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Point/counterpoint: Who is Iowa football's midseason MVP?

BY DI STAFF | OCTOBER 19, 2011 7:20 AM

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James Vandenberg, quarterback

James Vandenberg has been the top offensive player for the Hawkeyes in 2011, and the quarterback's play warrants the title of the team's midseason MVP.

The Iowa offense has flourished under Vandenberg's direction in his first full season as starter. The increased use of pass-oriented schemes is a change that plays to the strengths of the Keokuk native, and he has used the offense to become a better quarterback for the Hawkeyes.

The junior has led the offense to at least 31 points five times — the same number as Ricky Stanzi managed in 2010. Vandenberg's play has allowed receivers Marvin McNutt, Keenan Davis, and Kevonte Martin-Manley to shine as well, and the Hawkeyes have two of the conference's top seven pass-catchers in number of receptions.

Vandenberg's numbers have been impressive, especially for a quarterback who had only two career starts entering the season. He has thrown for 1,488 yards and 12 touchdowns through six games, while tossing only four interceptions — two of which came against a Penn State pass defense that is one of the best in the country.

Vandenberg is second in the Big Ten in passing yards, behind only Wisconsin's Heisman-worthy gunslinger Russell Wilson. Vandenberg has completed more than 60 percent of his passes, and he is ranked third in the Big Ten in passing efficiency, behind Wilson and Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase. Vandenberg is also fourth in total offense per game in the conference, behind three mobile quarterbacks.

If the Hawkeyes are to improve their current 4-2 record and enter the Legends Division championship discussion, they will have to ride the arm of their signal-caller. And so far, Vandenberg has shown that he is up to the task.

— by Ryan Murphy

Micah Hyde, cornerback

The Hawkeyes are 4-2 overall at the halfway point in the season, and they have received solid production from a number of players on both offense and defense.

But the Hawkeyes' MVP at the halfway point of the season has to be Micah Hyde.

The cornerback-turned-safety-turned-cornerback has been the backbone of a young, inexperienced defense. With the loss of several defensive players to graduation and the NFL draft, Hyde has stepped into the role of difference-maker, and he is having an MVP-caliber season. The 6-1 corner leads the Hawkeyes this season in interceptions (three), has broken up a team-leading six passes, and is third on the team in total tackles (first among defensive backs).

When Hyde plays well, Iowa usually follows suit.

He played a huge role in the Hawkeyes' historic comeback against a Pittsburgh team that led by 17 points in the fourth quarter. The coaches' decision to move Hyde from safety to cornerback proved to be pivotal; he solidified the Iowa defense by intercepting two passes — one of which ended a late-game scoring drive that came with 1:41 to play and sealed the comeback.

In the Hawkeyes' most recent victory, against Northwestern, the team took the field without second-leading tackler James Morris. But Hyde stepped up and continued to perform; he broke up two passes and recorded nine tackles as Iowa cruised to victory.

Even Iowa's loss to Penn State, Hyde almost single-handedly kept the Hawkeyes in the game. With the Nittany Lions threatening to extend their 6-3 lead in the third quarter, Hyde intercepted a pass in the end zone to keep Iowa close.

The junior cornerback is an important piece to this team because when he plays well, he gives the Hawkeyes a chance to win.

Plain and simple, Hyde is the Hawkeyes' MVP so far this season — and don't be surprised if he continues to make big plays this weekend against Indiana.

— by Patrick Mason


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