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

Joe Robbins

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

WE'VE PREVIEWED THE OFFENSES. If you missed either of those posts, here's part one and part two. Also, here's part one of the defenses.

NORTHWESTERN (5-7)

2013 TOTAL DEFENSE RANK: #88

2013 SCORING DEFENSE RANK: #68

2013 PASSING DEFENSE RANK: #99

2013 RUSHING DEFENSE RANK: #68

2013 FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS EFFICIENCY RANK: #42

2013 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANK: #45 (Sagarin)

2013 DEFENSIVE STATS:

NORTHWESTERN (12 Games)


RUSH DEFENSE 484 att 2008 yds 4.15 yds/att 16 Td 4 fum 167.3 yds/game
PASS DEFENSE 267 comp 446 att 3074 yds 20 Td 19 Int 256.2 yds/game
TOTAL DEFENSE 930 plays 5082 yds 5.46 yds/play 36 Tds 23 to 423.5 yds/game

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS. Northwestern's rush defense was better than the statistics show. They held Cal to under 100 yards in the season opener but were thrashed by Ohio State and Wisconsin in back-to-back games in October. Following those two games they had a streak of four games (including Iowa) in which they limited the opponent to less than four yards per carry.

The pass defense was a different story. Teams completed almost 60% of their passes against the Wildcat D. Northwestern did finish the season with 19 interceptions but 13 of those came in the first half of the season. When the INTs went away, so did the winning. They surrendered 277, 226, 293 and 307 passing yards to Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois in their final four games.

KEY LOSES/RETURNING STARTERS. Northwestern loses their top tackler from last season. Linebacker Damien Proby departs after a 111 tackle (9.25 a game) year. They also lose defensive lineman Will Hampton who played in 12 games and recorded 22 tackles and second team all-Big Ten DL (media) Tyler Scott (6 sacks).

They return a lot to the defense. Chi Chi Ariguzo and Ibraheim Campbell are your top names on the defense. Both return for their senior season and combined recorded 180 tackles last year. The Cats return three players considered starters and depth on the defensive line. Ifeadi Odenigbo and Dean Lowry combined for 9.5 sacks in 2013.

NAME TO WATCH: Defensive lineman C.J. Robbins

MINNESOTA (8-5)

2013 TOTAL DEFENSE RANK: #43

2013 SCORING DEFENSE RANK: #25

2013 PASSING DEFENSE RANK: #35

2013 RUSHING DEFENSE RANK: #54

2013 FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS EFFICIENCY RANK: #47

2013 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANK: #52 (Sagarin)

2013 DEFENSIVE STATS:

MINNESOTA (13 GAMES)


RUSH DEFENSE 453  att 2056 yds 4.54 yds/att 19 Td 9 fum 158.2 yds/game
PASS DEFENSE 247 comp 405 att 2796  yds 16 Td 10 Int 215.1 yds/game
TOTAL DEFENSE 858 plays 4852 yds 5.66 yds/play 35 Tds 19 to 373.2 yds/game

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS. Minnesota's defense started the season strong against the rush holding three of their first six opponents under 100 yards. Iowa rushed for 246, the most against Minnesota all season. The defense was consistent. They surrendered 353, 324, 324 and 396 total yards their last four games to Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Syracuse.  They finished (1-3) in those games but it was due to problems on the offensive side of the ball and not the defense as those four opponents were held to 10, 20, 14 and 21 points.

KEY LOSSES/RETURNING STARTERS. The biggest loss is first team all-Big Ten defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman. He didn't have the most productive season (38 tackles, 2 sacks) by the numbers but he was disruptive and demanded double teams by opposing offensive lines.

The Gophers also lose linebackers Aaron Hill and James Manuel. The duo combined for 126 tackles last year. Gone from the backfield is safety Brock Vereen. He departs after a 59 tackle season.

