This is going to be one ugly game…
University of Iowa:
Location: Iowa City, IA
Iowa Football Facts:
Home Stadium: Kinnick Stadium (69, 250) (nice)
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (20th season, 156-102)
Conference: Big Ten
Conference Titles: 11 Big Ten (13 total)
Overall Bowl Record: 17-15-1
Saturday will mark the 30th meeting all-time between the two programs with the Nittany Lions holding a 17-12 lead in the series. The Nittany Lions have won each of the last six matchups dating back to 2011. Their last loss to the Hawkeyes came a decade ago in 2010, a 28-3 defeat in Iowa City.
Last Season (10-3, 6-3):
The Hawkeyes finished last season as the nation’s 15th ranked team, finishing the season with a 10-3 record after a Holiday Bowl victory over USC. The regular season started off on a four-game winning streak for the Hawkeyes.
After their 4-0 start to the season, they would lose three of their next five with losses to Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin. They’d pick up their best win of the season a week after losing to Wisconsin, a 23-19 victory over then undefeated Minnesota. With the win, they’d jumpstart a four-game winning streak to end the season that culminated in the Holiday Bowl victory over then No.22 ranked USC.
Recruiting and offseason
The Hawkeyes 2020 recruiting class was ranked 36th in the nation and eighth in the Big Ten by 247Sports. Their class was headlined by four-star defensive tackle Logan Jones out of Council Bluffs, Iowa, their only four-star of the class. Comparatively, the Nittany Lions class ranked 15th in the nation and third in the Big Ten.
What they did last week: 35-7 win over Minnesota
Last week, the Hawkeyes had a second straight dominating performance with a 35-7 win over the Golden Gophers, a week after a 49-7 shellacking of the Michigan State Spartans.
The Hawkeyes defense allowed just 312 yards of total offense in the game despite being on the field for 36 minutes. Minnesota senior quarterback Tanner Morgan was kept to just 16-for-33 through the air for 167-yards and a touchdown while throwing two interceptions.
The Iowa offense used their rushing attack the most against the Gophers, running the ball 35 times for 235-yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore running back Tyler Goodson ran the ball 20 times in the game for 142-yards and a pair of scores. Senior back Mekhi Sargent also had a strong performance, with nine carries for 86-yards and a touchdown.
The Hawkeyes offense through four games has been extremely balanced, they’ve had 140 passing plays to 135 rushing attempts with good success on the ground and decent success through the air.
The starting quarterback for the Hawkeyes is sophomore quarterback Spencer Petras. Petras this season is in his first as the Hawkeyes starter, taking over for Nate Stanley who exhausted the last of his eligibility last season. If the first four games of the seasons are a sign, the Hawkeyes will not usually beat opposing teams solely because of Petras. After a 265-yard performance in his first career start against Purdue, Petras has thrown three touchdowns and four interceptions in his next three games.
His passing yard totals over his last three games has been 216, 167, and 111, not exactly spectacular numbers. He’s only averaging 5.6 yards per attempt this season.
On the ground, the Hawkeyes are averaging 5.4 yards per carry, picking up 733 yards and 11 touchdowns this season on 135 carries. Tyler Goodson has been their lead back this season, taking 63 of 135 carries, for a season total for 375-yards and five touchdowns. Sargent is the only other back taking a notable amount of carries, 33 for 208 yards and four touchdowns.
In terms of receiving threats, the Hawkeyes have had 11 different targets record a reception this season. Tight end Sam LaPorta is their leading receiver with 14 receptions for 133-yards. Sophomore wide out Tryrone Tracy Jr has 11 for 126 while sophomore Nico Ragaini and senior Ihmir Smith-Marsette have 11 receptions for 109-yards and nine receptions for 104-yards respectively.
The Hawkeyes offensive line is once again a strength of the offense and have allowed just three sacks on the season while paving the way for the Hawkeyes success for rushing attack.
The Hawkeyes defense is once again very good as we’ve come to expect over Kirk Ferentz’s tenure with the Hawkeyes. They’re allowing just 14.8 points per game, good enough for top-10 in the country while allowing an average of just over 314 yards per game.
Opposing offenses at times through four games have had both success through the air and on the ground but with the Nittany Lions anemic offensive play this season, the matchup is a tough one.
Opposing quarterbacks are averaging about 193-yards on Iowa’s secondary this season but Purdue’s Aiden O’Connell did end up having a fantastic day in the season opener posting 282-yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. Since then opposing quarterbacks haven’t had nearly the same success, after keeping quality but not great quarterback-receiver combinations against Northwestern and Michigan State in check, the Hawkeyes completely shutting down Tanner Morgan and the Gophers passing attack last week impressive. Though it’s fair to say that the Gophers offensive struggles this season are almost as baffling as the Nittany Lions.
Names to watch on the Iowa defense include junior corner Jack Koerner (25 tackles, three interceptions), junior DB Riley Moss (21 tackles, two interceptions), senior LB Nick Niemann (32 tackles), junior DT Daviyon Nixon (23 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, and three sacks). There’s plenty of others who have already had impressive seasons already but what those four players show is the Iowa defense has playmakers at all levels and will be an huge test and tough matchup for the Nittany Lions.
Iowa’s special teams this season has been solid as expected. Senior kicker Keith Duncan is 14-for-15 in extra points and 4-for-6 in field goal attempts. Freshman punter Tory Taylor, an Australian import is averaging 45.0 yards per punt so far this season through 10 attempts.
Their returners are dangerous, averaging 24.5 yards per kick return and 15 yards per punt return. It would be surprising if they didn’t eventually house a return at some point this season.