AN EARLY LOOK AT IOWA FOOTBALL'S 2014 OPPONENTS: OFFENSE PART II

Jonathan Daniel

By now, you've looked at Iowa Football's 2014 schedule. But let's look at it a little closer.

NORTHWESTERN (5-7)

2013 TOTAL OFFENSE RANK: #73

2013 SCORING OFFENSE RANK: #83

2013 PASSING OFFENSE RANK: #69

2013 RUSHING OFFENSE RANK: #62

2013 FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS EFFICIENCY RANK: #67

2013 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANK: #45 (Sagarin)

2013 OFFENSIVE STATS:

NORTHWESTERN (12 Games)


RUSH OFFENSE 507 att 2069 yds 4.08 yds/att 16 Td 7 fum 172.4 yds/game
PASS OFFENSE 241 comp 382 att 2726 yds 15 Td 13 Int 227.2 yds/game
TOTAL OFFENSE 889 plays 4795 yds 5.39 yds/play 31 Tds 20 to 399.6 yds/game

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS. Northwestern plays at the second fastest pace in the Big Ten. Their 77.8 plays per game is just behind Indiana. The Wildcats averaged 84.7 plays per game in their last three including a whopping 97 total plays in their season finale with Illinois. They are a run first team (57/43 split) unless they are forced to rely on the pass.

Last season, Northwestern was limited to 25, 26 and 26 rushing attempts in losses to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan State. The Cats rushed the ball 52 times in their overtime loss to Iowa but only put 10 points on the board.

KEY LOSES/RETURNING STARTERS. The biggest loss is quarterback Kain Colter. He was their second option in the running game and rushed 115 times last season for 489 yards. As a passer, Colter attempted only 82 passes but completed 64 of them for 583 yards and four touchdowns. The Wildcats also lose running back Mike Trumpy (97-370) and wide receiver Rashad Lawrence (31-463). The entire offensive line returns.

Northwestern gets Venrick Mark back into the mix. He was granted an additional year after missing most of last season to injury. Mark rushed for 1,366 yards (6.04 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns in 2012. Quarterback Trevor Siemian also returns. He was the arm to Colter's legs in the offense. He passed for 2,143 yards last season but had an 11-9 TD to INT ratio. Pat Fitzgerald likes to play more than one quarterback and Matt Alviti could get some reps. He was a 4-star, dual-threat quarterback ranked #11 in the Rivals 2013 recruiting class.

Northwestern also returns their top two wide receivers. Christian Jones hauled in 54 receptions for 668 yards last season. Tony Jones had similar production. He caught 55 balls for 630 yards.

NAME TO WATCH: Quarterback Matt Alviti

MINNESOTA (8-5)

2013 TOTAL OFFENSE RANK: #105

2013 SCORING OFFENSE RANK: #85

2013 PASSING OFFENSE RANK: #115

2013 RUSHING OFFENSE RANK: #37

2013 FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS EFFICIENCY RANK: #73

2013 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANK: #52 (Sagarin)

2013 OFFENSIVE STATS:

MINNESOTA (13 GAMES)


RUSH OFFENSE 586 att 2538 yds 4.33 yds/att 23 Td 9fum 195.2 yds/game
PASS OFFENSE 137 comp 267 att 1925 yds 12 Td 7 Int 148.1 yds/game
TOTAL OFFENSE 853 plays 4463 yds 5.23 yds/play 35 Tds 16 to 343.3 yds/game

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS. The Gophers want to pound the football and win the time of possession battle. They rank 102 in plays per game at 67.9. Their rush to pass ratio was almost 70/30 last season. With Philip Nelson departing, expect that to be the same in 2014.

KEY LOSSES/RETURNING STARTERS. Nelson's decision to transfer leaves Minnesota with Mitch Leidner as the starting quarterback. Nelson began the season as the starting QB and Leidner took over the role in Minnesota's bowl game versus Syracuse. Nelson passed 186 times for 1,306 yards but completed only 50% of his passes and had a 9-6 TD to INT ratio.

Also gone from a dismal passing game, wide receiver Derek Engel (25-401). The Gophers will return four starters on the offensive line plus some starting experience in the second unit.