Returning is second team all-Big Ten defensive end Theiren Cockran. He recorded 7.5 sacks last year to go with 30 tackles. Minnesota also returns their two top tacklers from the backfield. Cedric Thompson and Damien Wilson had 79 and 78 tackles in 2013.

There's big holes to fill at linebacker and if Cockran benefited from the attention Hageman drew remains to be seen. The secondary has depth and the Gopher defense should be solid again in 2014.

NAME TO WATCH. Safety Damarius Travis

ILLINOIS (4-8)

2013 TOTAL DEFENSE RANK: #110

2013 SCORING DEFENSE RANK: #104

2013 PASSING DEFENSE RANK: #81

2013 RUSHING DEFENSE RANK: #116

2013 FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS EFFICIENCY RANK: #100

2013 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANK: #41 (Sagarin)

2013 DEFENSIVE STATS:

ILLINOIS (12 GAMES)


RUSH DEFENSE 513  att 2863 yds 5.58 yds/att 29 Td 8 fum 238.6 yds/game
PASS DEFENSE 231 comp 354  att 2915  yds 25 Td 3 Int 242.9 yds/game
TOTAL DEFENSE 867 plays 5778 yds 6.66 yds/play 54 Tds 11 to 481.5 yds/game

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS. Good news for the Illini, they weren't the worst overall defense in the Big Ten. Bad news for Illinois, they are in Purdue and Indiana company. While Indiana ranked worse in total defense, Illinois was worse against the run. They allowed seven opponents to rush for over 200 yards last year. Nebraska rushed for 335, Indiana 371 and Ohio State 441! Their pass defense was equally bad allowing 341 yards to Southern Illinois and 414 to Northwestern.

KEY LOSSES/RETURNING STARTERS. Like Indiana, there's maybe a little bit of a silver lining. Illinois loses their top tackler from last season. Linebacker Jonathan Brown recorded 119 tackles (9.92 per game). He was named by the media to the second team all-Big Ten defensive team. They lose defensive lineman Tim Kynard. He played in 12 games last year and recorded 33 tackles. But, almost everyone else returns this year.

Defensive backs Earnest Thomas III, Zane Petty and Mike Svetina return to anchor the secondary. Combined, the trio had 233 tackles. Linebacker Mason Monheim also returns for his junior season after a 97 tackle year. Top defensive lineman Austin Teitsma returns too.

Illinois played a lot of freshmen last season. T.J. Neal, Darius Mosley, Taylor Barton and Jaylon Dunlap played in at least 11 games in 2013. They'll be better in 2014 and the Illini have a solid shot at winning six games and getting to a bowl.

NAME TO WATCH: Defensive end Houston Bates

WISCONSIN (9-4)

2013 TOTAL DEFENSE RANK: #7

2013 SCORING DEFENSE RANK: #6

2013 PASSING DEFENSE RANK: #17

2013 RUSHING DEFENSE RANK: #5

2013 FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS EFFICIENCY RANK: #9

2013 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANK: #49 (Sagarin)

2013 DEFENSIVE STATS:

WISCONSIN (13 GAMES)


RUSH DEFENSE 414 att 1333 yds 3.22 yds/att 8 Td 11 fum 102.5 yds/game
PASS DEFENSE 227 comp 425 att 2633  yds 16 Td 9 Int 202.5  yds/game
TOTAL DEFENSE 839 plays 3966 yds 4.73 yds/play 24 Tds 20 to 305.1 yds/game

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS. For as good as Wisconsin's run game combined with this defense, it's a mystery how they lost four games. The Badgers had a new coach and with that a new 3-4 scheme but a large group of senior leaders made the transition easy.

The Badgers held four opponents to less than 100 yards rushing and did not allow a single opponent to rush for over 200 yards. They opened the season with two shutouts and held seven opponents to 10 points or less.

They did allow over 300 passing yards four times on the season. Three of those games resulted in losses. For as strong statistically as the Badger defense finished on the year, they did allow Penn State 465 total yards and South Carolina 438 total yards and 65 combined points in their last two games. The Badgers lost both.

