By Adam Hensley
Perfection is hard to achieve, but that’s exactly what the 2015 Hawkeye football team did during its regular season, finishing a flawless 12-0.
That was the only time in the Kirk Ferentz era that the Hawkeyes finished undefeated in the regular season, so it’s not quite a regular occurrence.
The 2018 Iowa squad, however, shares similar attributes with the 2015 team.
Promising junior quarterback returns
By the end of 2014, CJ Beathard was the fan-favorite signal caller over Jake Rudock. Rudock had much more game experience, but Beathard had shown the ability to take over and win games.
In the third game of the season, Iowa trailed Pittsburgh on the road by 10 points at halftime. Ferentz put in Beathard, and the sophomore quarterback led the Hawkeyes on three scoring drives in a come-from-behind victory.
Entering 2018, Iowa has its man behind center: Nate Stanley. He showed his ability to take over a game in crunch time, much like Beathard, when Iowa overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit on the road against Iowa State.
In 2015, Jordan Canzeri (183), LeShun Daniels Jr. (145), and Akrum Wadley (83) all had touches in the backfield, and it worked. The trio combined for 2,126 yards and 26 touchdowns.
While Iowa doesn’t necessarily have running backs to spend, the Hawkeyes have a promising backfield core of Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin.
Just as in 2015, when each back brought something different to the table, so it is with Young and Kelly-Martin; the first possesses a downhill running style while the latter has flashy speed and agility.
Iowa’s backfield-by-committee approach burned defenses in 2015, and there’s a good chance it’ll do the same in 2018.
Question marks on defense
2015 is when names like Josey Jewell and Desmond King broke out, but neither of those players finished 2014 with stats jumping off the page.
In 2014, John Lowdermilk, Quinton Alston, Jordan Lomax, and Louis Trinca-Pasat were the Hawkeyes’ top four tacklers. Lowdermilk, Alston, and Trinca-Pasat all graduated after that season.
In 2017, Iowa’s top four tacklers were Jewell, Bo Bower, Ben Niemann, and Jake Gervase. Only Gervase is back for 2018.
When it comes to takeaways, following both the 2014 and 2017 seasons, the top returning member of the secondary only had 3 interceptions: Desmond King going into the 2015 season and Gervase going into 2018.
Coming off a 7-5 regular season with close losses
While the bowl games were different in 2014 and 2017, Iowa finished with a 7-5 record in both regular seasons. The Hawkeyes bounced back in a major way in 2015, and while the outcome of 2018 obviously isn’t known, there are plenty of similarities in the schedule.
In 2014, Iowa’s losses (excluding the bowl game) were by an average of 10.4 points per game, and four were 7 points or fewer. 2017’s five regular-season losses came by an average of 9.8 points per game, and three of those losses came by 7 points or fewer.
Iowa isn’t a team to typically get blown out, but in the majority of games in both 2014 and 2017, the team stayed competitive till the final whistle and was never truly out of a game (with a couple exceptions: a 2017 24-point loss to Wisconsin that seemed closer than the final score showed and a 37-point beatdown by Minnesota in 2014).