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Matchup to Watch: Western Michigan’s Kenneth Womack v. Jermari Harris

For trash talk, Anderson’s midweek availability wasn’t all that spicy but the Cyclone secondary will we tough test

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 09 Western Michigan at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome back to matchup to watch. Last week? LOL. Seth Anderson had just one catch for 14 yards and another target on a missed deep ball from the shadow of Iowa’s goal posts. TJ Tampa played well, with five tackles (including a TD-saving one on Jaz Patterson’s long run) and a QB hit. Overall, Iowa threw the ball to wideouts just four times on 22 attempts.

Onto Western Michigan...

Despite missing all of last year with an injury, Jermari Harris has totally endeared himself to the Iowa Hawkeyes’ staff. His success in his redshirt freshman year (2021) projected him as a starter heading into 2023 which likely played a role in Terry Roberts’ departure. Despite being suspended for Iowa’s first two games, he continued practicing with the team. Given the success that Deshaun Lee had over two games, it seemed like a Wally Pipping was in play but Kirk Ferentz’s words mirrored the return of Harris on the top line of the depth chart: “He’s fully engaged, ready to roll. It will be good to get him back.”

One guy he’ll go against is grad transfer Kenneth Womack. The 5’11” wideout (and point guard!) at Sacred Heart led the Pioneers in receiving yards last season with 721. He was often split out wide and shows an ability to catch the ball in condensed space, speed after receiving it, and toughness when warranted.

Through two games, he’s the high man with 121 yards on eight receptions (team high 15.1 yards/catch) but has yet to find paydirt for the Broncos.

Harris, on his career, has four interceptions and another four passes defended. He adds to it 22 tackles. Much like Lee, he found his way to the field after injuries depleted Iowa’s secondary and made the most of his opportunity. As mentioned above, injuries derailed his 2022 so it’s been a long time coming for the Chicago-area product.

Perhaps the most important reason I bring Harris up is that the last time Iowa faced Western Michigan, it was almost exactly a decade ago and one of just six games where Iowa put up 50 or more points in the last decade. To be fair, 28 of the Hawkeyes’ 59 came from return touchdowns, including 2 from then-cornerback BJ Lowery.

I suspect many, if not all, of the principals from the Broncs are gone (PJ Fleck was head coach at the time) but Iowa’s ability to put up non-offensive points come into focus in a game like this. In the other five 50-plus point games, the Hawkeye defense has ATE, with another five D/ST scores on 21 turnovers.

This isn’t to say the Hawks are going to go out and put up a 50-burger to bank some points for the 25 PPG target. But if they do, the defense almost certainly has a hand in creating that wide a margin. Look for Harris to be a guy who can make that happen against the WMU’s big play threat in Kenneth Womack.