Iowa Most Overlooked B1G Team

Submitted by Space Coyote on May 31st, 2016 at 11:15 AM
This morning I wanted to drop a daily dose of HOT TAKE on Twitter and said that Iowa was being drastically overlooked by many. This has sparked some healthy debate.

I've found it odd that people talk about Michigan's easy schedule when they travel to three top 15 teams: MSU, OSU (write back to me when they have lost more than 1 regular season game and I'll drop them out of the top 15), and Iowa. They also likely get the 2nd best team in the west (Wisconsin, though their schedule is ridiculously tough until November). Interestingly, Iowa only plays UM of the UM, MSU, OSU trio.

This was met with some disagreement regarding Iowa, such that they may be ranked that high but aren't that good of a team (look at the advanced stats for proof). They had a huge positive turnover margin last year as well.

My take however is this. They return the best QB in the B1G, with only JT Barrett being close. Beathard is Davis's (Iowa OC) QB at Iowa (better than JR Rudock) and best QB he's had since McCoy when he was Texas's OC. The question there is whether Ferentz will allow the offense to open up enough to prove it.

While AIRBHG is still in effect, Iowa has as much depth at that position than anyone. They lose a big play WR in Smith but replace him with another big play WR named Smith. They have a couple good possession WRs to counter him. Cobble will be missed, but that likely just means less 12 personnel as Kittle is a fine replacement. The OL was weak on the left side last year, but Myer has moved to his more natural OG spot and while that may take away a bit in the run game, it should drastically help their protection (and while Mayer was good once latched, he struggled at times moving well enough in their stretch scheme anyway, so even then it's a positive).

They return a very good D. Johnson is one of the best DT in the B1G. Jewell is 1st team all B1G caliber. Niemann could be all conference as well. King is one of the nations best CB and Mabin is a very solid 2nd CB who gets tested a lot because of how good King is. Losing Meier and Fisher hurts, as does the hard hitting Lomax (who had some issues of his own in the open field), but they return a lot of talent on D.

And while advanced stats is a legit topic to bring up, Iowa only had two games in the regular season where they didn't hold a two score lead with less than 3 minutes to play: Pitt and Wisconsin. After that they let some teams stay in it but we're clearly the better team (this hurt their advanced stats, but not really their overall skill). Likewise, they are a turnover based D by scheme. They run a lot of variations of two-high safeties and keep their eyes on the QB. Turnovers aren't luck, that gets confused by many. Fumble recoveries have a strong element of luck, but FF and INTs not nearly as much. Likewise their O is very TO averse. So their positive TO margin is likely to remain more than you'd typically expect. That risk averse O also tends to hold down their offensive metrics because it's low YPP, again, we'll see if Ferentz trusts his senior QB more this year.

Lastly, despite going undefeated in the regular season last year (incredibly difficult regardless of schedule), their last two games are how they are remembered, likely because those are the only two games people watched of them. Well they took MSU down to the last minute despite featuring a game plan very similar to Michigan and OSU (that is not attacking deep often enough, likely for the same reason UM didn't try more, because their OL couldn't sustain pass pro against the MSU DL). Look at how OSU, UM, and MSU fared against common opponents and Iowa generally did just as well or better.

Lastly, there was Stanford, which rightly leaves a bad taste in many mouths. But no team forces the match up problem Stanford did for Iowa. That is, in general, the combination of an NFL QB with good mobility, a power run scheme to force them to remain in their base D, and a great matchup problem in McCaffery. Certainly, teams can find some success attacking by similar means, but no team has the ability to attack LBs in coverage and fundamentally alter what Iowa does on the backend like Stanford did in the Rose Bowl.

In conclusion, I think Iowa is a top 15 team this year. Traveling to Iowa should stop being left off the board of tough games and should be seen as right there with at MSU and at OSU.


Space Coyote

May 31st, 2016 at 11:31 AM ^

Didn't realize you had to manually put in the breaks on iPad. That was an angry wall of text that is now Howells not so angry.

On the plus side, it was the opposite of modern journalism. Rather than one sentence paragraphs, it was one all sentences paragraph!

Edit: but is it multiple paragraphs for others now?


May 31st, 2016 at 11:46 AM ^

Even better, I think their final ranking was #8 in both the AP and Coaches poll in all three of those years, which isn't so important as it is kind of amusing that it would end up being static like that. Polls are weird though. 

Yeah, I think you have to go back to the mid-1980s for the three-year run before 2002-2004 when Iowa was a 9-10 win team for a stretch. Before that, they don't exactly have a glowing history of football success, if I am not mistaken. 

