2014 Iowa Hawkeyes Odds to Win the Big Ten with Picks & Predictions
by Aaron Smith - 8/18/2014
The Iowa Hawkeyes are one of the toughest teams in college football to predict on a year-to-year basis. One year Kirk Ferentz is one of the hottest coaching prospects in the nation, and the next year Hawkeyes fans are upset with him. It seems this Iowa team greatly exceeds expectations when almost nothing is expected of them. They are also known to disappoint in a big way when many expect them to be good. Last season was a rare year where Iowa finished right about where most people expected at 8-5.
The Hawkeyes return eight starters on offense but just five starters on defense. The Hawkeyes talent level isn't as high as some teams in the Big Ten, but playing in the Big Ten West Division, they absolutely have a chance to make some noise. One other huge benefit to this team is the schedule they play. Iowa plays what I believe is the weakest schedule in the Big Ten this year. Can the Hawkeyes turn that into the advantage they need to sit atop the Big Ten West at the end of the year?
2014 Iowa Offense
Jake Rudock returns as the Iowa starting quarterback. Rudock completed 59 percent of his passes last year and threw 18 touchdowns. The problem for Rudock was turnovers. Rudock threw 13 interceptions in just 346 pass attempts a year ago. Rudock doesn't have to be terrific for this Iowa offense to get the job done, but he does need to do a better job taking care of the football.
Mark Weisman is a big bruising runner for the Hawkeyes. Weisman gained 960 yards on the ground last year for Iowa, and I expect big things from him in 2014. He's that guy that is extremely tough to stop on a third-and-short situation. Weisman will keep his legs moving and push the pile forward. Jordan Canzeri and Damon Bullock are quality backups, and this is the deepest Iowa backfield in many years. The Hawkeyes offensive line is always good, and this year should be no different. Left tackle Brandon Scherff is an NFL prospect, and the amount of big guys to provide depth for the Hawkeyes is very impressive. The Hawkeyes have what I believe is the deepest offensive front in the Big Ten.
The Hawkeyes have had a shortage of weapons at the wide receiver spot pretty often over the last few years. Martin-Manley and Powell are both high quality receivers for this team, but the loss of tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz really hurts this team in a big way. The passing game is a question mark.
2014 Iowa Defense
Iowa has a strong defensive line to lead the way. The Hawkeyes return seven of their top eight from the defensive front. Carl Davis is elite at the defensive tackle spot, and the rest of the players around him are great in this system. Iowa does a good job recruiting players who fit into the system well, and having this many returners on the front line means this unit should be strong.
Iowa's linebackers were amazing last year, but all three of them are gone. The Hawkeyes have a massive hole to fill at this spot. The top returnee in this area is Quinton Alston, who had just 12 tackles a year ago. Kirk Ferentz's teams are usually strong at the linebacker spot, so maybe they won't be as bad as they look on paper. However, I definitely worry about this group in a big way. This could be the group that makes Iowa's defense take a big step backward in 2014.
The secondary is led by sophomore Desmond King, who started most of last year as a freshman. He is a future star, and I could see him being a shut-down corner already in just his second season. John Lowdermilk is a gritty senior safety who does a nice job at the back line of defense.
The front line is good, and the secondary is solid, but with three totally untested linebackers the defense is an unknown.
2014 Iowa Hawkeyes Odds to Win Big Ten
Iowa is listed at 10/1 to win the Big Ten Championship, according to odds from Bovada. The Hawkeyes are priced at 13/4 to win the Big Ten West Division. Iowa is 100/1 to win the national title. Most books have the Hawkeyes season win total set at eight games in 2014 .
2014 Iowa Hawkeyes Picks & Predictions
As I mentioned earlier, this Iowa schedule is as easy as you will ever find in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes play Wisconsin and Nebraska at home. They only have to travel to Purdue, Minnesota, Maryland, and Illinois. The nonconference schedule is quite easy as well. While Iowa has a lot of flaws, I think the schedule gives them a real opportunity to win the Big Ten West. I see some value on the Hawkeyes at 13/4 on this side of the conference. Look for the Hawkeyes to win more than eight games this year.
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Read more articles by Aaron Smith
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