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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Gameday: Iowa’s balance keeps Hawkeyes in West race

Usually as a season progresses, teams become more predictable, falling into patterns of play where, on a week-to-week basis, fans and opponents know what to expect. In the case of the Iowa Hawkeyes, that is far from the truth.

The Hawkeyes (4-2 Big Ten, 7-3 overall) sit in a three-way tie for second place in the Big Ten West. However, they will need a bundle of help to get to Indianapolis. The short version is that they need to beat the Badgers and Nebraska while the Gophers lose to Wisconsin. That’s a tall task to say the least, but not impossible as they get both Wisconsin and Nebraska at home.

Iowa has the balance teams look for, except that at the end of the day, they’re not that good at either running the ball or throwing.

Their quarterback, Jake Rudock, looks like Joel Stave with a little more burden to produce and is a bit less mistake prone. His numbers are pretty good, throwing for 1,863 yards on the season while completing 63.9 percent of his passes. He’s also thrown 12 touchdowns against just four interceptions while chipping in a pair of rushing touchdowns.

The Hawkeyes’ featured running back is Mark Weisman, a talented, bulky runner who finishes runs with a vengeance. He has put together a good senior year, racking up 676 yards on the ground with 14 rushing touchdowns. He broke the 100-yard mark for the first time this season last week against Illinois, but struggled the week before (14 carries for 21 yards) against Minnesota.

On the outside, the Hawkeyes boast a pair of talented receivers in Tevaun Smith and Kevonte Martin-Manley, who have 33 receptions for 410 yards and 39 receptions for 398 yards respectively. They also have two more players, tight end Jake Duzey and running back Damon Bullock, who have 30 receptions each. Their ability to spread out the ball to a number of different targets makes them a tricky offense to scheme against.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Hawkeyes are led by defensive end Drew Ott, who leads the team with eight sacks on the season, and safety John Lowdermilk, who leads the team with 78 tackles and is tied for the team lead in interceptions with two.

The Hawkeyes’ defense is 30th in the FBS in points allowed, giving up just 22.5 points per game. They also allow 161.8 rushing yards per game against FBS teams. This will be something to keep an eye on as they gave up 291 yards on the ground to Minnesota and 316 to Indiana. Containing Melvin Gordon and the Badgers’ ground attack, which ran for 581 yards against Nebraska, will be paramount to the Hawkeyes’ success.

If the Hawkeyes have any hope to beat the Badgers, Rudock will need to outplay the Stave/Tanner McEvoy combo. Defensively, the Iowa front seven will need to learn from the mistakes of their last few weeks and shut down Gordon and Corey Clement.

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