clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:


Sure, Iowa just rode Jordan Canzeri to a win over Illinois, 29-20. But how much do we really know? What was really important about beating the Illini? What does it all mean, Basil? The Takeaway has the answer.

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Can we get that bye week now and play Northwestern next week? Ross mentioned it amply in the postgame, but Jordan Canzeri's performance deserves mountains of credit. Not only did Canzeri set the Iowa record for rushes and put up Iowa's third-most rushing yards in a single game, but he did it against a defense that spent a good chunk of the game beating him up. With 90 seconds left in the first half, Canzeri had 17 rushes for 31 yards, and he had taken several big hits in the process. Canzeri busted two big runs on the final drive of the second quarter to finish the half with 77 yards, but even his last carry of the drive was him getting swallowed up short of the goal line.

The second half, though, was most mansome. Yes, Canzeri's 75-yard touchdown was the centerpiece of the half, but the rushes that went for one or two yards in the first half all of a sudden started notching five, six, seven yards. The Canzeri Drive—where he rushed on 11 straight plays—was vintage Kirk Ferentz, but only because Canzeri let it be so. The reason Ferentz called 11 straight rushes was, well, because he could; Iowa didn't even face a third down until it was in Illinois territory, and the only passing down was the 3rd-and-5 at the Illini 16 that, frankly, Jerminic Smith should have caught. Other than that, hey: pure badassness from Canzeri, and easily one of the best rushing performances in Iowa history, full stop.

And yet, even with a 6-0 record and a spot firmly in the Top 25, there's reason to take some serious concern from the Illinois game. Here's a list of players who might be out for this week's game, likely one of the two toughest on Iowa's schedule:

Top DE: Drew Ott
Top RB: LeShun Daniels, Jr.
Top WR: Tevaun Smith
Top LT: Boone Myers
Top RT: Ike Boettger

If you were to have ranked Iowa's players on importance to the team on the eve of Week 1, these guys might have all made the Top 10. Maybe Iowa gets the tackles back, but if not, it won't be a surprise. That's a lot of help on offense that'll be sitting on the sidelines while Iowa faces Northwestern's vaunted defensive front, still No. 9 in total defense (Pitt, for the record, is up to No. 7).

So, if that's what it takes for this run to end—a road game at a ranked foe with several key starters out—then, you know, so it goes. But I'm not really here for that noise yet, and neither are the Hawkeyes.

The good news, of course, is that Iowa's not forced to field seven players on offense on account of the injuries. Canzeri is far beyond "backup tailback" status at this point; he's the nation's 12th-leading rusher and tied for 20th-leading scorer. Jerminic Smith had a breakout game against Illinois and looks like a future #1 receiver. Cole Croston can step into either tackle spot and has looked competent in extensive playing time thus far; Kirk Ferentz had referred to him as a "third starter" at tackle and it's easy to see why. If Iowa gets either of its tackles back for the Northwestern game, the situation improves substantially. The jury's still out on DE Parker Hesse and OL James Daniels, but they both look good for freshmen. Daniels looked rough at tackle when pressed into action, but he's been decent as the primary backup on the interior.

Also, while Ott's torn ACL is brutal for both him and the Iowa defense, that's basically it for injuries on that side of the ball. Iowa's defense is otherwise healthy and getting back to nasty. With Illinois' hapless day on the ground (24 rushes, 46 yards, three sacks), Iowa moves to the No. 5 rush defense in the nation. The pass defense is decent at 39th in passing efficiency defense, but that should improve as four of the next six opponents have starting QBs worse than No. 100 in passing efficiency, including next week's putative starter Clayton Thorson, who was yanked after the third quarter at Michigan last week.

Iowa's defense isn't perfect; Greg Mabin can be thrown on, and the linebackers aren't the rangy terrors that Iowa's '08 and '09 units were. But the breakdowns are the exception, not the rule, and that coupled with the lights-out rushing defense means Iowa's going to be sticking pretty closely to the 16 points per game it allows.

That's a formula for pretty easy success, even with a dinged-up offense, so while Iowa would love to have as many of its Week 1 starts back in playing shape, this team really shouldn't be out of any game it plays for the rest of the year. Not at Northwestern, not at Nebraska, not against anyone else. Let's go get it.