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Iowa Football: The Case for Spencer Petras

Spencer Petras hasn’t looked great through two weeks, but is it really time to replace him? And with who?

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Iowa
It hasn’t been great for Spencer Petras through his first two starts.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Starting quarterback Spencer Petras has been a lightning rod among Iowa fans through the first two weeks of the season. Petras came to Iowa City with a lot of pedigree and you can’t make it through a Hawkeye broadcast without being reminded that Petras broke all of Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff.

But his first two games have resulted in just 20 points for the Iowa offense and the numbers for Petras haven’t been great. Worse yet has been what the human eye tells you. Petras has missed wide open receivers, rocketed passes off their hands and made some highly questionable reads.

That has led many to call for Iowa to move on from the redshirt sophomore and turn instead to a true freshman with his own hype. Deuce Hogan, like Petras, was a 4-star recruit when he signed with Iowa and between his star rating, his name and his moxie, he’s already captured the hearts of many a Hawkeye fan. So should Brian Ferentz and Ken O’Keefe make the move?

Put simply: not a chance.

Petras vs. History

Let’s start with what Petras has actually done this year. Through his first two career starts, the California native is 48 of 89 passing (53.9%) for 481 yards with just one passing TD and 3 interceptions. He’s averaging a measly 10.0 yards per completion and an even worse 5.4 yards per attempt.

While that sounds bad, you need to recall the context that these are not only his first two starts, but his first two starts against Big Ten opponents. If we enter the time machine, we see that actually isn’t that bad compared to some Hawkeye QBs of past in their first two Big Ten starts.

Iowa QBs Through Two Big Ten Starts

QB Comp Att Comp % Yards Yds/Comp Yds/Att TDs INTs
QB Comp Att Comp % Yards Yds/Comp Yds/Att TDs INTs
Spencer Petras 48 89 0.5393258427 481 10.02083333 5.404494382 1 3
Nate Stanley 29 49 0.5918367347 383 13.20689655 7.816326531 2 0
CJ Beathard 26 58 0.4482758621 322 12.38461538 5.551724138 2 2
Ricky Stanzi 36 52 0.6923076923 396 11 7.615384615 2 2
Drew Tate 49 68 0.7205882353 610 12.44897959 8.970588235 3 3

A couple of things to note from those numbers. For starters, Petras is not the worst of the bunch. That honor would fall to C.J. Beathard. He seemed to work out OK.

Perhaps more notably, Petras is second behind only Drew Tate in terms of total yardage while leading substantially in pass attempts. The take away there is that Petras is being asked to throw significantly more than any of these other Iowa QBs in his first two Big Ten starts. That’s not a recipe for success and is likely a driver behind not only his yards/attempt numbers (which are terrible), but also his interception numbers, which took a jump last week due to some tipped balls and the ridiculous 51 passes thrown.

Bottom line, it’s not been great, but it’s far from the worst and it’s early enough to withhold judgement on Spencer Petras.

Petras vs. The Competition

Even if you were still of the mind that Petras should be benched after just two starts that have proven to be better than even one of the best we’ve seen under KF (who, by the way, went on to lead Iowa to the Rose Bowl for the first time in a generation), you have to replace him with someone.

While redshirt freshman Alex Padilla is listed as the team’s official backup on the depth chart, most scuttlebutt about benching Petras is geared toward putting in true freshman Deuce Hogan. Deuce Hogan has a bright future at quarterback. Like Petras, he possesses a lot of the physical gifts you look for in a pocket passing QB.

True freshman Deuce Hogan has no business starting over redshirt sophomore Spencer Petras.

If we assume that there has been no progression from Petras in his 2.5 years in Iowa City and there is zero benefit in terms of learning the offense, making progressions, expanding the throwing arsenal or anything else, we can simply compare the two as high school prospects. Petras is better.

The raw numbers for Hogan as reported by HawkeyeSports are gaudy. They’re also misleading if you’re hoping to compare Hogan to Petras. The former was a 4-year starter on a team coached by his father. The latter was a 2-year starter on a perennial title contender in California. With that caveat, let’s look at their high school careers:

Petras vs. Hogan HS Career

QB GP C Att Comp % Yards Yds/Comp Yds/Att TDs INTs
QB GP C Att Comp % Yards Yds/Comp Yds/Att TDs INTs
Petras 32 546 929 58.8% 7248 13.3 7.8 84 10
Hogan 48 589 1110 53.1% 8180 13.9 7.4 100 33

In terms of raw numbers, if you just look at the career, you might give a very slight edge to Hogan. But it would be very slight. Hogan had 900 more passing yards and 16 more touchdowns despite 23 more interceptions. Yards per completion and attempt were pretty similar while completion percentage pretty clearly favors Petras.

Now factor in that you’re looking at four years of Hogan and just two of Petras and the picture changes dramatically.

Petras vs Hogan Junior and Senior Years

QB GP C Att Comp % Yards Yds/Comp Yds/Att TDs INTs
QB GP C Att Comp % Yards Yds/Comp Yds/Att TDs INTs
Petras 27 544 923 58.9% 7193 13.2 7.8 83 10
Hogan 23 268 539 49.7% 3878 14.5 7.2 48 12

Those numbers are stark. Petras threw for more than double the yardage and nearly double the touchdowns with fewer interceptions and a significantly better completion percentage.

Put simply, as high school prospects Petras was much more accurate of a passer and much more prolific. Oh, and he ran for more than 500 yards and 16 TDs while Hogan ran for net negative yardage and just 2 TDs as an upperclassman.

Now factor in that Hogan has been on campus since July and didn’t have the benefit of a full fall camp and on and on and on. Deuce Hogan is not a viable option to replace Spencer Petras if you’re convinced he needs replacing.

Now, if you wanted a conversation about Alex Padilla, with a career 69% completion percentage and 64 TDs to 11 INTs, that would be worth exploring...