#17 Iowa Football 2021 Preview

Iowa Hawkeyes
Overall Rank: #17
#4 Big Ten
 Iowa Logo
Following losses against Purdue and Northwestern to open the 2020 season, Iowa reeled off six wins in a row. And most of those victories were in impressive fashion. The Hawkeyes last two games were cancelled, a home date against Michigan and the Music City Bowl against Missouri. There are some holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but Coach Kirk Ferentz has the weapons he needs to compete for a Big Ten West title.
2020 Record: 6-2, 6-2
2020 Bowl: Music City Bowl vs. Missouri (Canceled)
Coach: Kirk Ferentz (168-106 at Iowa, 180-127 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Ferentz
Defensive Coordinator: Phil Parker
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tyler Goodson, RB, 656 yards
Passing: Spencer Petras, QB, 1,358 yards
Receiving: Sam LaPorta, TE, 260 yards
Tackles: Seth Benson, LB, 43
Sacks: Zach VanValkenburg, DL, 3.5
Interceptions: Jack Koerner, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: WR Nico Ragaini, OL Tyler Linderbaum, DB Riley Moss, DB Matt Hankins, DB Dane Belton
Key Losses: RB Mekhi Sargent, WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR Brandon Smith, OL Cole Banwart, OL Alaric Jackson, LB Nick Niemann, Daviyon Nixon, DL Chauncey Golston, DL Daviyon Nixon, K Keith Duncan
Tyler Goodson will be the workhorse of this offense. In 2020 he rushed for 656 yards and six touchdowns and he has the skill to be the best in the Big Ten. Ivory Kelly-Martin is the next most experienced running back, but the Hawkeyes will need to find some productive rushers to help out Goodson. The passing game should see a boost with Spencer Petras gaining more experience. He has a strong arm, but needs to be more accurate and consistent. And that may not be easy without Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith. Much of the pressure will fall to Nico Ragaini, but Iowa needs to find a big receiver who can stretch the field. Tight end Sam LaPorta will be a nice safety outlet and this is Iowa and they can rely very heavily on their tight ends if necessary.
Iowa traditionally plugs in new pieces on defense and everything works out quite well. However, after ranking eighth in the nation in total defense, the Hawkeyes will likely take a step back without three starters on the defensive line. Defensive end Zach VanValkenburg recorded 3.5 sacks and is back to lead the line after earning Second-Team All-Big Ten honors in 2020. Linebacker Seth Benson is the team’s top returning tackler with 43. The secondary returns the most experience, highlighted by safety Jack Koerner.
The Bottom Line:
The defense is not going to fall too far and the offense should be dynamic enough to make up for any drop in defensive output. There is no time to work out the kinks though with an opening day game against Indiana to start the season. That will be one of the toughest games on the schedule, but it is an October 30th trip to Wisconsin that could decide the winner of the Big Ten West.
Projected Bowl:  Outback Bowl
2020 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 171.0 (58th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 197.6 (97, 11)
Total Offense: 368.6 (87, 8)
Scoring Offense: 31.8 (40, 2)
Rushing Defense: 107.6 (10, 3)
Pass Defense: 206.1 (34, 5)
Total Defense: 313.8 (8, 2)
Scoring Defense: 16.0 (6, 2)
Turnover Margin: 1.12 (6, 2)
Sacks: 2.75 (31, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.38 (21, 3)