Hawkeye fans, the time has finally come! College football returned to our television sets last weekend, and now it’s our turn as the Iowa Hawkeyes take to the field for the first time in 2023.
Iowa opens their season in the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium this Saturday with an 11am kickoff against the Aggies of Utah State. With that kick comes a slew of questions after the Hawkeyes finished their 2022 campaign with a stumble followed by a rebound in their bowl matchup with Kentucky.
Iowa returns several familiar faces on one of the nation’s top defenses from a season ago. That includes preseason All-American cornerback Cooper DeJean, as well as safety Quinn Schulte and defensive linemen Logan Lee and Joe Evans. But it’s not the familiar faces that have Hawkeye fans excited for the new season.
Kirk Ferentz and company hit the portal hard last offseason, bringing in not only All-ACC linebacker Nick Jackson and star JUCO defensive tackle Anterio Thompson to help the defense, but a flurry of talent to infuse some life into what was one of the worst power five offenses in recent memory.
Hawkeye fans will get their first taste of that new-look offense on Saturday as Cade McNamara is set to lead Brian Ferentz’s offense onto the turf in Kinnick for the first time. He’ll be joined by former teammate TE Erick All, a pair of new receivers in Seth Anderson and Kaleb Brown, as well as two new offensive linemen in All-MAC guard Rusty Feth and tackle Daijon Parker.
Will all the new pieces fit together to make the misery of a season ago fade into the past? Or will we see another episode of the same show we watches last season?
Those questions may not be fully answered this week as Utah State is expected to be in a transition year. After setting the world on fire in his first season back in 2021 where the Aggies finished 11-3, Blake Anderson’s group fell flat in 2022 finishing at 6-7 overall and 5-3 in the Mountain West.
Now Anderson enters year three with lots of question marks as the offense loses four of five starters on the line and three of the top five receiving targets. Perhaps more importantly, the Aggies lose 1,100-yard rusher Calvin Tyler from an offense that averaged just 22 points per game in a losing season last year.
The defense also looks to replace loads of production both along the defensive line and at linebacker. This from a team that gave up nearly 200 yards per game on the ground and 400 yards per game overall, while forfeiting more than 31 points per game.
That sets up for Iowa’s offense to ease into the 2023 season and perhaps help offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz on his drive for 325 points this year.
Here’s a look at the details for Saturday’s season opener.
Date: Saturday, September 2nd
Time: 11:00 am CT
Matchup: Utah State Aggies (0-0, 0-0) at #25 Iowa Hawkeyes (0-0, 0-0)
Location: Kinnick Stadium - Iowa City, IA
Preliminary Weather Forecast: mostly sunny with temps in the low-90s, 10mpg winds
DraftKings Opening Line: Iowa -25, O/U 43.5
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Saturday’s matchup will be the third meeting between the Hawkeyes and Utah State. Iowa has won each of the first two games by an average margin of nearly 49 points. In the last meeting back in 2002, Iowa took down the Aggies 48-7 in a game that saw the Hawkeyes rush for 300 yards. The Hawkeyes scored a defensive TD on a fumble recovery and also returned a blocked punt for a TD as they cruised to victory.
As dominant as that 2002 victory was, it was dwarfed by the 70-14 thumping the 1957 Hawkeyes put on Utah State. That season-opener set the tone for a season that saw Iowa finish the year at 7-1-1 with a pair of top-15 wins (vs Wisconsin and at Notre Dame) and finish ranked 8th in the AP poll.
Notably, in each of the two prior seasons Iowa has faced Utah State, the Hawkeyes finished the year ranked 8th nationally. This year, Iowa comes into the season ranked 25th in the AP (26th in the Coaches Poll). That marks the 10th time in the Kirk Ferentz era the Hawkeyes have been ranked in the pre-season (and 27th time in program history. Iowa has been ranked in the AP pre-season poll in four of the past five seasons.
Preseason Prep Work
As we march toward kick off, be sure to check out our preseason preview for this week’s matchup. There’s loads of important details and unique looks at this week’s opponent, including this great set of stats:
31.2 points allowed: The Utah State defense was bad with a 2022 ranking of 105th in points allowed. It was slightly worse than their total yards allowed (77th) and yards/play (82nd). In trying to discover where they especially struggled, it was...red zone defense.
129th: The Aggies ranking in allowing opponent scores once they got inside the 20. Over 9 out of 10 times, opponents scored. 32 out of the 44 scores (68%) were touchdowns.
35 transfers: Adding insult to injury, Utah State has seen a ton leave Logan off of last year’s squad. The linked article notes that it’s not out of bound with their Mountain West counterparts but is a jarring figure nonetheless.
And here’s a look at the preseason predictions for this one.
Staff Prediction: Iowa win, 100% of the vote
Fan Prediction: Iowa Win, 100% of the vote
BizarroMath Prediction: Iowa 36, Utah State 10 - 92.26% chance of Iowa win
Be sure to check back in throughout the week as all preview and postgame stories will be published to this stream.