The Iowa Hawkeyes have been one of the more formidable teams in the Big Ten for years, usually finishing either second or third in the West. After 47 victories in five years, seasoned head coach Kirk Ferentz will look to compete at a high level once again.
The departure of quarterback Nate Stanley leaves a glaring hole on offense. The three-year starter took a small step back last year in production, but he remains second all-time in passing yards (8,302) and touchdowns (68) for the Hawkeyes.
While Stanley was not a game-changer by any means, he was a great fit for the old-school ground and pound style that Iowa is known for. Realistically, the Hawkeyes do not need a lot out of their quarterback. For them, consistency is the name of the game.
Spencer Petras, Stanley’s backup in 2019, and highly-acclaimed incoming freshman Deuce Hogan, a three-star recruit, will battle for the starting QB spot. In the context of this season, it seems more likely that Petras will be the starter this weekend, simply because Hogan will not have had a ton of time to prove himself.
Whoever ends up being the starter will benefit from a promising young running back, a deep group of receivers, and an offensive line that only lost one starter (Tristan Wirfs).
In the passing game, the Hawkeyes’ new signal-caller will look early and often towards Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith, who combined for 1,161 yards and ten touchdowns; Sam LaPorta will likely have an increased role in his sophomore season.
Iowa has been known as a tight-end factory in the past few years, and LaPorta showed flashes in his limited capacity last year. In the run game, Tyler Goodson is a promising young player who had 804 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in his freshman year. He will return this year as the team’s feature-back once again.
Defensively, the Iowa Hawkeyes will look to replace a total of six starters. With the departure of AJ Epenesa to the NFL, the team will look to Chauncey Golston to make up some of that production. Golston was the other starter at defensive end in 2019 and registered 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks on the year. At defensive tackle, Daviyon Nixon will take on a more prominent role on the inside as well.
The secondary is also a wildcard. The Hawkeyes will rely on senior corner Matt Hankins and junior safeties Jack Koerner and Kaevon Merriweather. While Merriweather is relatively unproven up to this point, he was named the starter in last year’s season opener before being sidelined due to a foot injury. It is unclear who will fill the other vacancies (Iowa often runs five defensive-back sets), but junior Riley Moss and sophomore Dane Belton will likely fill those roles.
Overall, Iowa is poised to continue its consistency in 2020, even with a conference-only schedule. Look for the Hawkeyes to be one of the top teams in the Big Ten once again.
2020 season record prediction: 5-3
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