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2018 Big Ten Football Preview: Iowa Hawkeyes

Location: Iowa City, Iowa

2017 Record: 8-5 (4-5)

Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz

2018 Record: 3-1 (0-1 Big Ten)

All-time record vs. OSU: 15-46-3

What has happened thus far in 2017:

Death, taxes and Kirk Ferentz on the Iowa Hawkeyes sideline. Any Big Ten football fan will recognize this team as Ferentz-led: average on offense, currently No. 95 in the nation with 25.3 points per game, tough on defense, currently No. 6 in the nation with 13.0 points per game, and can’t beat Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes rolled to a 3-0 start against subpar competition, beating Northern Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Illinois, but for the sixth time in the past seven meetings in their own stadium, they lost to Wisconsin. While the game against the Badgers was competitive, special teams blunders and a late Jonathan Taylor touchdown handed Wisconsin a victory that might have sealed the fate of the Big Ten West.


Impact Player:


If this Iowa team is going to do big things — and a loss to Wisconsin may render that impossible — it will need its passing offense to come up big, and senior wide receiver Nick Easley could be the difference. Easley was referred to as a “godsend” by offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz when he walked on last spring after an All-American junior college season. Easley went on to lead the team in receiving with 530 yards and will need to improve upon that this year for an offense that lost its 1,000 yard rusher from a year ago.


Strengths:


Experience at the quarterback position will help the Hawkeyes during tough times this year. Stanley enters his second year as a starter after registering an impressive debut season last year, posting five-touchdown games against Ohio State and Iowa State, the first Iowa quarterback with two five-touchdown games since Chuck Long. Stanley looked impressive in the loss to Wisconsin and will continue to be a pillar to lean on for this team. On the other side of the ball, the defensive line will hold down the fort with seven of the top eight returning for the unit. The line will look to dominate up front to keep teams from getting after the young back seven.


Weaknesses:


Speaking of that back seven, Iowa lost two of the Big Ten’s best on defense with the departures of Butkus-finalist Josey Jewell and Thorpe-winner Desmond King. This leaves the everything  behind the stout line looking young and vulnerable, and Chad Greenway isn’t walking through that door to help them. On the offense, a similar problem arises at running back. Sophomore Torren Young is trying to replace a back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher in Akrum Wadley, and while he has averaged 5.5 yards per carry thus far, his two touchdowns reflect the red zone scoring issues the Hawkeyes have faced and Young will still have to prove durable enough to produce for 12 games.

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