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Iowa: first look

November 12th, 2012 by Justin Potts


Read our preseason preview here.

Michigan escaped Northwestern on Saturday, keeping its slim Big Ten title hopes alive. Unfortunately, Nebraska did the same with a 32-23 win over Penn State. Two games remain for both team, one of which is a common opponent – Iowa. The Hawkeyes are ready for the season – and perhaps Kirk Ferentz’s job – to end after four straight losses, the most recent of which at the hands of the hapless Purdue Boilermakers.

Iowa sits at 4-6 overall, 2-4 in the Big Ten. The only wins are a one-point win over Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Minnesota, and a double-overtime victory at Michigan State. Since then, Iowa has lost to Penn State, Northwestern, Indiana, and Purdue and also lost to Iowa State and Central Michigan. If you can’t tell, Iowa is not a good football team by any stretch of the imagination. However, the Hawkeyes will be fighting for the postseason this week, needing to beat both Michigan and Nebraska to earn a bowl bid. Let’s take a look at Iowa.

Iowa 2012 Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Iowa Michigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 20.8 | 29.7 102 | 56 22.0 | 18.2 29 | 17
Rushing Yards 1,240 | 1,941 1,546 | 1,537
Rush Avg. Per Game 124.0 | 194.1 98 | 35 154.6 | 153.7 60 | 59
Avg. Per Rush 3.7 | 5.0 4.1 | 3.7
Passing Yards 1,976 | 1,892 2,257 | 1,492
Pass Avg. Per Game 197.6 | 189.2 94 | 98 225.7 | 149.2 50 | 1
Total Offense 3,216 | 3,833 3,803 | 3,029
Total Off Avg. Per Game 321.6 | 383.3 106 | 81 380.3 | 302.9 51 | 11
Kick Return Average 22.5 | 22.6 52 | 49 19.8 | 22.9 31 | 89
Punt Return Average 5.4 | 10.0 95 | 43 5.1 | 7.2 27 | 62
Avg. Time of Possession 29:42 | 30:04 67 | 58 30:18 | 29:56
3rd Down Conversion Pct 36% | 50% 93 | 12 42% | 36% 84 | 38
Sacks By-Yards 11-60 | 13-120 111 | 100 19-143 | 11-80 62 | 18
Touchdowns Scored 23 | 36 25 | 19
Field Goals-Attempts 16-19 | 15-18 16-20 | 16-22
Red Zone Scores (26-32) 81% | (33-36) 92% 63 | 7 (32-41) 78% | (26-31) 84% 34 | 76
Red Zone Touchdowns (15-32) 47% | (21-36) 58% (20-49) 49% | (14-31) 45%

What stands out most is how bad Iowa’s offense is. The Hawkeyes rank 102nd out of 120 teams in points per game and 106th in total offense. Ferentz’s squad has scored more than 30 points just twice all season – one in a loss to Central Michigan and the other a win over Minnesota. In five games, Iowa has scored 19 points or fewer. In fact, over the last five games, Iowa is averaging just 19 points.

Anthony Hitchens has emerged as a probable All-Big Ten linebacker

Quarterback James Vandenberg is completing just under 57 percent of his passes for 1,976 yards, which is fourth in the Big Ten. But is pass efficiency isn’t even in the top 10 in the conference. His worst game of the season came against Penn State, when he completed just 47 percent for 189 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

The run game is worse, ranking second-to-last in the Big Ten, ahead of only Illinois. Running back Mark Weisman had four good games in a row in the middle of the season, including a 217-yard performance against CMU, but he has missed the past two games with an ankle injury. Damon Bullock started the season with a 150-yard performance against NIU, but suffered a concussion in Week 3 that kept him out for four games, which is when Weisman emerged. Bullock returned three weeks ago to rush for 107 yards against Northwestern. But against Purdue on Saturday, he was held to just 1.9 yards per carry.

Defensively, Iowa is about average, ranking 29th in points per game, and 51st in total defense. Purdue was able to rack up 490 total yards on Saturday, 279 through the air and 211 on the ground, and still won despite committing 10 penalties. In fact, each of the past four opponents have lit up the Hawkeye defense. Northwestern piled up 433 yards, Indiana 473, and Penn State 504.

Junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens leads the Big Ten with 114 tackles, which is 16 more than the next closest. Fellow linebacker James Morris ranks third with 96, while a third linebacker, Christian Kirksey, is 12th with 76. All three of them have more tackles than Michigan’s leader, Desmond Morgan (67).

Tackle Joe Gaglione leads the team with five sacks and nine tackles-for-loss, while no other player has more than two sacks. Iowa as a team has the fewest sacks in the Big Ten and is also allowing opponents to convert a conference worst 42.3 percent of third downs.

During the offseason, Ferentz replaced his coordinators in an attempt to save his own job, but the Hawkeyes are headed toward their worst record since 2000. Meanwhile, Michigan has lost three straight to Iowa and is still fighting to win the Legends division.