Leaders And Best

May 31st, 2016 at 12:12 PM ^

I still maintain that Iowa was better than OSU in 2002. At that time, I don't think I had ever seen a team beat Michigan like that in Michigan Stadium (until Oregon in 2007). It was a shame that they missed each other that year and couldn't settle it on the field.

People forget that OSU won the BCS National Championship game in 2002, but they shared the Big Ten Championship with Iowa. OSU was extremely lucky on and off the field that year by missing Iowa on the schedule.


May 31st, 2016 at 12:28 PM ^

at the time and it was a shame that game didn't happen.  Have to admit that OSU played better than anyone thought they would in the Nat'l Championship game and Iowa got bombed by Carson Palmer (?) and an insane USC team in the Orange Bowl.  Bowls are weird like that, and I agree that Iowa probably would have beaten that OSU team 6 or 7 of 10 times, but in their respective bowls, Iowa fared a lot worse.


May 31st, 2016 at 12:31 PM ^

Iowa returned the opening KO for a TD ---- and then USC outscored them by 4 TDs the rest of the way.

I would take OSU in that hypothetical Iowa vs. OSU 2002 game.  OSU just simply knew how to win: they had that "intangible."  Iowa was a bit of the opposite: they were better than ISU and PSU, had big leads in each game, but blew the Cyclone game and damn near blew the Nittany Lion Game.

Leaders And Best

May 31st, 2016 at 1:00 PM ^

I think you could make an argument for either team. But there was no shame in losing to USC that year. USC may have been the most talented team in the country that year, and several computer rating systems had them #1 or #2. USC just played a much more difficult schedule than Miami (FL) & OSU--USC played 3 top #25 teams in their non-conference that year. That USC team would go on to win a share of the National Championship the following year.

Iowa had to play PSU and Michigan on the road. OSU had both of those games at home. The ISU game at home was a blemish, but that ISU team was pretty good. But if you are going to nitpick Iowa over PSU, OSU was losing in the 4th quarter to @Cincinnati (a virtual home game), @Wisconsin, PSU, @Purdue, @Illinois, and Michigan in 2002. They needed a miracle 4th down pass @Purdue, goal line stands against @Cincinnati and Michigan, and OT against Illinois. Most computer rankings have Iowa and OSU very close in the computer rankings.

03 Blue 07

May 31st, 2016 at 3:24 PM ^

OSU barely- and i mean BARELY- beat Michigan, and was played to a draw, more or less, in Ohio Stadium. If you take out that OPI on Braylon at the end of the first half that cost Michigan 4 points, OSU doesn't even win. 

Then there's 2002 Iowa. Iowa came into the Big House and absolutely kicked the crap out of Michigan. I'd never seen anything like it before in my lifetime at the Big House, and wouldn't again until the Oregon game in 2007. I believe the final score was something like 34-8, and Iowa completely dominated the Wolverines in a way no one had (at that point) since Tennessee in the Citrus Bowl in 2001. 

Methinks Iowa had a bit of a letdown against a (very, very good) USC team in the Orange Bowl. I think if Iowa had played OSU that year, in the horseshoe, Iowa wins. They were that good during the regular season. NFL talent all over that team, also. 


May 31st, 2016 at 11:24 AM ^

Iowa's lumpy results and struggles early in the season have always made it hard for me to pick them for anything. With that said, their schedules always seem to be as easy as they come, even despite having 9 B1G games in 2016.

Space Coyote

May 31st, 2016 at 11:30 AM ^

They have lost a ton of non conference games to clearly inferior coaches, especially Iowa St (who has a new coach that I like but still shouldn't have the talent in place). So that's a risk to Iowa's ranking, but not necessarily to how good of a team Michigan will be facing when they travel to Iowa City.


May 31st, 2016 at 11:29 AM ^

I don't know that people are "overlooking" Iowa so much as they are reacting to the notion floating around that Iowa seems to be on the same level as MSU and OSU have been the last few years.  I think if they played in the East division they're a 9-3 team at best.  I don't have a lot of in depth analysis about their team but I don't get the sense that their coaching and game planning is on the same level as Michigan/OSU/MSU, and their talent is not even close.  The seem to just be a solid team that should be favored in a crappy division.

Space Coyote

May 31st, 2016 at 11:33 AM ^

They almost beat MSU who beat both OSU and us in the road. They were just as good as any other team in the league last year and rerun more than MSU and OSU and on par with Michigan when you weigh the importance of QB. No the depth of talent may not be the same, but they are plenty talented on the field.

