It is time for the 2022 Wisconsin Badgers football season preview extravaganza to begin! Over the next (almost) two months we will be preparing you for the upcoming football season. We’ve got previews of every team on Wisconsin’s schedule, we’ve got positional breakdowns of each group at UW, we’ll have predictions for the full conference, rankings of the top units in the Big Ten as well as a couple of larger features that we think are interesting.
Next up, Iowa.
Team: Iowa Hawkeyes
Head coach: Kirk Ferentz, 24th Season
2021 record: 10-4, 7-2 Big Ten
Game info: Saturday, Nov. 12th, TBD, Kinnick Stadium
Top returning players
Senior, LB Jack Campbell, 199 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 interceptions
Senior, LB Seth Benson, 141 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 interception
Senior, TE Sam LaPorta, 46 receptions and 548 yards receiving, two touchdowns
Senior, CB Riley Moss, 9 tackles, 4 interceptions with 5 passes defended
Senior, S Kaevon Merriweather, 50 tackles and 1 INT with 4 passes defended
Steven Stilianos TE transfer from Lafayette
*Unlike most Big Ten programs, Iowa did not to pursue much in the transfer portal*
Newcomers from Wisconsin!
Jack Dotzler - 6’7/265 TE from Waunakee WI, 3 star recruit. ranked 81st nationally for tight ends and 10th overall player from the state of Wisconsin
Jayden Montgomery- 5’11/215 LB from Green Bay, WI, 3 Star recruit, ranked as the 153rd Linebacker and 15th overall from the state of Wisconsin
2021 Season Review:
Iowa’s 2021 season can be summed up to really high highs and really low low’s. The Hawkeyes opened the season by knocking off two ranked opponents, Indiana and Iowa State. They went on to win their next 4 games, including a big win against 4th ranked Penn State. The following Monday, Iowa was ranked 2nd in the AP poll heading into a home matchup against Purdue.
Despite what felt like a program-defining win against Penn State, the Hawkeyes were routed by David Bell and Aidan O’Connell, losing 24-7 (Big Ten west blowout). After their “bye” week, Wisconsin handed Iowa another blowout loss at Camp Randall that resulted in a free fall out of the top 20.
Iowa finished the year going 4-0 against their remaining Big Ten west opponents Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois, and Nebraska to secure a spot in the conference title game against Michigan where they lost 42-3.
They would go on to lose their bowl game against Kentucky 20-17 to finish the year with a record of 10-4.
The offense was the biggest hindrance to the Hawkeyes completing a special season last year. They ranked a measly 121st out of 130 FBS programs in total offense. For reference, Wisconsin’s offense ranked 88th last season.
Similar to Wisconsin, the offense was predictable and stale in Iowa City. Spencer Petras completed just 56.6% of his passes and averaged 151.7 passing yards per game. He was also sacked 24 times last year.
On the other side of the ball, the defense was known for its takeaways early on last season. To their credit, the Hawkeyes caused 19 turnovers in their first 6 games, including a season-high 6 interceptions against Maryland. They continued to rely on takeaways all season going 10-1 when they won the turnover battle.
2022 season preview:
The expectations for Iowa this season aren’t too different from Wisconsin. Win 9+ games, win the rivalry games, steal a game against Ohio State or Michigan, and go to the Big Ten Championship game. And just like Wisconsin, their offense will dictate how successful they’ll be at meeting those expectations.
Senior QB Spencer Petras is back to lead the Iowa offense. The next option for the Hawkeyes at QB would be Junior Alex Padilla. Padilla played sporadically last season, including a start against Minnesota. There were talks prior to fall camp that there may be a QB battle taking place but for the most part, it seems to be Petras’ job to lose heading into the season.
At running back, Iowa is going to be searching for someone to fill the shoes of 1000-yard rusher Tyler Goodson. Sophomores Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams (no relation) are supposedly next in line to be Iowa’s featured backs but they also have freshman Kaleb Williams joining the room. Expect to see the Hawkeyes develop a by-committee approach for running the ball this year.
I’d love to research potential wide receivers but I also don’t know if the Hawkeyes are going to throw past the line of scrimmage this year. Brian Ferentz is back as the offensive coordinator and if you think he’ll change anything, at the University of Iowa, where they haven’t changed a damn thing since Hayden fry was hired, you are wrong. I will say that senior tight end Sam LaPorta should be the primary pass-catching target if the Hawkeyes do find a way to throw the ball downfield.
Iowa is returning 7 of its starters on their defense from 2021. They are led by a likely preseason All-American in LB Jack Cambell and the Big Ten 2021 defensive back of the year, Riley Moss. Unless their offense makes dramatic improvements from last year, Iowa is going to need its defense to rank in the top 5 in the country to compete for a division title again. Will they? I actually believe they will be a top 10 defense at a minimum this year. Similar to last year, the recipe is turnovers and finding a way to keep their offense off the field.
Iowa will likely be competitive enough to remain in the Big Ten West conversation, but both Ohio State and Michigan is a tough draw from the East Division. Additionally, they have difficult road draws in Purdue and Minnesota in addition to a trip to Camp Randall, which is a tough place to win. With a strong defense once again the key for the Hawkeyes will be progression forward from an offense that ranked 121st in total offense a season ago. If that mark improves, a Big Ten West title is again possible. If it does not, Mr. 8-4 Ferentz is likely headed to the Pinstripe Bowl.
Ok, now I am going to say some nice things because I still want to have a relationship with all of my family and friends in Iowa. Shoutout to the Iowa Wave. That is one of the coolest things in all of sports.