Iowa football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Hawkeyes, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About The Iowa Offense
Extremely effective at not screwing things up, the Iowa offense wasn’t all that explosive and it didn’t do anything special, but it always kept the chains moving and it always seemed able to come up with the one solid play at the right time. This time around, expect even more of the same, only with more experience in a few key spots.
C.J. Beathard had a nice first year taking over the starting quarterback job, and now he’ll be expected to open it up a little more. However, the receiving corps is undergoing a bit of an overhaul around leading returning target Matt VandeBerg.
The Hawkeyes were able to crank out the rushing production no matter who was carrying the ball, and now there’s a rock-solid tandem to work around in LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley as long as the line is great again. Center Austin Blythe is done, but the rest of the front five should be a strength.
Biggest Key To The Iowa Offense
Run, keep running, and score on the ground. The Hawkeyes didn’t come up with a rushing touchdown in the two losses to Michigan State and Stanford, and it didn’t get one in the should’ve-been-a-loss to Wisconsin. Against everyone else, no problem.
C.J. Beathard might be a strong, talented veteran quarterback, but for the Iowa system to work, he has to use his legs as well as his arm, and the running back rotation has to be terrific again. Last year it was a case of Next Back Up, and this season the Hawkeyes have to average close to 200 yards a game, every game – they averaged 182 last year – to be back in the Big Ten title hunt.
What You Need To Know About The Iowa Defense
An absolute killer at taking the ball away, stopping the run, and locking up against the better passing teams, ignore the Rose Bowl and the final drive in the Big Ten Championship – this defense was fantastic and should be again.
Josey Jewell leads a good linebacking corps that loses a few good parts, but gets back the big hitters needed to once again be terrific against the better ground games.
The pass rush isn’t going to be a killer without Nate Meier and Drew Ott, but the front seven will generate the production from several different spots and should be aggressive and opportunistic again.
With Thorpe Award winner Desmond King returning at one corner spot, the secondary has half the field locked down. Miles Taylor at safety and corners Maurice Fleming and Greg Mabin should be outstanding on the other side of King.
Biggest Key To The Iowa Defense
The secondary has to keep coming up with the big play. Desmond King did most of the heavy lifting, but as a whole, the Hawkeyes did a phenomenal job of snuffing out drives at the right time. How did they beat Wisconsin? Two fumble recoveries helped, but the four interceptions changed the game. They came up with three picks against Northwestern to all but put that away in a hurry. In all, they intercepted multiple passes in seven games, which means …
Iowa Will Be Far Better If …
It’s always on the right side of the turnover margin. The Iowa formula of sound offense, tough defense, and no mistakes works, as long as those mistakes don’t come or the defense makes up for them with key takeaways.
In 2014, Iowa was a -6 overall in turnover margin, being on the wrong side in eight games and losing six of them. In 2013, the Hawkeyes were 1-5 when they lost the battle. Last year? +11 overall and lost the stat in three games – the opening win over Illinois State, and the end-of-year losses to Michigan State and Stanford.
Best Iowa Offensive Player
QB C.J. Beathard, Sr. – The Beathard family won the war. There was talk of possibly transferring with open grumbling over not getting enough playing time early on. The coaching staff ended up making the call that Beathard was the best quarterback option, Jake Rudock moved on to Michigan, and everything seemed to work out for the best for all sides.
Beathard did exactly what the team needed. He didn’t make the massive mistakes, he ran the ball well, and he played within the offense. Call him a game manager-plus, but he’s got the skills and upside to do far more now that he’s got the experience and doesn’t have to live up to the potential. He can start airing it out a bit more.
Best Iowa Defensive Player
CB Desmond King, Sr. – He probably would’ve been an early second round pick had he come out early, and next year he’s expected to be a first rounder with the size, toughness, and quickness to do it all. Fabulous as a return man, he was at his most dangerous whenever the ball came his way with eight interceptions and 13 broken up passes. The best defensive back in college football last year can hit, too, and he’ll need to this season with no one likely to throw in his direction.
Key Player To A Successful Season
DE Matt Nelson, Soph. – Throw Parker Hesse and Sam Brincks in there, too. The Iowa defensive tackles should be terrific with Jaleel Johnson a great one to work around, but the pass rush has to come from the young ends on the outside.
The 6-8, 270-pound Nelson is hardly a speed rusher, but he needs to use his power to provide a little bit of a threat behind the line, and he needs to be like another tackle against the run. He came up with 14 tackles in his limited time last season, and now he’ll be moved around depending on whether or not other speedier ends step up into the mix.
The Iowa Season Will Be A Success If …
There’s a second straight Big Ten West title. It’s not a good enough team to beat Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, but it’ll be more than happy to take its shot again. Getting there is a possibility with the two biggest divisional games against Wisconsin and Nebraska at home, and the one big one against the East in Iowa City, too, vs. Michigan. As long as they win their West games, they should be fine, with the biggest battle coming against …
Oct. 22 vs. Wisconsin – Considering what Nebraska and Northwestern have to deal with, and with the road dates the Badgers have to face, Iowa can lose to Michigan and/or Penn State in interdivisional play and still likely be more than fine in the Big Ten title chase. However, losing to Wisconsin could be a disaster. Last year, beating Bucky in Camp Randall turned out to be the key moment in the Iowa almost-dream season. It should be the gateway to the West this time around, too.
2015 Iowa Fun Stats
– Interceptions Thrown: Opponents 19 – Iowa 5
– Fourth Down Conversions: Iowa 9-of-14 (64%) – Opponents 15-of-27 (56%)
– Rushing Touchdowns: Iowa 35 – Opponents 11
2016 Iowa Season Prediction
What’s going to happen to Iowa this season? Check out what the final record is going to be …