Space Coyote

May 31st, 2016 at 11:52 AM ^

They beat every other team essentially as bad or worse than any other team did. Yeah, a lot of teams almost beat MSU. They also kicked Maryland and Northwestern. They beat Indiana as much as anyone. They were up double digits to every team they faced with under 3 minutes to go save Wisconsin early and Pitt earlier. That's more than OSU, Michigan, and MSU can say. They absolutely would have hung with the OSU that played most of the season until Michigan and ND. Their record and scores are every bit as good and better than OSU last year, who had the most talent but couldn't manifest it into as good of a team.


May 31st, 2016 at 11:45 AM ^

I don't really think almost beating MSU last year is something to really hang your hat on. In my opinion, MSU was the third best team in the East last year and were aided by a miracle at Michigan and crappy weather and a bad game plan at OSU. Getting stomped by Alabama kind of brought light to the fact that they got a lot of breaks during the regular season.

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Space Coyote

May 31st, 2016 at 11:54 AM ^

I'm just stating that they were in a very similar situation as the other best teams that played MSU, and they didn't have a ho,e field. Along with the other results, it kind of shows they were right there with the other top B1G teams, but because they were in the East people generally ignore it.

Space Coyote

May 31st, 2016 at 11:56 AM ^

MSU also dominated them up front. They also didn't have Cook playing. They were still beat up with injuries. We can sit here and say they were charmed last year and I'm. It disagreeing, but at the end of the day they won those games, just like Iowa. And that's what counts. Iowa played every opponent they faced essentially as well or better than any other B1G team.

Space Coyote

May 31st, 2016 at 11:38 AM ^

That said, Stanford was aided by a pick 6 and PR TD. At the end of the day, they blew them out in the 1st half and Iowa actually won the 2nd (yes, with the game essentially wrapped up, so caveat applies). Stanford still only managed about 430 yards offense which is solid but not spectacular. They were 3 for 10 on 3rd downs.

Iowa had a bad game plan on O and got destroyed up front. But that doesn't necessarily carry over to other games.


May 31st, 2016 at 11:35 AM ^

Agree.  @MSU is the easy game.  @Iowa, and by the end of the season @OSU are the 2 hardest games.

If playing @OSU was early in the season, i would think we win hands down.  But end of season all that talent will more than likely jell.  But @Iowa may still be a tougher game.

We lose 1 of thos 2 games - not sure what one yet.  


May 31st, 2016 at 11:45 AM ^

Staffs never take a game easy.  Harbaugh will take this game as serious as any game on teh schedule - maybe more after last years debacle.

But Michigan wins this comfortably by double digits.  MSU does NOT have the horses to match us this year (or the coaches).

Michigan wins this by 20, plus or minus 10.  Guaranteed.  Heard it here first :)


May 31st, 2016 at 2:44 PM ^

I have watched the games the last decade. Those mean zero going into next year. The only thing that matters is what is coming back from last year and the now changed coaching situation at Michigan. That is really the only thing about the past that matters next year. So unless they get a lucky on a bunch of once in a lifetime plays, then we are going to beat the shit out of them


May 31st, 2016 at 12:36 PM ^

"MSU does NOT have the horses to match us this year (or the coaches)."


MSU has kicked our asses all over the field for most of the last decade. Sure, they lose a lot, but Dantonio has shown that he can reload when most people don't expect him too. I hope we win, and I think we have a really good chance to, but I'm not sure how you can assume this will be an easy game.

Also, re: MSU coaching, while I won't say I like their staff more than ours, they have proven themselves to be one of the best in CFB with what they've been able to do at State. I think we have an edge in coaching, but it's not as big of one as you think.


May 31st, 2016 at 2:22 PM ^

You clearly have your head stuck in the 1980s if you think that. 


Even in some years when MSU was bad and Michigan was good, that game gave us trouble when it was held in East Lansing. 


Our last two trips to East Lansing have been horror shows. I'm optimistic we will win this year, but this is the biggest must-win game in my opinion, and even if we are much better than MSU this year (likely), this will not be easy and they still could win. 


May 31st, 2016 at 11:36 AM ^

Iowa was #105 in the country in turnover margin two years ago. Turnovers aren't random, but they ARE astonishingly high-variance, and Iowa got lucky as hell in that regard. 


May 31st, 2016 at 11:38 AM ^

I do think Iowa is going to surprise people that seem to expect them to go 6-6 this year just because "Iowa is never good two years in a row."
They have too much coming back and the schedule is agreeable.

That said, they weren't as good last year as their record indicated, and that is likely to catch up to them at least a little bit this year. I'd be surprised by anything over 10 in the regular season this time around.


