99 Things – #31 Iowa’s Bid for the Big Ten West


Kirk Ferentz returns for his 78th year as the head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes (Kidding but it sure feels like it). The Hawkeyes have been the epitome of consistency since Ferentz took the reigns. The defense has been on of the best in the conference while the offense has rarely been viewed as explosive. 2022 will be full of similar storylines as Iowa is expected to have one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. The biggest question for the Hawkeyes remains on the offense. Who is going to step up for Iowa and be a playmaker to help compete with Wisconsin, Purdue and Minnesota?

Iowa is 26-9 since 2019 proving to be one of the best teams in the Big Ten. Iowa returns seven starters from one of the best defenses in the country. Jack Campbell is the leader of the defense after being named a second-team All-American last season. Campbell led the Big Ten in tackles with 143 last season. He also intercepted two passes, recovered two fumbles and scored a touchdown. Campbell finished with double digit tackles in five different games last season. Campbell will be assisted by Seth Benson and Jestin Jacobs. Benson finished with 105 tackles last season while Jacobs totaled 53 tackles.

The secondary has been a strength for Iowa in recent history and it should continue to be one of their strengths. Iowa led the nation in interceptions with 25 last season. The reigning defensive back of the year in the Big Ten is Riley Moss. Moss returns for his fifth season. He has started 27 games and appeared in 41 games. He intercepted four passes and returned two for touchdowns. Jemari Harris also returns to bolster the secondary. Harris was one of the best cornerbacks in the Big Ten last year intercepting four passes. He also was credited with four passes defended. Harris played in 10 games last season and will likely be one of the anchors of the secondary this season.

The biggest question for Iowa remains to be the offense. Spencer Petras has been the starting quarterback the past two seasons but his subpar performance has open the door for a competition. Petras completion percentage over the past two seasons is less than 58%. He also has only thrown for 19 touchdowns while throwing 14 interceptions. Alex Padilla saw limited action but was unimpressive throughout the season. Padilla completed less than 50% of his passes in the eight games he made an appearance. Redshirt freshman Joe Lebas could get a shot in fall camp if neither Padilla or Petras separate themselves.

The Hawkeyes have at least one surefire player in Sam LaPorta but the rest are up in the air. LaPorta was one of the best tight ends in the Big Ten last season. He was the Hawkeyes leading receiver tallying 53 receptions for 670 yards and three touchdowns. Keagan Johnson was second on the team in receiving with only 352 yards. Johnson did average 19.6 yards per carry displaying big play ability but it remains to be seen if he can be a consistent threat. Gavin Williams is likely to be the lead running back after Tyler Goodson declared for the NFL draft. Williams rushed for 305 yards while averaging 4.7 yards per carry. He failed to find the endzone in 11 games last season.

Iowa’s nonconference schedule is headlined by a visit from archrival Iowa State. They will also host Nevada and South Dakota State. October 1st will be their first test in the Big Ten. Michigan comes to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes. If Iowa is able to defeat Michigan they will likely be on the fast track to the Big Ten championship. Defeating Michigan will solidify their status as a Big Ten contender this fall. Iowa will travel to Columbus to play Ohio State on October 22nd. A win against the Buckeyes is unlikely but Iowa has been known to play spoiler to the Big Ten East teams. The Hawkeyes knocked off the Buckeyes in 2017 at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa will finish the season at Purdue, vs Wisconsin, at Minnesota and vs Nebraska. The schedule is daunting at times but the Hawkeyes will be in the hunt for their third 10 win season in a four year span. If the offense can even be mediocre 10 wins should be a breeze.


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