6-7, 271, Jr.)  Still riding the coattails of that Minnesota performance a bit, but his five sacks ties him with A.J. Epenesa for the team lead and share second place in the Big Ten.

Left tackle: No. 90, Sam Brincks (6-5, 275, Sr.) — Pretty telling comment from Anthony Nelson on a senior leader like Brincks: “They’re the oldest guys out there, and they’re still attacking it and trying to get better.” There's respect and growth happening up front.

Right tackle: No. 96, Matt Nelson (6-8, 295, Sr.)  The Iowa run defense is allowing just 2.7 yards per carry, fifth-best in the country. The Hawkeyes, Alabama, Auburn and N.C. State have each allowed just four rushing touchdowns on the season.

Right end: No. 40, Parker Hesse (6-3, 261, Sr.)  Hesse tied his career high in tackles against Indiana with seven. That tally included a pair of tackles for loss.

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The Terrapins will use a lot of window dressing in their run game, Iowa defensive end Parker Hesse says. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

Outside linebacker: No. 35 Barrington Wade (6-1, 233, Soph.)  Wade is listed as the starter here, but Nick Niemann is back on the depth chart for the first time in three games. I don't have any inside information, but ... you do the math.

Middle linebacker: No. 34, Kristian Welch (6-3, 238, Jr.)  For as much as Welch has been moved around (and even replaced) on the depth chart, the guy has been reliable. He led the team in tackles last week (eight, alongside Jake Gervase), and that's the third time he's been tops in that stat this season. A job well done.

Weak-side linebacker: No. 32, Djimon Colbert (6-1, 234, freshman) Colbert had a rare pass deflection from the linebacker spot last week. In fact, five Hawkeyes had pass breakups against Indiana.

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Left cornerback: No. 20, Julius Brents (6-2, 180, Fr.) — The word is Matt Hankins is mostly healthy. And yet Brents is still perched atop the depth chart. He's impressed the tough-to-please Phil Parker. Is he there to stay?

Strong safety: No. 27, Amani Hooker (6-0, 210, Jr.)  Geno Stone has actually gotten the start at this position the past two weeks. Stone came away with an interception, too. But Hooker has received an extremely high snap count, all the same. I wouldn't sweat the musical chairs here that much.

Free safety: No. 30, Jake Gervase (6-1, 212, Sr.)  The senior is aware of Maryland's run-happy offensive approach. "It’s a well thought-out scheme," he told the Quad-City Times this week. "It’s something that we haven’t seen all season, and it is forcing us to focus this week on being really assignment sound. That’s a requirement."

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Iowa free safety Jake Gervase discusses his defensive coordinator's fiery side and knowledge of football. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

Right cornerback: No. 33, Riley Moss (6-0, 185, Fr.) — Moss showed a few more signs of being a freshman this past week, getting fooled a time or two in coverage. But the Iowa secondary was still mostly solid. And Moss was game in being physical, too, amassing a half-dozen tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: No. 91, Miguel Recinos (6-1, 193, Sr.)  Six extra points last week. Kicking extra points is fun.

Punter: No. 7, Colten Rastetter (6-1, 213, Jr.)  When the kicker is kicking six extra points, that probably means you're not punting much. Indeed, just two boots for Rastetter last week. His overall improvement will be put to the test in windy conditions Saturday.

Kickoff returns: No. 6, Ihmir Smith-Marsette (6-1, 175, Soph.)  Smith-Marsette had an oh-no and then an almost in the return game last week, making an ill-advised move in a stuttering return near the 5 before taking it 60 yards into Indiana territory. As it stands, Iowa leads the country in kickoff return average at 33.1 yards.

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Ihmir Smith-Marsette talks about the hurdle at the end of his kickoff return. What did he think of his form? Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

Punt returns: No. 14, Kyle Groeneweg (5-10, 186, Sr.) Groeneweg got his first punt-return action since the Wisconsin gaffe last week. One effort for 5 yards was a so-what kind of result, but a 35-yard kick return provided some promise.

MARYLAND PROJECTED STARTERS

OFFENSE

Quarterback: No. 11, Kasim Hill (6-2, 234, Fr.)

Running back: No. 24, Ty Johnson (5-10, 212, Sr.)

Wide receiver: No. 12, Taivon Jacobs (5-11, 170, Sr.)

Wide receiver: No. 9, Jahrvis Davenport (5-9, 190, Sr.)

Wide receiver: No. 1, D.J. Turner (5-9, 203, Jr.)

Tight end: No. 17, Chigoziem Okonkwo (6-2, 226, Fr.)

Tight end: No. 82, Avery Edwards (6-4, 240, Sr.)

Tackle: No. 55, Derwin Gray (6-5, 330, Sr.)

Guard: No. 70, Sean Christie (6-4, 294, Sr.)

Center: No. 64, Brendan Moore (6-3, 302, Sr.)

Guard: No. 75, Terrance Davis (6-3, 310, Jr.)

Tackle: No. 58, Damian Prince (6-3, 320, Sr.)

DEFENSE

End: No. 9, Byron Cowart (6-4, 293, Sr.)

Nose: No. 91, Adam McLean (6-2, 305, Jr.)

Tackle: No. 50, Mbi Tanyi (6-3, 290, Sr.)

Buck: No. 6, Jesse Aniebonam (6-3, 260, Sr.)

Mike: No. 22, Isaiah Davis (6-1, 245, Jr.)

Will: No. 33, Tre Watson (6-2, 238, Sr.)

Nickel: No. 25, Antoine Brooks Jr. (5-11, 210, Jr.)

Safety: No. 20, Antwaine Richardson (6-0, 195, Jr.)

Safety: No. 4, Darnell Savage Jr. (5-11, 200, Sr.)

Cornerback: No. 8, Marcus Lewis (6-1, 195, Jr.)

Cornerback: No. 7, Tino Ellis (6-0, 195, Jr.)

Cornerback: No. 2, Ravon Davis (5-10, 178, Sr.)

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: No. 3, Joseph Petrino (5-11, 175, Fr.)

Punter: No. 88, Wade Lees (6-2, 201, Jr.)

 

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