The 2022 Iowa football season ended up being a slight disappointment, but armed with a new quarterback, what’s possible for the Hawkeyes in 2023?
Things could have gone very differently for the Iowa football team during the 2022 season if the Hawkeyes only had an offense and a quarterback that could be productive.
Iowa football was spectacular on defense, allowing just 13.3 points per game, which ranked second in all of college football. The Hawkeyes also took the ball away 1.8 times per game and scored a bunch of points on defense through touchdowns and safeties.
But just imagine what Iowa could do with a consistent quarterback.
That was obviously on the mind of head coach Kirk Ferentz. Many Iowa football fans wanted the head coach to fire his son, Brian, as the offensive coordinator, but that didn’t happen. His contract did get reworked and he has certain scoring incentives to meet, but the biggest change will be at quarterback with Cade McNamara coming over from Michigan.
McNamara actually led the Wolverines past Iowa football for the Big Ten championship in 2021. He got injured last season and was beaten out by J.J. McCarthy. For Iowa, his transfer could be a godsend. McNamara isn’t dynamic but he’s really solid and exactly what Iowa needs.
One area where McNamara was elite at Michigan was taking care of the football. He rarely threw interceptions and found a way to score points. It wasn’t always touchdowns but after Iowa scored just 17.7 points per game, any kind of points on a drive are a good thing.
Phil Parker is one of the best defensive minds in college football and you know the Hawkeyes will be stellar on that side of the ball again. However, the Hawkeyes did lose about half of their starters including Jack Campbell.
Cooper DeJean will be back for Iowa, which is a good thing since he scored three touchdowns on defense to go along with five interceptions and eight pass breakups. Iowa also returns talented pass rushers Deontae Craig and Joe Evans, who combined for 13 sacks last season.
The offensive line didn’t suffer much attrition but that group wasn’t all that great a season ago. Internal development will be key but Iowa got great production last season from Kaleb Johnson, who is heading into his sophomore season as the projected starter at running back after rushing for 779 yards and scoring six touchdowns on a 5.2 yards per carry average.
Add talented tight end Erick All from Michigan in the transfer portal and the offense feels like it could actually be OK. All probably would have been a day-two pick had he entered the 2022 NFL draft but got hurt last season and didn’t play much for the Wolverines.
All and McNamara have a great connection though and that should help with the transition. The bottom line is that if Iowa can average more than 20 points per game, it’s probably going to win 8-9 games again, as it did last season.
What’s realistic for Iowa football in 2023?
The realistic expectation is to win the Big Ten West. Purdue and Wisconsin have new head coaches and Illinois has a new quarterback. The fighting Illini also has to replace their star running back as does Minnesota.
Nebraska also has a first-year head coach. None of those teams can be taken for granted but the Big Ten West is right there for the taking.
If Iowa can get some consistent production at quarterback and if the offense is just average (not among the worst in Power-5 college football) this team can be playing on championship weekend.
The schedule isn’t overly difficult. Iowa does have to travel to Penn State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska at the end of the season. However, if they can win one or two of those games and hold serve in league play at home, it should be enough to get back to Indy.
Anything beyond that is gravy for Iowa since the Hawkeyes haven’t won an outright Big Ten championship since 1985. Their last co-title was back in 2004.