There’s no way around it, Deacon Hill didn’t look good against Purdue. Whether is was fastballs firing over the heads of receivers or wide open targets ignored for double-covered tight ends, what we saw a week ago from Hill was a step down from what we saw out of him when he came on in relief of Cade McNamara against Michigan State.
The stats tell a similar story with Hill completing more than 40% of his passes against the Spartans despite a flurry of drops (6!!) by his receivers while dropping below 30% against the Boilermakers. Some of that is on offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, who seemed to abandon the bootlegs and rollouts in play-action that were so effective in Hill’s first appearance and instead replaced those with empty sets out of shotgun facing an empty box with no running threat.
Playcalling was, as usual, suspect, but so was the QB play. We know the vast majority of Iowa fans are ready to be done with offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, but this week we asked the fanbase whether the miserable performance a week ago from Hill was enough for the Hawkeyes to move on to plan C and have Joe Labas step into a start.
The answer? No. The majority of Hawkeye fans are still standing behind Hill with 61% of respondents saying he should get the start against his former team this week.
Of course, Hill will start and barring an injury, he’ll almost certainly play the entire game as Kirk Ferentz will almost never go away from his starter. But it’s a bit interesting to see the fanbase not rally around Hill, but perhaps give him the benefit of the doubt.
A skeptic might say this is driven more by apathy and the realization that if Cade McNamara couldn’t make this offense work there’s no real point in going from one backup to another. But an optimist might say that Hill showed flashes in his first appearance that could be tapped by a competent OC and his big arm could actually open up the running game, which seemed to find some things that worked against Purdue.
But this is Iowa afterall, and that means skepticism is likely to win out here. While more than 60% of fans think Hill should start, the majority of the fanbase is still expecting Iowa to take a loss today.
All told, just 31% of respondents believe the Hawkeyes will leave Camp Randall on Saturday atop the Big Ten West standings.
That’s not totally unexpected. Iowa is a 9.5-point underdog heading to Madison and the Hawkeyes haven’t won their since their undefeated regular season in 2015.
But, like 2015, a win in Madison today would put the Hawkeyes firmly in the driver’s seat to win the West in its final year of existence. Could they really do it? Our staff is skeptical, with less than 15% of the staff predicting a win and the majority of writers calling for the Badgers to cover the nearly double-digit spread. But crazier things have happened in the battle for the bull.
Today’s matchup is set to kick off at 3pm CT. The game will be nationally broadcast on FOX.