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2023 Opponent Snapshot: Iowa

After a disappointing regular season in 2022, Iowa’s influx of transfers could bring them back to the top of the Big Ten West.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 TransPerfect Music City Bowl Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Quick 2022 Recap

Iowa took a step back last season, going just 7-5 in the regular season. The Hawkeyes failed to take advantage of not having to play Penn State in 2022, and lost three straight in October, including a 9-6 snoozer in Champaign, and a 54-10 thrashing in Columbus. They managed to right the ship towards the end of the year, winning three out of their last four regular season games, and then shutting out Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. Quarterback play was a significant concern, with Spencer Petras throwing for just over 1700 yards and as many touchdowns as interceptions.

Offensive Player to Watch: The Michigan and Ohio State transfers

I’m cheating a bit here, but it will be interesting to see what quarterback Cade McNamara, tight end Erick All, and wide receiver Kaleb Brown do in Iowa City. McNamara started 14 games for Michigan’s Big Ten title team in 2021, throwing 15 touchdowns and just six interceptions, but struggled the next year and was replaced by J.J. McCarthy in Week 2. McNamara is not especially athletic, which bodes well for the Nittany Lion defense.

Erick All is a name that Penn State fans probably don’t want to hear or see, after his performance against the Blue and White in 2021, and now he joins a school known for producing top-quality tight ends. All may take some time to adjust back to Big Ten football, after playing in just one game in 2022, but if he gets approaches his 2021 level, defenses will have their hands full (unless those defenses have an Abdul Carter, Curtis Jacobs, Kobe King, or Tony Rojas).

Finally, Kaleb Brown provides a spark to a receiving corps that is not particularly used to having speedsters on the outside. Brown posted a 10.84 in the 100-meter dash in high school, but failed to see significant playing time in the logjam that is the Ohio State receiving room. His potential as a deep threat has Hawkeye fans salivating.

Defensive Player to Watch: DB Cooper DeJean

Easy pick (ha, get it?) here with the Hawkeyes’ best defensive back. DeJean had a first-team All-Big Ten season in 2022 with 75 tackles and five interceptions in 13 games as a sophomore, including three defensive touchdowns. DeJean’s 6’1’’ frame allows him to match up with most top receivers when going for jump balls, and his athleticism is not to be ignored either.

Iowa Wins If:

This game is in Beaver Stadium, so the Hawkeyes will have to pressure Drew Allar, who will be making his fourth career start and second in primetime, and force him to make quick decisions with the ball. (Yes, I know this is basic good defense.) Iowa only wins if their defense forces Allar to throw multiple interceptions, and allow McNamara more opportunities to get the ball to All and Brown. It’s been a while since anyone has been able to say that Iowa has the potential to be a quick-strike offense, but Brown gives the Hawkeyes that dimension. Don’t forget about the backfield, as Kaleb Johnson returns after rushing for nearly 800 yards as a freshman.

Penn State Wins If:

Allar, Nicholas Singleton, and Kaytron Allen methodically matriculate the ball down the field and into the end zone. Throwing on the opposite side of DeJean will probably lead to a higher success rate as well. Defensively, the front seven will need to put pressure on McNamara and not allow him time to find his top targets downfield. Kalen King may be able to keep pace with Brown, but the remainder of the secondary and the linebacking corps will need to lock down Iowa’s other options.