IOWA CITY – An ugly season is bound to produce even uglier numbers.
For the Iowa football team in 2012, that meant ranking lower than No. 100 among the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in seven key categories.
If the Hawkeyes hope to rebound from a 4-8 mark, they’ll have to make statistical strides.
A closer look at where Iowa dipped below the century mark in 2012 and why those numbers might be on the upswing this season:
Passing efficiency: 112th (107.7 rating)
The struggles of former quarterback James Vandenberg (one touchdown for every 55.6 pass attempts) are well documented, so there’s no point in dwelling on that. And besides, it wasn’t solely his fault.
Why the numbers might improve: This will be offensive coordinator Greg Davis’ second season with the Hawkeyes. And let’s be honest, things can’t get much worse. It also will be the second year in the system for quarterbacks Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard. That should help all three men settle into more of a comfort zone.
Why they might not: Vandenberg regressed from his junior to senior season, and that could be a huge red flag. At this point, we have no way of knowing how Rudock or Beathard (or Cody Sokol) will respond in an actual game.
Rushing offense: 101st (123.0 ypg)
Injuries in the backfield and on the offensive line prevented Iowa from gaining any traction.
Why the numbers might improve: There are plenty of available ball carriers. Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock combined to average 4.5 yards per carry, and they’ll be running behind a blocking corps that features seven players who have started at least once in their Hawkeye careers.
Why they might not: If the passing game continues to misfire, Weisman and Bullock will have to carry too much of the load. Defenses will load up the box and clog running lanes.
114th (310.4 ypg)
Illinois (296.7) was the only Big Ten team to average fewer yards last fall.
Why the numbers might improve: Iowa’s first three opponents have defensive concerns. Northern Illinois is replacing seven starters. Missouri State is, well, Missouri State. And Iowa State no longer has the linebacking tandem of Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. The Hawkeyes also will face a Western Michigan defense that allowed nearly 400 yards a game a year ago.
Why they might not: It takes consistency to sustain drives. There’s been a lot of chatter this offseason about Iowa committing to an up-tempo style. If this becomes a half-hearted ploy, things will bog down.
Scoring offense: 111th (19.3 ppg)
Nothing came easy for the Hawkeyes, who recorded just one scoring run longer than 30 yards and a single touchdown pass that covered more than 40.
Why the numbers might improve: Junior-college transfer Damond Powell showed during Saturday’s scrimmage that he could be a playmaker.
Why they might not: Remember Keenan Davis? He had just one touchdown catch last season — a total he matched in his first preseason game with the Miami Dolphins. When you have talented targets, you need to throw them the darn ball.
(1.1 per game)
Opposing quarterbacks were brought down once every 27.2 pass attempts. They threw a touchdown every 22.1.
Why the numbers might improve: Drew Ott, a true freshman last fall, was among those pressed into duty because of injuries. He didn’t play in any of Iowa’s first seven games, but faced a trial by fire in the final five. He’s now part of a more experienced and highly motivated unit.
Why they might not: Sacks can be overrated, especially in an era of three-step drops and quick releases. Expect the Hawkeyes to have more than 13 sacks, but it’s equally important to pester a passer and disrupt his rhythm.
Tackles for loss: 105th (4.4 per game)
Once again, this can be traced to a defensive line going through growing pains. Linebackers and defensive backs accounted for more than 53 percent of Iowa’s TFLs.
Why the numbers might improve: There is more depth and talent. Coaches plan to develop an eight- or nine-man rotation up front. Fresh legs should mean a better push in the fourth quarter.
Why they might not: The schedule is tougher, and Big Ten teams are stretching the field with quicker players. We’ll see how much this defense has improved when Iowa travels to Ohio State on Oct. 19 and tries to contain Braxton Miller.
104th (34.4 yards)
Florida State, Boise State and Louisville all ranked lower than Iowa in this category, and all won at least 11 games in 2012. So let’s keep things in perspective. Opponents averaged just 4.4 yards on 22 returns.
Why the numbers might improve: Iowa coaches really like their options on special teams, and punter Connor Kornbrath is back.
Why they might not: If the offense stalls at midfield, not much can be gained by bringing in the punting unit. And, frankly, the Hawkeyes would probably have other things to worry about.
Andrew Logue covers Hawkeye football and sports media for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMLogue
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football