Head coach: Kirk Ferentz
2014 Record: 7-6 overall; 4-4 Big Ten
2014 Bowl: 45-28 Loss to Tennessee at TaxSlayer Bowl
2015 Returning Starters: 3 offense, 5 defense
Odds to win 2016 CFB Championship: +100000
Odds to win 2015 Big Ten Title: +4500
Regular Season Wins: Over 7 (+100); Under 7 (-130)
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The Iowa Hawkeyes are transitioning from former QB Jake Rudock to C.J. Beathard, but there are a lot of reasons to believe this is an upgrade for the team.
C.J. Beathard is a stronger passer and he knows how to use his gun. He replaced Rudock last year and the Hawkeyes won both the game he took over in (half time of the Pittsburgh game) and the contest after that against Purdue.
Beathard has to stay healthy because Iowa doesn’t have much depth behind him, but he’s a capable quarterback that should be able to spearhead this offense. His quick release and good decision making will make him a good dual-threat because he’s known to be a good runner.
Jordan Canzeri will be the primary rusher and he’s a fast back, though he is injury prone. LeShun Daniels will also be in the mix for snaps and he’s a quick but powerful back who may have the most talent of the corp. Canzeri and Daniels are the two backs which will see most of the action though. Senior receiver Tevaun Smith and TE Jake Duzey caught for a combined 992 yards last season and both will be featured targets of Beathard.
Iowa has to replace two standout DTs in Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat. Jaleel Johnson and Nathan Bazata both should be instrumental features, and Bazata could be an outstanding DT given his high school wrestling background. DEs Drew Ott and Nate Meier are both two and three year starters and Ott has 10.5 career sacks. Tennessee obliterated Iowa’s defense for 461 yards in last year’s bowl game though, so there is a glaring notice that things must improved.
The Vols had 283 rushing yards in that contest, and all of the LB corp has to improve. Both tackle positions feature new staters and the secondary is the area of biggest strength. All three starters return in the secondary, but even against Tennessee it was horrible in the area of missing tackles. Overall, the Hawkeyes’ biggest challenge will be in making defensive plays and shutting down premier backs.
Senior kicker Marshall Koehn showed a lot of improvement last year and hit 12 of 16 FG. He may see punting duties this year, too, though seniors Connor Kornbrath and Dillon Kidd are in line for duties. Koehn has impressed the staff a lot though, so to see the vote of confidence go to him for all kicking and punting duties wouldn’t be too surprising.
The Hawkeyes are a team of great strengths and equally glaring weaknesses, which gives a very disjointed view of what the team really is. Three starters return on the OL but both tackles are gone. Beathard has a high upside, but is he even as reliable as Rudock was?
Rudock may have gone on to bigger things at Michigan, but the Hawkeyes were competitive with him, when he was healthy especially. The past three years the team has gone 19-19 and seeing the Hawkeyes win five or six seems to be about par for the program. At this point, it is really Iowa wondering how to get much better than that.
Iowa faces Wisconsin on Oct 3, which will be a chance to see if it can measure up with the better teams in the Big Ten. The season closes at Nebraska, so the Hawkeyes may be seeking to establish its bowl destiny on the field of another tough conference opponent. Given last year’s poor bowl showing, at a minimum Iowa will want to represent itself better at season’s end.
Prediction: 6 wins.