July 23, 2024

With redshirt freshman cornerback Deshaun Lee expected to take the reins in the wake of Cooper DeJean’s injury, Iowa fans should be watching how the Hawkeyes respond.

1. Continued offensive acts
The offensive comeback, rather than the Hawkeye defense’s first shutout, was the most surprising part of Iowa’s 22-0 victory. After scoring just 10 points and gaining 169 yards against a middling Northwestern defence a week prior, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz referred to that performance as his best of the year.

402 yards of offence, no three-and-outs, and a 50% first-down conversion rate were all achieved against a Rutgers defence that currently sits 13th in the country in terms of total defence. A showing like that might just be an anomaly, or it might serve as the impetus for a late-season makeover that propels the team to the Big Ten Championship and possibly even a competitive postseason matchup.

Against the lowest-ranked Illinois defenceSaturday is the ideal day to continue this success as we rank third in the conference in terms of passing and rushing defence. The secret to doing so will be for quarterback Deacon Hill to play a perfect game and for Iowa’s running back corps to total at least 175 yards.

2. Replying to the legal practise
The Fighting Illini, to the dismay of many Iowa women’s basketball fans, have their own The Law Firm on the defensive line. Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton, a defensive tackle, and Keith Randolph Jr. were the partners. The two were selected as Athlon 2023 preseason All-Americans, with Randolph finishing third and Newton on the first team. At six feet five inches and 300 pounds, Randolph is the larger of the two. He ranks third in the Power Five at his position with 5.1 tackles per game. Newton, on the other hand, is a “rare talent,” according to Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, whose agility and skill allow him to play on both the left and right sides of the D-Line.

It’s difficult to stop him, difficult to

Newton leads all Power Five players at his position in QB pressures and snaps, according to Kirk Ferentz. “And you won’t be in there for very long if you do.”

Last season, The Law Firm led the country in QB pressures and tackles for loss among D-Line tandems, and they have maintained this success this year. It will be interesting to see how Iowa adjusts with play-action passing and running up the middle and using the QB sneak.

 

3. Covering Cooper DeJean’s absence
Star cornerback Cooper DeJean suffered a season-ending lower leg injury during practise on Wednesday, just when things were finally looking up for Iowa. It will be difficult for the Hawkeyes to replace the 2023 AP midseason first-team All-American in the secondary. Deshaun Lee, a redshirt freshman who has missed three games this season due to injury, is now in DeJean’s position on the depth chart. Lee made his return to action two weeks ago against Northwestern. In lieu of Jermari Harris, who was suspended at the time, Lee started the Hawkeyes’ opening two games of the season. Belleville, Michigan native Lee recorded two pass defences and fifteen tackles in those games.

Lee and Harris will both have toIsaiah Williams, the top wide receiver for Illinois and the Big Ten leader in grabs and yards after catch this year, will have them on their toes.

 

4. The Illinois QB scenario
Although many Hawkeye supporters were happy with Hill’s 223 passing yards against Rutgers, they should be shocked by Josh Paddock’s 507 passing yards in Illinois’ season-opening game as the Illini’s quarterback. But even after breaking the record for most passing yards in a single game at Memorial Stadium in Illinois, Paddock will sit out the game against the Hawkeyes. Luke Altmyer, an Ole Miss transfer who started the Illini’s first nine games but missed the matchup with Indiana due to a concussion, is now leading the charge.

Altmyer, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 200 pounds, has completed 64.8 of his passes for 1,883 yards and 13 touchdowns. The quarterback is vulnerable to bad plays, though.this season, grabbing 34 sacks and tossing 10 interceptions. It will be interesting to see how long Altmyer’s leash is given his backup’s historic performance last week, especially when playing on the road against a highly regarded Iowa defence.

 

5. Accurate kicks
This is not meant to be disparaging of Iowa kicker Drew Stevens, in line with what I said about Tory Taylor last week. Ten of Iowa’s points came from the second-year kicker, who also scored the game-winning kick against Northwestern the week before. Nevertheless, these achievements effectively obscure the fact that Stevens has actually missed two field goals in consecutive weeks. It makes sense that one of these was from 50 yards or more, but the one against Rutgers was from 47 yards.

There is some risk because Newton has three blocked kicks, which ties him for first place in the FBS and all of them against conference opponents. Currently, I don’t believe that a missed or blocked kick will change the outcome.in this one, but it’s important to take note of, particularly if Iowa hopes to maintain its competitiveness come postseason, when every point will count more.

 

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