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Iowa Football: Can Deacon Hill Lead Hawkeyes to West Title?

How far have Iowa’s season expectations fallen with the loss of Cade McNamara?

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Iowa
Deacon Hill is the next man up.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NCAA. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in Iowa Hawkeyes fans and fans across the country. Sign up here to participate in the weekly emailed surveys.

The Iowa Hawkeyes escaped last Saturday’s week five matchup against Michigan State with a win. It wasn’t pretty and the offense was again an issue, but there were fireworks in the fourth quarter and at the end of the day, Iowa is now 4-1 and firmly in the race for the Big Ten West division title.

That’s an impressive accomplishment given the Hawkeyes lost their starting quarterback and former Big Ten Championship winner at Michigan Cade McNamara. It’s more impressive given the injury happened on just the second offensive series of the game.

Entering this season, Hawkeye fans were pretty optimistic about this team. Expectations were for, roughly, a 9-3 season with a West title within reach. As we got more and more data about this offense post-McNamara quad injury, those expectations dipped.

A few weeks ago, fans dropped their views on the full season to more like an 8-4 season. The West seemed achievable, but more difficult. Apparently, you have to score points to win games and nobody bothered to tell that to offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz.

But now we’re nearing the midway point of this season (no, seriously, next week is the dead center of the regular season) and the Hawkeyes are staring at playing the remainder of their Big Ten conference slate without their starting quarterback, the guy who was hoped to be the missing piece to turn this offense around.

In his place stands Deacon Hill, the former Wisconsin QB who hails from California. At 6’3” and 258 pounds, Hill can fill just about anyone’s shoes literally, but there are myriad questions about how this offense will perform with him under center instead of McNamara.

On Saturday, we saw Iowa go to more play-action passing with rollouts and bootlegs. Hill looked comfortable on the move and seemed to stand tall when in the pocket. But his receivers failed him with six drops. Sure, some of that was due to the lack of touch from Hill, who seems to throw at just one speed to all areas of the field, but that’s not likely to change in a week’s time. Perhaps not even in half a season.

So what are Hawkeye fans to expect out of the remainder of the season now? How big is the dropoff from Cade to Deacon?

We want to know your thoughts on Iowa’s new expectations for the full season. At 4-1 through week five, can the Hawkeyes run the table? Are they doomed to lose out? Or somewhere in between? Vote for your expected regular season record in the poll below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Oh, and the Hawkeyes get their most hated rival on homecoming this week. The spread is hanging around 3 points in favor of Iowa. Will the Hawkeyes get to 5-1?