University of Iowa
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Home Stadium: Kinnick Stadium
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz, 18th year, 132–89 (.597)
Conference: Big Ten (West Division)
First Game: November 15, 1930 (Iowa won, 19-0)
Last Game: October 20, 2012 (Penn State won, 38-14)
Overall: Penn State leads 13-12
Current Win Streak: 2, Penn State
Last Season (12-2 overall, 8-0 conference)
In 2015, the Hawkeyes defied expectations, ending up 12-2 overall and 8-0 in the conference. Iowa established a new single-season school record for wins and an invitation to the Big Ten Championship game. The Hawkeyes ended the year with their only two losses: a loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game, and another loss to Stanford in the 2016 Rose Bowl. Despite those last two outcomes, the Hawkeyes ended the year with a No. 10 ranking in the Coaches’ poll and No. 9 spot in the AP poll.
The Hawkeyes’ performance earned them some individual accolades. Coach Kirk Ferentz was named Big Ten Coach of the Year. Senior cornerback Desmond King (who returned this year) was named Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and named the winner of the Jim Thorpe Award, presented to the nation's top defensive back, and was named a Unanimous First-team All-American.
In the offseason, Iowa’s former offensive lineman Austin Blythe was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. Blythe was the 248th player picked overall.
Iowa’s 2016 class is ranked as the nation’s 49th recruiting class (9th in the Big Ten) as compared to PSU’s 2016 class ranked at 20th .
Last week the Hawkeyes had a bye week, giving them time to recover from their loss the week before to No. 8 Wisconsin, 17-9
Iowa is 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the conference for 2016.
Iowa returns 72% of their offense, while Penn State returned 53% of theirs. Last year, the Hawkeyes finished 72nd in total offense, and are 113th in total offense this year (12th in the Big 10). Iowa is looking to their quarterback and running back units to improve that statistic.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard returns for his fifth year. In 2015, he threw for 2,809 yards and 17 touchdowns. Plagued by injuries last year, he’s stayed healthy in 2016, completing 58.7% of his passes and throwing for 1,380 yards and 11 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions so far this season.
Offensive line injuries have meant more pressure on Beathard than expected early in the season, but overall the offensive line returned quite a few experienced players.
Senior running back LeShun Daniels and junior running back Akrum Wadley are playing well, with Wadley leading Iowa with 636 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. Daniels isn’t far behind with 624 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. They’re two players who are hard to stop.
Wide receiver senior Matt VandeBerg returned but was injured in September, a major loss for the Hawkeyes, as he was looking to improve on a strong 2015. Last year, VandeBerg was Iowa’s leading receiver with 703 yards and four touchdowns. With him out, the Hawkeyes are struggling with receivers getting open, but are now leaning on senior Riley McCarron, who’s had 30 receptions for 336 yards and an average of 11.2 yards per carry this year.
The Hawkeyes are returning 72% of their defense from their Big Ten West-winning team; Iowa finished 22nd in the nation in total defense last season. This year, the Hawkeyes are 44th in total defense, 16th in scoring defense nationally, and 6th in total defense in the Big Ten. A big part of that is senior cornerback King, one of the best cornerbacks in college football. In his 2015 junior season, he had 43 tackles and a Big-Ten high 8 interceptions, earning him a great deal of recognition.
Iowa returns a few key defensive linemen, along with senior Jaleel Johnson and junior Nathan Bazata who both started every game last year at tackle.
Another player to watch is junior middle linebacker Josey Jewell, who led Iowa last year with 126 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and 4 interceptions. He was also ejected for a controversial targeting call in a September game against Miami (Ohio).
Iowa had to replace their kicker and punter for 2016. Kicker Keith Duncan is 6 for 7 with 46 points. Senior punter and graduate transfer and walk-on Ron Coluzzi has had 46 punts for 1876 yards and an average of 40.8 yards per punt.
Head on over to the SB Nation blog Black Heart Gold Pants to read more about the Hawkeyes.