May 31st, 2016 at 11:50 AM ^

Night game in prime time on the road. It will be a test. The time to catch Iowa is early in the season when they struggle to beat FCS and MAC schools or Iowa St.

2012 Iowa 18 No. Ill 17; Iowa 6 Iowa St 9; Iowa 27 No. Iowa 16; Iowa 31 CMU 32

2013 Iowa 27 No. Ill 30; Iowa 28 Mo. St. 14; Iowa 27 Iowa St 21; Iowa 59 CMU 3

2014 Iowa 31 No. Iowa 23; Iowa 17 Ball St 13; Iowa 17 Iowa St 20; Iowa 24 Pitt 20

Leaders And Best

May 31st, 2016 at 11:55 AM ^

Iowa returns a lot of starters to a Big Ten conference that will probably be down compared to last year. Iowa avoids OSU & MSU again, and they have Michigan, Wisconsin, & Nebraska at home. I don't think they repeat a  season like last year again, but I do think they will field a top-25 caliber team. I think the floor for their season is 8-4 and could be better if they catch a bunch of turnover luck again this year.


May 31st, 2016 at 12:58 PM ^

The Iowa game is likely meaningless for us in terms of division title and by extension Nat'l champtionship race.  It's like MSU's Nebraska last year.  We HAVE to win the division so we pretty much have to beat MSU and OSU.  Do that, and win the B1G title game and an Iowa regular season loss wouldn't keep us out of the Playoff.  If we're undefeated going into that Iowa game, and OSU is still undefeated in B1G play, I'd rather we spend half the week preparing for OSU.


May 31st, 2016 at 2:03 PM ^

of course --- if Michigan loses a game prior to Iowa (say, Wisconsin): THEN the Iowa game is absolutely meaningful as regards the East Division race.

But if Michigan is 8-1 with the only loss to Iowa, U-M is 100% Division champions and going to Indianapolis.

Admittedly, a 1-loss B1G Champion could get left out of the 4-team playoff: Iowa would matter in that scenario too.  One will get a better sense of that national landscape come mid-November.


May 31st, 2016 at 3:37 PM ^

A 1 loss Big Ten Champ would not be automatically in over a 1 loss PAC 12 team. If Stanford had one loss last year, I guarantee that they would have been in over MSU (although MSU still probably would have been over Oklahoma). 

I think we'd get in over a 1 loss ACC team, mostly because there's nobody besides Clemson and FSU. However, if a Clemson or FSU had a non-conference loss but then beat the other team and a strong Notre Dame, they'd have a shot in over us. 

Big 12 just kills themselves without a nonconference game.

However, not impossible; we actually could see that scenario play out this year. Say the SEC gets 1 spot, and both the ACC and PAC12 are undefeated. Then, the 1 loss Big 12 champion (say, Oklahoma) beat the team that the 1 loss Big Ten Champion (say, Michigan) lost to (team in question would be Ohio State). I think that would put OU ahead of us. 

Most of this isn't common, but we shouldn't think that our conference will give us immunity with 1 loss. The only conference that can think that for now is the SEC. 


May 31st, 2016 at 4:10 PM ^

While I agree that you can't say a one-loss B1G champ wouldn't EVER get left out, it'd be highly unlikley.  Like you mentioned, MSU was the 3 seed last year.  If Stanford had only one loss, they'd have made it over OU, not MSU.  Besides, I'm not sure why that'd be considered.  The reason a 1-loss B1G team getting left out is so unlikely is that it's highly unlikley ALL four Power 5 conference champs (or ND) have a better resume. You can play the whatif game to get there, it's just unlikely that it actually happens.

And in the scenario that we're talking about here involving an Iowa loss, it'd be especially unlikely. If we are a one-loss B1G champ with our one loss coming to Iowa on the road, our likely opponent in the championship game would have been Iowa (since we'd have beaten Wisc and Iowa gets Wisc and Neb at home).  If we avenged our one road loss with a neutral site win over the same team, we were better than everyone on our schedule, and we wouldn't be left out.


May 31st, 2016 at 5:04 PM ^

Eh, I think it would have pushed MSU down to a #4 seed. 


1 loss Oregon was ranked higher than 1 loss Ohio State in 2014. 


The original poster said that we could only be left out if all 3 of the PAC 12, ACC, and Big 12 were undefeated. My point is we (as a conference) could be left out if only 2, or potentially 1 of those 3 conferences is undefeated.

If TCU or Baylor hadn't lost in 2014 a 1 loss Ohio State would've been excluded even though there was also a 1 loss PAC 12 school. The problem is that unless the SEC champion has 2 losses, they will always be in over a 1 loss Big Ten Champion.