Iowa is widely regarded as a team that is physical in the trenches and generally has a couple of NFL caliber skill players on the outside.
This year is no different.
Iowa has a tremendous front seven on defense, and a senior quarterback (from Wisconsin) in Nate Stanley. The strong Hawkeyes defense has lead the 2019 team to six wins, with only two losses to Big Ten East division heavyweights Michigan and Penn State.
Here are the results so far:
- Win vs. Miami (OH) 38-14
- Win vs. Rutgers 30-0
- Win at Iowa State 18-17
- Win vs. Middle Tennessee State 48-3
- Loss at Michigan 3-10
- Loss vs. Penn State 12-17
- Win vs. Purdue 26-20
- Win at Northwestern 20-0
In this edition of B5Q’s upcoming “opponent at a glance,” we take a deeper look at how Iowa has looked so far this year.
Iowa released the first depth chart for Wisconsin. Wieting appears to still be injured along with Welch and B. Smith. I expect Sam LaPorta to have his fingerprints all over the offense if Iowa is to beat the Badgers #Hawkeyes pic.twitter.com/N20R2qFHm1— From The Corner of Kinnick (@CornerOfKinnick) November 4, 2019
Senior quarterback Nate Stanley is the leader of the offense. Iowa has leaned on the signal caller to throw the ball more than in previous seasons. Stanley has thrown for 1,950 yards on the year, with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. His 60% completion percentage is a slight improvement from the 59% he had last year, but he threw more touchdowns (26) last year.
All things considered though, Iowa has struggled offensively this year. The team is No. 97 in scoring offense, with an average of only 24 points per game, and ranks No. 81 in total offense.
A big reason for the offensive sluggishness is the running game. While Iowa is No. 7 in time of possession, the Hawkeyes have only mustered 145 yards per game on the ground, a drastic change from most of Kirk Ferentz’s teams. Leading rusher Mekhi Sargent splits carries with Wisconsin native Toren Young and freshman Tyler Goodson. All three average above 39 yards per game, but none have more than 450 yards on the season.
Kirk on Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor: “They’ve got as good of a running back as we’ve seen in my time here.” Puts him same category as Saquon Barkley.— Scott Dochterman (@ScottDochterman) November 5, 2019
Iowa has gone through some growing pains at tight end with Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson now in the NFL. Shaun Bayer and Nate Weitang have been the main tight ends this season, but Weitang will likely miss the contest this weekend due to injury. Freshman Sam Laporta will see increased action in Weitang’s absence.
On the outside, Iowa has employed more three wide receiver sets this year than usual. Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Brandon Smith, Tracy Tyrone and Nico Ragaini have all seen significant time. Brandon Smith will miss the game due to injury, but Iowa has spread the catches around a lot this year between the various receivers.
On the offensive line, tackles Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs are both high level draft prospects. The area of weakness for Iowa has been the interior guards. How the offensive line holds up against Zack Baun and the Wisconsin pass rush will be key.
@HawkeyeFootball OT Tristan Wirfs is one of two Hawkeyes on the 2019 @outlandtrophy Watch List! @bigten will be featured here all week!@outlandtrophy is presented by @NFIDvaccines, remember to #FightFlu.https://t.co/udEfN2KkJI— Outland Trophy (@outlandtrophy) November 5, 2019
The Iowa defense has been one of the best in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes defense ranks third in the conference in scoring defense (10 points per game), total defense, and rushing defense (87 yards per game).
Ferentz says doesn't look like Nate Wieting or Kristian Welch will be able to play this week. Brandon Smith still out as well.— Tom Kakert (@HawkeyeReport) November 5, 2019
According to Ferentz, Iowa will probably be without starting middle linebacker Kristian Welch. The senior leads the team in tackles, so it will be interesting to see how the linebacking corps shuffles given his lack of availability. Nick Niemann and Djimon Colbert are the linebackers to watch, although neither has created many splash plays this year.
The strength of the Iowa defense is the line. Chauncey Gholston and A.J. Epenesa are future pros at the defensive end position. The duo have only accounted for 5.5 sacks together, but both players can cause havoc at times given their length and athletic ability. Iowa is only averaging two sacks per contest, No. 74 in the nation, but the run stuffing ability of the front seven is impressive.
The secondary is reloaded for Iowa. The Hawkeyes are lead by Geno Stone and Jack Koerner at safety, after years of Amani Hooker roaming the back-half of the defense. Both players are in the upper tier of team tackles, and have shown the ability to force turnovers. Senior cornerback Michael Ojemudia leads the team in interceptions with two and in pass breakups with six.
A.J. Epenesa and Chauncey Golston only played in certain situations last season. Now, they’re playing upwards of 60 snaps a game and taking advantage of their opportunities.https://t.co/eE0mxNdFWK— The Daily Iowan (@TheDailyIowan) October 29, 2019
This is another prototypical Iowa team. The Hawkeyes are lead by their defense, which is one of the best units in the nation, and are ok on offense. Iowa has struggled against the better defenses they have faced, only scoring a combined 15 points against Michigan and Penn State. Wisconsin will once again be a tough defense.
The Wisconsin offense has also be skittish as of late, however.
Iowa still has a shot to win the Big Ten west division with remaining match ups against Wisconsin and Minnesota, the latter of which is at home. In a conference title elimination game this should be a phenomenal tilt. With both teams fairly similar stylistically it could come down to the wire like most years.