Why the Iowa Hawkeyes won't take the Big Ten
There are currently two undefeated teams from a Power 5 conference that were unranked in every preseason poll. Only one of those teams — Iowa — didn’t even receive a single vote in the preseason polling. At 9-0, to say that they’ve been a surprise this season is an understatement. But just because they are 9-0 doesn’t automatically make them an elite team.
Iowa has gotten to this point in the season because they have no glaring weaknesses. There isn’t a single starter on offense that has graded negatively this season and only one starter on defense — defensive tackle Nathan Bazata — has graded negatively, albeit barely.
Going over their roster however, the Hawkeyes don’t possess any top-tier talent like other undefeated teams in college football. Namely, talent at the skill positions on offense. Their highest-graded skill position player is quarterback C.J. Beathard, who ranks 20th among Power-5 quarterbacks. The Hawkeyes’ running backs have benefited greatly from a strong offensive line. Akrum Wadley, Jordan Canzeri, and LeShun Daniels Jr. rank 79th, 85th, and 87th respectively in elusive rating out of 96 Power-5 running backs. Their highest-graded wide receiver, Matt VandeBerg, is the 37th highest graded wide out in the Power 5.
As I mentioned earlier, there is talent on the offensive line. Center Austin Blythe, guard Sean Welsh, and tight end George Kittle all grade out in the top five of their respective positions for run blocking. But this is where the competition comes into play. Their strength of schedule currently ranks 62nd in the country and they’ve only played one other team currently in the top 25 (Northwestern). They manage to avoid having to play Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan — the top three teams in the Big Ten East ]. Against Wisconsin, the best defensive front they faced this season, they graded out negatively overall in run blocking and were held to only 10 points.
If Iowa does manage to complete their next three games against Minnesota, Purdue, and Nebraska in a fashion that finds them in the Big Ten Championship game, they’ll be facing a defense equally as stout as Wisconsin. If that’s the case, I don’t see the Hawkeyes’ offense being dynamic enough to compete.