Previewing The Enemy: Iowa Hawkeyes
The greatest show in college football is upon us, and the Iowa Hawkeyes will soon roll into Happy Valley for this season’s White Out game. The weekend’s matchup is a clash of two undefeated Big Ten powerhouses, making the stakes even higher.
Will Penn State remain undefeated, or will its foe from the Big Ten West hand the Nittany Lions their first loss of the season?
Iowa is off to a 3-0 start this season, with wins over Utah State, Iowa State, and most recently, a 41-10 win over Western Michigan. The Hawkeyes moved up one spot to No. 24 in the AP Top 25 Poll this week.
Kirk Ferentz has led the squad since 1999, making him the longest-tenured boss in the Big Ten and one of the longest-active coaches in all of college football. He owns an 189-115 all-time record.
The Hawkeyes went 8-5 last season, which culminated in a Music City Bowl victory after a 5-4 conference performance. Defensive end Lukas Van Ness, linebacker Jack Campbell, tight end Sam LaPorta, and cornerback Riley Moss were all selected in the 2023 NFL Draft while starting quarterback Spencer Petras graduated at the end of last season.
A familiar foe in Cade McNamara replaced Petras at quarterback following his transfer from Michigan this offseason. McNamara has thrown for 417 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions, and completed 38-for-71 pass attempts. He threw a pair of touchdowns and interceptions last week while completing 47.4% of passes for 103 yards. The Nevada native doesn’t tend to run much and suffered negative yardage in every game so far this season.
The rest of the offense will be without multiple key players, most notably tight end Luke Lachey, who was the Hawkeyes’ leading receiver with 131 yards. He is likely out for the season after enduring a right ankle surgery.
Meanwhile, running backs Kaleb Johnson and Jaziun Patterson have also been ruled out for Saturday’s contest, but both are believed to be on a week-to-week basis. The duo have a touchdown each, while their 116 and 105 rushing yards rank second and third on the team, respectively. In their place is Leshon Williams, who has 164 rushing yards and no touchdowns this season through 19 carries.
Tight end Erick All, another former Wolverine, is now Iowa’s primary receiving option and takes over for Lachey, with 81 yards and a touchdown this season. Seth Anderson and Nico Ragaini are Iowa’s best wide receivers, with 68 and 48 receiving yards, respectively. The Hawkeyes have also involved Williams in the passing game, and he has 41 receiving yards through five receptions.
Starting up front for Iowa is Mason Richman at left tackle, Nick DeJong at left guard, Logan Jones at center, Connor Colby at right guard, and Gennings Dunker at right tackle. The group already allowed McNamara to be sacked six times this year, however, Colby is still a likely NFL Draft pick.
Iowa’s defense has given up three touchdowns while allowing 4.3 yards per play. The Hawkeyes have two interceptions, recovered one fumble, and made 14 tackles for loss.
Jay Higgins is Iowa’s leading tackler with 32 total, while Sebastian Castro and Xavier Nwankpa have the two interceptions thus far.
Joe Evans, Ethan Hurkett, Deontae Craig, and Max Llewellyn make up the primary rotation at defensive end. Complementing them at defensive tackle are Yahya Black, Logan Lee, Aaron Graves, and Jeremiah Pittman.
Higgins is the team’s primary middle linebacker, while Jaden Harrell also gets reps. Meanwhile, Nick Jackson and Kyler Fisher see time at weak linebacker alongside Higgins. Jackson is second to Higgins with 23 tackles, while he also has a sack, a tackle for loss, and a forced fumble.
Iowa’s secondary has allowed 538 passing yards this season. Cooper DeJean, TJ Hall, Jermari Harris, and Deshaun Lee make up the primary rotation at cornerback. DeJean leads the group with 19 tackles and one pass breakup.
Meanwhile, Nwankpa and Castro are joined by Quinn Schulte and Koen Entringer as Iowa’s primary safeties.
Drew Stevens handles field goal and kickoff duties. The sophomore has gone 4-for-5 in field goal attempts this season.
Meanwhile, Tory Taylor is Iowa’s punter. Taylor has punted 16 times while averaging just over 46 yards per kick. He’s dropped five punts inside the 20-yard line while recording a season-high distance of 55 yards against Western Michigan.
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