KEY LOSSES/RETURNING STARTERS. Gone is first team all-Big Ten linebacker Chris Borland. He was the team tackle leader with 111. Also gone are the other three starting linebackers in the 3-4 scheme. Alongside Borland was Ethan Armstrong (51 tackles, 5 TFL), Conor O'Neill (42 tackles, 5.5 TFL) and Brendan Kelly (35 tackles, 7 TFL).

Gone from the secondary is Dezmond Southward and his 40 tackles. Kyle Zuleger and Jerry Ponio depart. They played in all 13 games. The defensive line loses Pat Muldoon (29 tackles, 2 sacks), Beau Allen (20 tackles, 1.5 sacks), Tyler Dipple (17 tackles) and Ethan Hemer (13 tackles).

While they lose eight starters they do return players with game experience. Michael Caputo leads the secondary and is the team's top returning tackler (63). Sojourn Shelton returns in the secondary for his sophomore season. Linebackers Derek Landisch (10 games, 33 tackles), Vince Biegel (13 games, 25 tackles) and Joe Schobert (14 games, 24 tackles) will have to replace that group of departing seniors.

NAME TO WATCH: Defensive end Chikwe Obasih

NEBRASKA (9-4)

2013 TOTAL DEFENSE RANK: #40

2013 SCORING DEFENSE RANK: #50

2013 PASSING DEFENSE RANK: #33

2013 RUSHING DEFENSE RANK: #53

2013 FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS EFFICIENCY RANK: #32

2013 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANK: #55 (Sagarin)

2013 DEFENSIVE STATS:

NEBRASKA (13 GAMES)


RUSH DEFENSE 538  att 2030 yds 3.77 yds/att 21 Td 4 fum 156.2 yds/game
PASS DEFENSE 210 comp 388 att 2790  yds 17 Td 14 Int 214.6  yds/game
TOTAL DEFENSE 926 plays 4820 yds 5.21 yds/play 38 Tds 18 to 370.8 yds/game

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS. Lately, the Nebraska Football meme is "that run defense!" As we see, it improved a great deal in 2013. They got off to a rough start when Wyoming, UCLA and South Dakota State rushed for over 200 yards in September. October wasn't a lot better except for a thrashing of Purdue. When November hit, they appeared to figure it out. Nebraska held Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa to 326, 175, 361, 387 and 281 total yards. The defensive highlight was limiting Michigan to -21 yards rushing.

They finished the season (4-2) including a bowl win over an Aaron Murray-less Georgia. In both losses, they were able to hold Michigan State and Iowa to less than five yards to play. The problems on offense and turnovers had more to do with Nebraska's two defeats than the defense. That was't the case early in the season with their losses to UCLA and Minnesota.

KEY LOSSES/ RETURNING STARTERS. The biggest loss is second team all-Big Ten defensive back Ciante Evans. He finished 2013 with 45 tackles and 4 INTs. Also gone is Stanley Jean-Baptist who also had 4 INTs. Defensive back Andrew Green (41 tackles), defensive linemen Jason Ankrah (36 tackles, 4 sacks) and Thad Randle (31 tackles, 1 sack) also depart.

Returning is first team all-Big Ten defensive end Randy Gregory. He had a 65 tackle, 9.5 sack sophomore season for the Huskers. Top tackler, defensive back Corey Cooper also returns to lead the secondary. He finished with 91 total tackles last year.

The experience is at linebacker. David Santos (87 tackles), Michael Rose (65 tackles), Zaire Anderson (52 tackles) and Josh Banderas (28 tackles) all return.

The Husker's will rely on a stong rush game from the offense and a stout defense in 2014. Their non-conference sets up nicely as their toughest game is a home contest against a Miami team that's currently without a quarterback. Their cross-over games are with Michigan State and Rutgers and Sparty may be the only real test until they face off with Melvin Gordon and Wisconsin on November 15th.

NAME TO WATCH: Safety Nathan Gerry

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