It’ll be September before you know it. Until then, you can sit around and wait for those preseason magazines to come out to learn more about Iowa’s 2017 football opponents, or you can read my quick and easy, way-too-early breakdowns of each team and matchup right here on Black Heart Gold Pants.
First up: Wyoming
The Wyoming Cowboys football program took a giant leap forward last season, winning eight games en route to a Mountain West Mountain division title and a spot in their conference championship game. Their success came on the back of a balanced offensive attack that featured a backfield with two guys who will play on Sundays: quarterback Josh Allen and running back Brian Hill. They managed to win games against Air Force, Boise State and San Diego State – a formidable trio with a combined record of 31-9 in 2017.
The Cowboys lost Brian Hill to the NFL Draft and their top-three receiving targets to graduation. They also lost all-conference center Chase Roullier and inside linebacker Lucas Wacha – a significant contributor for four years.
Who’s coming back?
Quarterback Josh Allen is back, and you’ll hear a lot about him before and after the Hawkeyes play Wyoming. He was discussed as a potential early-round NFL Draft pick in 2017 had he declared, but instead, he decided to return for another year. He’ll have four returning starters blocking for him on the offensive line. On defense, they return the bulk of a unit that saw nine underclassmen log considerable playing time, including linebacker Logan Wilson – the Mountain West Freshman of the Year. Additionally, their entire starting secondary is back.
Why should Iowa be worried?
The simple answer? Craig Bohl. Wyoming’s coach has emerged as one of the better minds in the college game and turned the Cowboys into a tough out every week. Oh – and not to bring back bad memories – but he also laid the groundwork for that North Dakota State squad that came into Iowa City in 2016 and left with a win. He’ll have his team prepared – especially against the pass – where the Hawkeyes could struggle to find a rhythm early.
Why should Iowa not be worried? Talent. The Hawkeyes have more of it, especially in the trenches. The Cowboys will have a tough time stopping Iowa’s rushing attack. That will probably lead to fewer possessions and a lower scoring game than most expect, especially with Allen still getting comfortable with a new corps of primary receiver targets of his own.
Key player for Wyoming
C.J. Johnson, Wide Receiver – If Johnson can get on the same page with Allen early, he could be a problem. He can stretch the field and open everything else up for Wyoming’s offense.
Key player for Iowa
Nathan Bazata – Josh Allen cannot be allowed to get comfortable in the pocket. Bazata’s ability to apply pressure up the middle – throwing off timing and forcing Allen out of the pocket – will be key to containing Wyoming’s passing attack.