The first Road test of the season awaits the Hawkeyes in Piscataway, New Jersey on Saturday and rumors have it the game is going to be close to sold out. Is it me or do the Hawkeyes run into that set of circumstances quite often? Bad team on the road but the season is young enough that their fans still hold out hope that something good may happen so they show out in droves. The Hawks must be ready from the start and it’s imperative they control the crowd. Normally that would mean the visiting side would probably be looking to control the clock through an aggressively run heavy game plan. Perfect right? Iowa has always wanted to establish the run first and foremost going into every game and it’s not like they are facing a Penn. St or a Michigan on the road, it’s just Rutgers. It’s JUST Rutgers..... Well peaking into some national rankings has me more concerned than ever about the Hawks being able to accomplish the above mentioned game plan. Rutgers run defense is... Elite?
It’s no surprise that Greg Schiano has his Rutgers team on the mend as he knows how to coach up a good defense. The Scarlet Knights come into this game ranked 20th in the country in total defense and that unit is the sole reason why Rutgers has started 3-0. It will be tough sledding for the Hawkeyes, but as mentioned above, the Hawks want to establish the run, so how difficult may that be? I was a little sick to my stomach when I looked it up but Rutgers is ranked 3rd nationally in Opp Rushing Yards/Game allowing a measly 39 yards/game. They sit 3rd as well nationally in Yards/Attempt allowing on 1.3 yards a carry. Yikes. For a Hawkeye running game thats is desperately trying to figure out it’s rushing attack, a road game against a hungry team with a great rushing defense isn't really the spot you want to see yourself in.
I know it’s going to be easy for people to point to Rutgers success and say “look who they played!” I get it, Wagner is chicken seed at best, but the Scarlet nights have also notched wins over what many thought was a decent Boston College squad, and a stingy Temple team on the road. Honestly, I don't think Iowa’s three opponents have been much better. That Iowa State team that broke the streak may be the weakest Cyclone team of the last 5 years on both sides of the ball and Nevada may be the worst team in the country. So don't knock what this Rutgers team has accomplished defensively.
So how are the Hawkeyes going to win Saturday? What stat line must be achieved to open up Big Ten play 1-0? Well, after talking about how great Rutgers rushing defense is for the entirety of the article, one would logically say that the Hawks will try to exploit the secondary with the passing game and must have success doing it to win. Folks, we aren't naive enough to think that Iowa is going to even attempt to win that way, and also, even if they did, the passing game struggles have been well documented enough for us to know it wouldn’t work. Yep, that means it’s going to be another rock fight of a football game involving our beloved school so I’m going to say the Hawkeyes need to hit that magic 100 yard rushing number in order to win. It may be a fools errand but if Kirk can get his line to mold together just enough to allow Gavin Williams (and hopefully Kaleb Johnson) to at minimum fall forward on most every play, I think it will allow Iowa to finally control the game clock for once and hopefully take the energy out of the crowd.
So be patient Hawkeye fans. It may not look pretty early, well, it probably won't look pretty late in the game either, but if this 2022 Iowa team can go on the road against a formidable rush defense and muster out 100 yards, it could be a sign of good things to come.