#28 Iowa Football 2019 Preview

Iowa Hawkeyes
Overall Rank: #28
#8 Big Ten
 Iowa Logo
Iowa had another mediocre season, at least by their standards, in 2018. Other than that 2015 Rose Bowl season, it seems like the Hawkeyes are always competing for a West Division title, but end up finishing a game or two behind. That was the case again in 2018. However, this time they head into the next season with a little momentum after picking up a nice 27-22 victory over Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl.
2018 Record: 9-4, 5-4
2018 Bowl: Outback Bowl vs. Mississippi State (W 27-22)
Coach: Kirk Ferentz (152-101 at Iowa, 152-101 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Ferentz
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Parker
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Mekhi Sargent, RB, 745 yards
Passing: Nate Stanley, QB, 2,852 yards
Receiving: Brandon Smith, WR, 361 yards; Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, 361 yards
Tackles: Djimon Colbert, LB, 52
Sacks: AJ Epensa, DE, 10.5
Interceptions: Geno Stone, S, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Toren Young, RB Ivory Kelly-Martin, OL Alaric Jackson, LB Kristian Welch, CB Matt Hankins, CB Michael Ojemudia
Key Losses: TE TJ Hockenson, TE Noah Fant, WR Nick Easley, OL Ross Reynolds, OL Keegan Render, DE Anthony Nelson, LB Jack Hockaday, LB Amani Hooker, S Jake Gervase, DE Parker Hesse
The offense has a steady, experienced quarterback in Nate Stanley. He may not be all that exciting, but he does what an Iowa quarterback needs to do. Last season Stanley completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 2,052 yards and 26 touchdowns with ten interceptions. This year he will need to find some new pass catchers with tight ends TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant and wide receiver Nick Easley gone. Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette have talent and now it is time for them to show it. Nate Wieting and Shaun Beyer will get the catches from the tight end position, but they will not be Hockenson and Fant. The ground game was quite disappointing last season. This is an Iowa team that always has a solid offensive line and the running backs need to do more. The good news is Mekhi Sargent, Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin are all juniors now and should see a boost in production.
The Iowa defense was excellent in 2018. Now the front seven needs to reload. Most of the starters may be gone, but at least there is experience coming back. AJ Epensa is one of the best pass rushers in the Big Ten and tallied 10.5 sacks in 2018. That is not a bad place to start. With seniors Cedrick Lattimore and Brady Reiff manning the middle of the line and Chauncey Golston primed for a big season on the other end while the opposition worries about Epensa, the Iowa front four should be productive. The story is the same at linebacker. Some major contributors may be gone, but there is an experienced group with Djimon Colbert, Nick Niemann and Kristian Welch. Matt Hankins and Michael Ojemudia return to their starting cornerback spots and Geno Stone returns to free safety. The key will be finding a way to replace the production and versatility of Amani Hooker. Redshirt freshman D.J. Johnson is an interesting option to keep an eye on at that position.
The Bottom Line:
This should be a very good Iowa team, but the Big Ten West has quite a few potentially very good teams. And the Hawkeyes problem is that they have to play them all on the road. Trips to Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska seem a bit unfair. Their other conference road game is a crossover contest at Michigan. That tough schedule could keep Iowa down a game or two in the West standingsā€¦again.
Projected Bowl: Quick Lane Bowl
2018 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 148.4 (94th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 226.6 (71, 6)
Total Offense: 375.0 (91, 10)
Scoring Offense: 31.2 (43, 4)
Rushing Defense: 109.5 (12, 2)
Pass Defense: 184.1 (17, 3)
Total Defense: 293.6 (7, 2)
Scoring Defense: 17.8 (11, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.69 (16, 2)
Sacks: 2.69 (27, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.23 (14, 1)
Madness 2020 NFL Draft Rankings:
#7 A.J. Epensa
#25 Alaric Jackson
#53 Tristan Wirfs
Madness 2019 Recruit Rankings: