Iowa should continue to have success when conference play begins Saturday against Penn State.
The last two opponents for Iowa consisted of teams with high-volume passing offenses in which the Hawkeye corners struggled to keep up with the speed and, in the Iowa State game, the size of the receivers.
With the secondary being mostly young and inexperienced, both the Cyclones and the Mean Green were able to move the ball through the air successfully, which opened up the ground game.
Luckily for Iowa, it plays in the Big Ten, a conference known for its good old fashion ground ’n’ pound offenses, something the Hawkeyes’ menacing front seven should be able to handle.
Penn State and star running back Saquon Barkley should be a good early test for the Hawkeyes’ front; he put up 167 yards in the game against them last year.
On offense, quarterback play has also looked good so far. Sophomore Nate Stanley has put up 655 yards with 10 touchdowns and just 1 interception.
Sure, the Hawkeyes didn’t face especially tough defenses, but the young signal caller proved he could handle himself in the Iowa offense and may prove to be a perfect game manager for Kirk Ferentz’s offense.
The biggest question mark for Iowa entering conference play will be the health of its top running backs. James Butler will miss four weeks, but Akrum Wadley will play against the Nittany Lions on Saturday.
As long as either Butler or Wadley is on the field, the Hawkeyes should at least be able to contend for the Big Ten West crown.
— Jordan Zuniga
The Hawkeyes are 3-0 on the year, as they should be, but for some reason, I don’t feel safe investing stock in this team yet.
Quarterback Nathan Stanley has done an excellent job in his first three career starts. Akrum Wadley has performed some amazing moves, as many expected he would. The defense has had some minor kinks, but overall, it’s been reliable.
The only reason I’m selling this Hawkeye team right now is injuries.
In the Sept. 16 win against North Texas, injuries donated headlines. Running backs Akrum Wadley and James Butler went down during the game and didn’t return to action. True freshman Ivory Kelly-Martin and redshirt freshman Toren Young were spectacular filling in for the upperclassmen.
Butler is out until the bye week, which causes a bit of concern among Hawkeye fans. Heading into Big Ten play, the freshman running backs will see the field more depending on the status of Wadley.
Although the freshmen played phenomenally against the Mean Green, I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of their getting some carries Saturday against a very good Penn State team.
Along with the Penn State game, Butler will miss the matchup at Michigan State on Sept. 30, which has the potential to be a trap game. Butler will also be unavailable for the Homecoming contest versus Illinois on Oct. 7, but there’s no reason the Hawkeyes should need him for that one.
With Butler’s and Wadley’s status in question, the Hawkeyes will have to rely more on the passing game. Iowa’s trademark this year has been missing on the deep ball, and they’ll need to convert on some long passes to survive in Big Ten play.
— Sean Bock