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Iowa Football Stat to Watch: Illinois

Bad passing offense (Iowa) vs Bad passing defense (Illinois)

Michigan State v Iowa
Time for Spence to step up
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

First of all, thank you to Lovie Smith for being Lovie Smith. More importantly, thank you for not being PJ Fleck. Or Scott Frost. Growing up the Illinois / Hawkeye basketball games were legendary. Lou Henson’s wig-thing was pretty special. Hawk fans will never forget Andy Kaufmann’s buzzer-beater in 1993. The Bruce Pearl / Deon Thomas “situation” still resonates throughout college basketball. Football? Illinois was good, for a little bit. After that, not so much. Let’s get into a key stat for the upcoming Illinois game.

The Elephant in the Quarterback Room

One segment I have been writing for @BHGP is a letter grade for each Hawkeye position group. Iowa’s quarterback position, Spencer Petras, would have a less-than-stellar grade point average (G.P.A.) of 1.93. That’s the opposite of good. Petras’ best grade to date was the Michigan State game where he earned a “B”. The professor was feeling a little too lenient with this grade; it came upon the heels of Petras throwing the football to the guys wearing the wrong colored jerseys three times in the Northwestern game. Throw out the Michigan State game (I can do this because I’m writing it) and Petras’ GPA is a lowly 1.72. Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and quarterback coach Ken O’Keefe need to see some progress from their top-of-the-depth-chart student.

The Remedy?

Thankfully the Hawkeyes travel to Champaign-Urbana, IL and face an Illinois defense that is getting gouged through the air. Illinois is one of the few college football venues where playing in front of no fans this year is not much different than... playing in front of no fans most every year. Here’s how the Fighting Illini fare against the pass.

Illinois is allowing 253.6 passing yards a game. In addition to this, the Illini have surrendered 11 touchdown passes. The Fighting Illini are ranked 91/127 in the nation against the pass. The Hawkeyes are averaging 191.7 yards a game via the pass. The Hawks rank 99/127 in the country throwing the ball. Something has to give. In the Big Ten Iowa’s passing offense is only above Nebraska (we know what that looks like) and Illinois. The Illini have had two starts from their 4th string quarterback due to injuries and Covid.

Going forward

Rutgers v Iowa
Iowa’s Alex Padilla is #2 on the QB depth chart
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Iowa have been an advocate for running the ball. I still adhere to the “Do whatever it takes to win the game” theory. The Hawks should run over opponents until they get stopped. If that means throwing 14 passes a game, awesome. In order to take the next step, the Hawkeyes do need to determine what we have with Spencer Petras. We have won 4 straight which is terrific. We will not be able to beat a Wisconsin or Ohio State with less than mediocre quarterback play. Go Hawks and Go Spencer Petras! If Big Spence struggles, KF, please let Alex Padilla get some snaps. We’ve all experienced the feet dragging when it comes to replacing ineffective quarterbacks. Jake Christensen and Jake Rudock had better options behind them, but when it comes to Coach Ferentz (who I love), quarterback change is a four letter word.