From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about checking in on Ohio State’s opponents. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”Behind Enemy Lines” articles here.
We are getting closer and ever so closer to the dawn of another college football season. Big Ten media days are rapidly approaching (July 26 and July 27 in Indianapolis), and the next thing fans will get to look forward to is the official start of fall camp in August.
It is against that backdrop that I decided to look at a long-time Big Ten rival of Ohio State’s, the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Iowa Hawkeyes are not on Ohio State’s 2023 regular season schedule, but I believe that Iowa is well-positioned to win the 2023 Big Ten West Division this upcoming season.
Below are three specific reasons why I believe Iowa will be the Big Ten West representative in Indianapolis on Dec. 2. Here’s to hoping that Ohio State will be their opponent on that date...
- Favorable Big Ten East Opponent Draw
Looking at Iowa’s schedule, the Hawkeyes’ most challenging Big Ten East opponent comes early in the season, when Iowa travels to Penn State for a night game on Sept. 23. Compared to other Big Ten West rivals, such as Minnesota, which gets both Michigan (Oct. 7) and at Ohio State (Nov. 18), or Wisconsin, which hosts Ohio State Oct. 28, this match-up seems challenging, but not impossible, for Iowa to possibly pull off the upset. Speaking of Wisconsin...
2. Wisconsin Is In For A (Probable) Transitional Year
If you have not yet read Josh Dooley’s strong piece about Wisconsin, please do so. As much as I respect Luke Fickell, and I believe that he will help restore Wisconsin’s traditionally strong program, I believe this year is going to be more challenging than people have anticipated. Remember when Michigan went to the spread under Rich Rodriguez, back in 2008? By no means do I believe that Wisconsin will have that bad of a season, but I think you get my point.
Bringing in Phil Longo, an Air Raid disciple, as the offensive coordinator is going to be an adjustment. The massive offensive linemen that were recruited for a power running scheme under former head coach Paul Chryst will take time to get used to pass blocking, and there may be more than a few bumpy patches offensively as the Badgers try to get used to the wide open offensive scheme being implemented. Wisconsin hosts Iowa on Oct. 14, and it will be a possible elimination game in the Big Ten West Division race.
3. Iowa’s Offense Has To Improve... Right?
Last season, Iowa’s offense was... Well, it was offensive.
How bad was it? Iowa ranked last in the Big Ten in total offense, with 251.6 yards per game. Adding insult to injury, the Hawkeyes ranked 12th in the Big Ten in scoring, with 17.7 points per game, ranked last in the Big Ten in rushing, with 94.9 yards per game, and 13th in the Big Ten in passing, with 156.7 yards per game.
Compared and contrast that with Ohio State, as the Buckeyes led the Big Ten in total offense, with 492.7 yards per game, first in scoring with 44.5 points per game, third in rushing with 198.5 yards per game, and first in passing, with 294.2 yards per game. Oof.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz recognized the problem, and did not try to sugarcoat the woeful Iowa offense...
“The bottom line is the offense is about moving the ball consistently, scoring enough points to win, and the numbers bear out that it wasn’t good enough. And the other part about that is we’re well aware of that and we own it. Nobody is running from that by any stretch of the imagination. The whole idea right now is to move forward and fix it. That’s where our thoughts are.” ~ Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz
Iowa welcomed in transfers in quarterback Cade McNamara and tight end Erick All, both from Michigan, as well as wide receiver Kaleb Brown from Ohio State this offseason. All should be starting for Iowa this season. With all five starters returning on the offensive line, and a stern directive from Iowa athletic director Gary Barta for necessary improvement by Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, the Hawkeyes should have just enough to claim the Big Ten West Division in its final iteration.