The Iowa Hawkeyes made progress toward getting their season back on track in week three. After back-to-back abysmal offensive performances to open the season, Iowa found itself at the very bottom of the national rankings in virtually every offensive category entering their non-conference finale.
But the Hawkeyes returned several key pieces to the offense against Nevada, including WRs Keagan Johnson and Nico Ragaini, while Brody Brecht saw a full scale return to the lineup after mustering just one snap against the Iowa State Cyclones. With more pieces in place, Iowa set season highs in nearly all counting stats on the offensive side of the ball.
The Hawkeyes picked up 15 first downs (vs 21 through the first two weeks combined) on 337 yards of total offense (316 through the first two weeks) and put up 18 points without the help of the defense or special teams (vs 6 prior to the game). They took shots downfield and opened up running lanes which resulted in the three longest plays of the season all in week three, including a pair of scintillating touchdown runs by Kaleb Johnson.
But alas, this was against the 79th ranked team in scoring defense - a team which gave up 55 points the week prior to Incarnate Word. INCARNATE WORD!
So we asked Hawkeye fans if their views on this team have changed following the relative offensive “explosion” to close out the non-conference slate. The results were... not surprising. Only 11% of you feel differently about the Iowa offense than you did a week ago.
That is perhaps not surprising, but what may be a bit surprising is that fans’ views did in fact change on some aspects.
While people said they don’t view the offense differently, only 54% of fans still believe Spencer Petras needs to be benched going forward. That’s down from a staggering 85% a week ago.
What’s also interesting is that despite not being persuaded by week three that the offense is better, fan outlooks for the season as a whole have improved on the heels of that performance. And by quite a bit.
A week ago, 82% of fans thought six wins was the ceiling on this season and more than half expected Iowa to finish the year with a losing record. That was down from preseason expectations for 8.5 wins on average.
Now, after the 27-0 defeat of Nevada, 36% of Hawkeye fans believe the Hawkeyes will finish with a winning record and only 39% of fans believe Iowa will finish the year with a losing record.
Perhaps the missing link is the abysmal performances we’ve seen elsewhere in the Big Ten and more notably, in the Big Ten West. The division appears to be wide open as we enter conference play and a competent offense for the Hawkeyes could put them back in Indianapolis for their first ever repeat appearance.
That still doesn’t seem likely, though Iowa fans are growing a bit more optimistic. That starts this week where 71% of fans think the Hawkeyes will get a Big Ten Conference win over Rutgers on the road.
Notably, 99% of fans felt Iowa would win this matchup before the season started, so there has been some increased pessimism since we first polled fans several weeks ago, but the tone is certainly cheerier than it was a week ago.
Iowa will kick off against the Scarlet Knights at 6:00pm CT from Piscataway, New Jersey. This week’s game is on FS1.