Leidner threw for only three touchdowns last season. He was 43 for 78 for 619 yards in limited duty. Like Northwestern, he was brought in to be more of an option quarterback when the offense needed a boost. He rushed the ball 102 times for 407 yards.

Minnesota returns their star running back David Cobb. He rushed 237 times for 1,202 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Roderick Williams Jr and Donnell Kirkwood are also back. The Gophers will get red-shirt freshman Berkley Edwards into the mix and possibly true freshman Jeff Jones.

They'll need to rely on their stable of running backs because they have new faces at wide receiver. Tight end Maxx Williams is back after a solid freshman season (25-417). So is sophomore Drew Wolitarsky (15-259).

NAME TO WATCH. Running back Berkley Edwards

ILLINOIS (4-8)

2013 TOTAL OFFENSE RANK: # 46

2013 SCORING OFFENSE RANK: #61

2013 PASSING OFFENSE RANK: #22

2013 RUSHING OFFENSE RANK: #92

2013 FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS EFFICIENCY RANK: #39

2013 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANK: #41 (Sagarin)

2013 OFFENSIVE STATS:

ILLINOIS (12 GAMES)


RUSH OFFENSE 411 att 1668 yds 4.06 yds/att 20 Td 7 fum 139 yds/game
PASS OFFENSE 302 comp 455 att 3452 yds 23 Td 14 Int 287.7 yds/game
TOTAL OFFENSE 866 plays 5120 yds 5.91 yds/play 43 Tds 21 to 426.7 yds/game

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS. Illinois finished ranked 50th in average plays per game with 74.8. The passed the ball more than they ran (52.5/47.5) but that could have been due to falling behind in games. Illinois also had a senior quarterback and schemed around their perceived strength. The 2014 quarterback may be a sophomore so their run/pass ratio could move closer to 50/50 this season.

KEY LOSSES/RETURNING STARTERS. Gone is Nate Scheelhaas, a four year contributor at quarterback. He leaves Illinois after a career that included 8,568 passing yards and 55 touchdowns. He got it done with his feet too. While his rushing numbers declined over his career as he refined his passing skill, he still rushed for 271 yards last season and had over 2,000 for his career.

Illinois also loses a bunch from the wide receiving corps. Steve Hull graduates after a 59 catch 993 yard season. Mike Osei (35-349), Spencer Harris (39-328) and Ryan Lankford (15-308) are also gone. They do return tight end Matt LaCosse (20-237).

Quarterback is the biggest question mark. Running back Josh Ferguson returns for his junior season (141-779). If the Illini go with Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt, they may opt to pass as much as last season. Lunt is a pocket passer who threw for 1,108 yards as a freshman with the Pokes. There's also Reilly O'Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey. Bailey is a dual-threat quarterback who had 83 yards on 20 rushing attempts last season.

NAME TO WATCH: Wide receiver Geronimo Allison

WISCONSIN (9-4)

2013 TOTAL OFFENSE RANK: #18

2013 SCORING OFFENSE RANK: #27

2013 PASSING OFFENSE RANK: #93

2013 RUSHING OFFENSE RANK: #8

2013 FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS EFFICIENCY RANK: #28

2013 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANK: #49 (Sagarin)

2013 OFFENSIVE STATS:

WISCONSIN (13 GAMES)


RUSH OFFENSE 557 att 3689 yds 6.62 yds/att 35 Td 4 fum 383.8 yds/game
PASS OFFENSE 217 comp 355 att 2562 yds 22 Td 15 Int 197.1 yds/game
TOTAL OFFENSE 912 plays 6251 yds 6.85 yds/play 57 Tds 19 to 480.8 yds/game

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS. There's no doubt Wisconsin Football is all about the run game. Wisconsin averaged just over a 60/40 run/pass split last season. When they do pass, they're efficient doing so.

The Badgers move at a deliberate pace. They ranked 86th in plays per game and averaged 70.8 per contest. Also, what sticks out the most is four fumbles in 557 rushing attempts.

