Just how good are the undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes?

With a criticized schedule and a lack of star power, the Hawkeyes have underestimated -- but they've proven their strength through 12 weeks of play.

| 11 months ago
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Just how good are the undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes?

The undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes are vying for a ticket to the College Football Playoffs. With a Big Ten West title clinched and a spot in the championship game in two weeks, Iowa is just two more wins away from forcing everyone to pay attention to the team no one seems to want to talk about.

The 11-0 Hawkeyes have mostly been ignored due to a perceived weak schedule, but a completely different story takes shape if you look a bit closer. Three of their wins are over quality opponents who have lost to some of the top teams in the nation.

— The 8-3 Pitt Panthers have losses against teams with a combined 32-2 record (Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Iowa).

— The 8-3 Wisconsin Badgers have losses against teams with a combined 30-3 record (Alabama, Northwestern, and Iowa).

-The 9-2 Northwestern Wildcats have losses against teams with a combined 20-2 record (Michigan and Iowa).

So contrary to what you might be hearing, Iowa is battle-tested, well coached, and dangerous. The fact they haven’t played Ohio State, Michigan State, or Michigan is irrelevant at this point. Besides, they’ll face one of those Big Ten schools in two weeks anyway, which should be all the final proof anyone would need in order to legitimize their stake.

Iowa doesn’t have that “wow” spread factor on offense, as they run more of a traditional pro-style attack. They run the ball well thanks to a trio of solid backs in Jordan Canzeri (+1.8), LeShun Daniels Jr. (+2.4), and Akrum Wadley (+2.5). All three run behind an offensive line that grades positively in run blocking and as a team (+53.9).

Lead by the third-ranked center for PFF, Austin Blythe (+24.0) and the fourth-ranked guard, Sean Welsh (+20.2), the line provides room to work as the team averages 2.92 yards per carry before contact. Even QB C.J. Beathard has an effective run grade (+6.4) which includes 11 MTs on 78 carries and six TDs.

As a passer, Beathard has a strong, accurate arm and most importantly, he doesn’t turn the ball over. At +18.5, Beathard ranks 26th for PFF, just ahead of USC QB Cody Kessler and just behind Stanford QB Kevin Hogan.

While Beathard is pretty solid in most categories — 41.3 deep passing accuracy percentage (28th), 71.3 accuracy percentage (36th), 55.7 accuracy under pressure (38th) — his biggest strengths are his solid decision making and under-rated mobility.

The defense meanwhile has been a strong suit for the Hawkeyes (25th-ranked PFF defense overall) giving up just 18.5 points a game which is good for 17th in the nation.

The line is led by DT Jaleel Johnson (+16.8) and DE Nate Meier (+15.7). Both bring above-average consistency (Meier has eight games ranging from +1.1 to +3.3) and play sound gap defense.

The Hawkeyes are not a team to be taken lightly. While they have caught a break by avoiding the powers of the Big Ten East, they should not have to apologize for beating every team on their schedule to date. Iowa might not have superstar talent, but as a team, they are deserving of superstar status and a current spot in the final four.

| Analyst

John is an analyst for Pro Football Focus and former safety for the University of Kansas Jayhawks (2004–2006).

  • crosseyedlemon

    If I were the QB for Iowa my uniform would read DO NOT BEATHARD SPINDLE FOLD OR MUTILATE.