#22 Iowa Football 2020 Preview

Iowa Hawkeyes
Overall Rank: #22
#6 Big Ten
Iowa Logo 
Iowa has been an extremely efficient and consistent program during Coach Kirk Ferentz’s 22 years leading the program. Since 2001 the Hawkeyes have only missed out on a bowl game twice. And one of those times they were 6-6. Last season went very well too. Iowa’s three losses came at Michigan by seven, against Penn State by five and at Wisconsin by two. This group was very close to a special season.
2019 Record: 10-3, 6-3
2019 Bowl: Holiday Bowl vs. USC (W 49-24)
Coach: Kirk Ferentz (162-104 at Iowa, 174-125 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Ferentz
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Parker
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tyler Goodson, RB, 638 yards
Passing: Spencer Petras, QB, 25 yards
Receiving: Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, 722 yards
Tackles: Jack Koerner, DB, 81
Sacks: Joe Evans, DE, 4.0
Interceptions: Matt Hankins, DB, 2; Riley Moss, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Mekhi Sargent, WR Tyrone Tracy, WR Brandon Smith, WR Nico Ragaini, TE Sam LaPorta, OL Alaric Jackson, OL Tyler Linderbaum, DL Chauncey Golston, LB Djimon Colbert, K Keith Duncan
Key Losses: RB Toren Young, QB Nate Stanley, OL Tristan Wirfs, LB Kristian Welch, DE A.J. Epenesa, DB Michael Ojemudia, DB Geno Stone, DL Cedric Lattimore
The big name lost on offense is quarterback Nate Stanley. He was a relatively steady signal caller who threw for 2,951 yards and 16 touchdowns during his senior season. The Hawkeyes do not need a dynamic playmaker at quarterback so Stanley fit the bill and did what he needed to do. Spencer Petras is next in line after backing up Stanley during his freshman campaign in 2019. Petras only threw ten passes, but he is a talented quarterback who will have a great group of receivers to work with. Ihmir Smith-Marsette led the way with 44 catches for 722 yards and five touchdowns last season. Brandon Smith missed a few games but still caught 37 passes for 439 yards and five scores. Tyrone Tracy had a huge freshman campaign and Nico Ragaini proved to be a capable slot receiver. And, of course, this is Iowa so tight ends will play a part in the offense too. Sam LaPorta and Shaun Beyer have the talent to be involved in the offense, but with so many talented receivers back, the tight ends may have to take a back seat in the passing game again in 2020. The ground game is in good hands with Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent. Those two combined for 1,201 yards and nine touchdowns.
The defense has some big holes to fill, but by the numbers this should still be one of the better units in the Big Ten. The defensive front will miss second round draft pick A.J. Espenesa, who easily led the team with 11.5 sacks. Joe Evans and Chauncey Golston will look to be the next Espenesa. Linebacker Djimon Colbert tallied 61 tackles as a sophomore and will be asked to emerge as a leader on the field now that he is an upperclassman. Senior Nick Niemann has been a part-time starter for the last two seasons and certainly has the experience to have a big senior season. The secondary must replace NFL draft picks Michael Ojemudia and Geno Stone. Kaevon Merriweather figures to join top returning tackler Jack Koerner at safety after missing much of last season with an injury. Matt Hankins, Riley Moss and D.J. Johnson are a solid group of cornerbacks.
The Bottom Line:
From top to bottom this is a solid Iowa team. As usual they should be able to beat who they should beat and give the top teams in the Big Ten a run for their money on any given day. The biggest concern could be the pass rush. Espenesa was a big time playmaker and it remains to be seen if anybody else can fill that void. If they do, expect the Hawkeyes to stay right in the mix for the Big Ten West title.
Projected Bowl: Music City Bowl
2019 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 137.6 (97th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 228.9 (68, 7)
Total Offense: 366.5 (99, 10)
Scoring Offense: 25.8 (88, 10)
Rushing Defense: 112.5 (14, 4)
Pass Defense: 195.7 (19, 5)
Total Defense: 308.2 (12, 5)
Scoring Defense: 14.0 (5, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.69 (14, 2)
Sacks: 2.54 (37, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.77 (44, 3)
Madness 2020 NFL Draft Rankings:
#69 Alaric Jackson