Quick 2019 Recap: Iowa was one of the more underrated teams of the 2019, putting together a 10-3 record with three narrow losses coming to ranked opponents.
The Hawkeyes raced off to a 4-0 start that included a win against in-state rival Iowa State. A lack of offensive firepower resulted in consecutive losses to Michigan and Penn State, dropping them to 4-2. They bounced back with wins against Purdue and Northwestern, but picked up its third loss of the season in a 24-22 nailbiter at Wisconsin. However, Iowa had its biggest victory of the season the next week, taking down #7 and previously undefeated Minnesota. The Hawkeyes season ended on a hot streak with four consecutive victories, with the exclamation point being a 49-24 drubbing of #22 USC in the Holiday Bowl.
Offensive Player To Watch: WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette
Smith-Marsette is an explosive playmaker who has improved over his first three seasons, and will challenge for first-team All-Big Ten as a senior. He’s not just dangerous as a receiver, as he made evident by pulling a Derrick Williams in the Holiday Bowl, scoring on a 98-yard kickoff return and six-yard run in addition to a 12-yard touchdown reception that helped put the Trojans away for good. He can hurt you in a number of ways, and Brent Pry will need a specific plan to slow Smith-Marsette down when the Hawkeyes roll into Happy Valley.
Defensive Player To Watch: DE Chauncey Golston
Iowa has a nice lineage of defensive ends who have given Penn State fits over the years (anyone else still having nightmares about Adrian Clayborn?). Golston is a big, long, disruptive defensive end in the mold of Yetur Gross-Matos. He’s also experienced, returning as a fifth-year senior and poised for a big year as he looks to improve his draft stock as much as possible.
Major Changes For 2020: It was another quiet offseason in Iowa City as Kirk Ferentz prepares for his 22nd season as head coach of the Hawkeyes. However, Iowa is losing a talented nucleus of players who left early for the NFL draft. This includes offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs (the 13th overall pick), defensive end AJ Epenesa (54th) and defensive back Michael Ojemudia (77th). They will also need to find a new signal-caller to replace Nate Stanley, the team’s starting quarterback since 2017.
Penn State Wins If: Penn State will need to come in with an aggressive gameplan to try to build an early lead. The longer the Hawkeyes hang around, the more dangerous they become. On defense, they will need to get the Hawkeyes new starting quarterback rattled early and make the Hawkeyes one-dimensional. While coming in prepared and limiting mental mistakes is true of any opponent, it’s especially crucial against Iowa. We know exactly what to expect from any Iowa team led by Kirk Ferentz at this point.
Iowa Wins If: The Hawkeyes aren’t quite the same team without their nighttime “Kinnick Magic,” but are still a model of consistency. They play each game with maximum effort, while rarely, if ever, beating themselves. Iowa can find a way to win by forcing Penn State to settle for field goals, win the turnover battle, and look to strike at the end.