#20 Iowa Football 2016 Preview

Iowa Hawkeyes
Overall Rank: #20
#4 Big Ten
Iowa is coming off of an amazing 2015 season. Sure they avoided Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan from the Big Ten East, but the Hawkeyes still reeled off 12 wins in a row to start the year. A perfect regular season is a not bad year no matter what happens after that. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, they missed out on a chance to play for the national championship after losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. Settling for the Rose Bowl is not really settling at all, but Iowa was absolutely crushed by Stanford.
2015 Record: 12-2, 8-0
2015 Bowl: Rose Bowl vs. Stanford (L 16-45)
Coach: Kirk Ferentz (127-87 at Iowa, 139-108 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Greg Davis
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Parker
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: LeShun Daniels, RB, 646 yards
Passing: CJ Bearthard, QB, 2,809 yards
Receiving: Matt VandeBerg, WR, 703 yards
Tackles: Josey Jewell, LB, 126
Sacks: Ben Niemann, LB, 4.0; Jaleel Johnson, DT, 4.0
Interceptions: Desmond King, CB, 8
Other Key Returnees: RB Akrum Wadley, TE George Kittle, S Miles Taylor, DB Greg Mabin, DE Parker Hesse, DT Nathan Bazata
Key Losses: RB Jordan Canzari, WR Tevaun Smith, TE Henry Krieger-Coble, OL Austin Blythe, OL Jordan Walsh, DE Drew Ott, DE Nate Meier, LB Cole Fisher, S Jordan Lomax
Expect better things from the offense this year behind quarterback C.J. Beathard. Beathard is a smart, consistent quarterback who completed 61.6 percent of his passes last season for 2,809 yards and 17 touchdowns. And he threw just five interceptions. On a team that is not going to fling the ball all over the place, Beathard did exactly what Coach Kirk Ferentz needed him to do. It will be tough expectations to live up to, but Beathard should at least be steady, if not occasionally explosive. With the return of Matt Vandeberg and tight end George Kittle, Beathard has some good targets to work with. Keep an eye out for sophomore receiver Jerminic Smith, who could turn into a very good receiver after seeing limited action last year. The ground game is in great shape too with LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley returning. Daniels should be the workhorse back who can grind out yards, while Wadley is the more dynamic playmaker who can go for a touchdown every time he touches the ball. Between the two of them last year, they rushed for 1,142 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The defense was solid last season and should be again this year. The secondary was inconsistent at times, but cornerback Desmond King is one of the best in the conference after picking off eight passes and breaking up 13 more. Greg Mabin is another experienced senior corner. Miles Taylor is ready to step into a bigger role at strong safety after a very promising sophomore season. At linebacker, Josey Jewell is the leader of the unit. He recorded 126 tackles and intercepted four passes. This is a team that may give up some more big plays in the passing game, but they create plenty of big plays of their own. In order for those big plays to keep happening and for Iowa to have another impressive turnover margin, the front four needs to get to the quarterback. This was not a particularly good pass rushing team last year and now Drew Ott and Nate Meier are gone. Ott recorded 5.0 sacks in just six games and Meier led the team with 6.5 sacks. Sophomores Parker Hesse and Matt Nelson will have to lead the pass rush this season.
The Bottom Line:
The schedule is a little tougher this year with Penn State and Michigan crossing over from the East, along with Rutgers. However, both Wisconsin and Nebraska, the presumed favorites along with the Hawkeyes in the West, have to come to Iowa City. This will not be a 12-0 season, but Iowa has the schedule and the talent to make it back to the Big Ten title game.
Projected Bowl: Citrus Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 181.7 (49th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 204.4 (89, 11)
Total Offense: 386.1 (72, 5)
Scoring Offense: 30.9 (54, 5)
Rushing Defense: 121.4 (15, 4)
Pass Defense: 219.6 (60, 8)
Total Defense: 341.0 (22, 6)
Scoring Defense: 20.4 (19, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.79 (11, 2)
Sacks: 2.14 (63, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 2.14 (67, 11)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#5 Desmond King