KEY LOSSES/RETURNING STARTERS. The Badgers lose starting running back James White but Melvin Gordon returns and should be considered a returning starter too. White rushed for 1,444 yards on 221 carries for 13 touchdowns last season. Typically, that sort of production would set an offense back a season but Gordon returns with his 1,609 yards and 12 TDs.

The biggest offensive loss is wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. He leaves Wisconsin after a 78 catch 1,081 yard senior season in which he added seven touchdowns. The Badgers also lose tight end Jacob Pederson (39-551) and Jeff Duckworth (12-176). White's absence may also be felt in the pass game. He caught 39 balls for 300 yards last year. Gordon caught one pass for 10 yards.

Quarterback Joel Stave returns after an effective 2,494 passing yard season in which he completed over 60% of his passes (208-336). He did have a 22-13 TD to INT ratio and the turnovers proved costly at times. There's also an issue with his shoulder that caused him to miss spring practice time. Junior College transfer Tanner McEvoy took his place.

The Badgers will need to find receivers. Alex Erickson and Jordan Fredrick return but the duo combined for 19 receptions and 233 yards and zero scores last year. Getting a young receiving corps up to speed without the top quarterback could push Wisconsin's passing game's development back.

NAME TO WATCH: Running back Taiwan Deal Corey Clement

NEBRASKA (9-4)

2013 TOTAL OFFENSE RANK: #58

2013 SCORING OFFENSE RANK: #48

2013 PASSING OFFENSE RANK: #95

2013 RUSHING OFFENSE RANK: #19

2013 FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS EFFICIENCY RANK: #61

2013 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANK: #55 (Sagarin)

2013 OFFENSIVE STATS:

NEBRASKA (13 GAMES)


RUSH OFFENSE 584 att 2804 yds 4.80 yds/att 24 Td 16 fum 215.7 yds/game
PASS OFFENSE 218 comp 378 att 2557 yds 25 Td 13 Int 196.7 yds/game
TOTAL OFFENSE 962 plays 5361 yds 5.57 yds/play 49 Tds 29 to 412.4 yds/game

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS. Nebraska's numbers are interesting in that they had to adjust for the loss of senior quarterback Taylor Martinez. They'd like to play at a faster pace, they averaged 75.2 plays per game (#45) for the season. But, over their last three games they averaged 71.7 including only 60 plays in the win over Georgia. Nebraska averaged 77.1 plays per game in 2012 and with a settled quarterback in 2014 may increase towards that number.

The Huskers are a rush first attack with a 60/40 run/pass mix last season. They'll return the second best running back in the Big Ten so expect that number to stay the same or increase in favor of the run.

KEY LOSSES/ RETURNING STARTERS. Gone is Taylor Martinez and his over 10,000 total yards as a dual-threat quarterback. Also gone is Ron Kellogg, a walk-on turned starting quarterback that played in 10 Husker games last season. Nebraska also loses top receiver Quincy Enunwa who caught 51 balls for 753 yards last year.

The biggest losses, along with Martinez, are along the offensive line. The Huskers boasted about their senior starters returning to anchor the OLine in 2013. They've moved on and Nebraska will miss Andrew Rodriguez, Spencer Long, Cole Pensick and Jeremiah Sirles. Pensick especially, he was 2nd team all-Big Ten last year.

Tommy Armstrong returns to take over the quarterback duties. In nine games, he completed 68 of 131 passes for 966 yards and nine touchdowns. He added eight interceptions and that's a reason for concern. He aslo rushed the ball 67 times for 202 yards and a couple of scores.

Armstrong will have Ameer Abdullah behind him. He'll battle Melvin Gordon for the claim to the Big Ten's top running back. Abdullah finished 2013 with 1,690 yards on 281 carries.

Armstrong also has another weapon in receiver Kenny Bell. He led Nebraska in receptions last season with 52 and added 577 yards. The Huskers return Jordan Westerkamp for his sophomore season. He's probably most remembered for his Hail Mary reception against Northwestern. He finished the year with 20 receptions for 283 yards.

NAME TO WATCH: Wide receiver Monte Harrison

IF YOU MISSED IT: Here's part one

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