Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 9/18/13
Iowa has improved its scoring from last season by eight-points — averaging 27 points through three games. The improvement should have Iowans pleased with the direction the offense and the coaching staff is heading in. The issue however, is that the defense hasn’t seen improvements and is still a question mark. In 2012, Iowa gave up 23 points per game to opposing offenses. This season the Hawkeyes are allowing 22 points per. Under head coach Kirk Ferentz Iowa has rarely ever been a team capable of winning high scoring games or ones that turn into shootouts — the exceptions would be the 2002 Iowa squad led by dual-threat quarterback Brad Banks and the 2009 team led by a slew of players who eventually made it to the NFL. So far this season, Ferentz and his coaching staff have been able to win games by controlling the time of possession, which is the easiest way to produce more scoring opportunities. This strategy is effective against the Missouri State’s and Iowa State’s of the world, but not against most Big Ten teams. (from left) Linebackers Anthony Hitchens (31), James Morris (44), and Christian Kirksey (20) during Iowa’s media day on August 8, 2013. Senior linebackers Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey and James Morris have been starters for more than two years now and have offset some of the growing holes in Iowa’s defense. Last season the trio narrowly finished with 100 tackles each. Hitchens’ 124 tackles led the Big Ten and ranked fifth nationally and Morris’ 113 tackles ranked third in the Big Ten. Kirksey was just shy of the century mark with 95 tackles but his four fumbles recovery led the Big Ten. When Iowa’s defensive line fails to stop the ball carrier it’s highly likely that one of its three linebackers will make the tackle but it’s when opposing offenses start to throw the ball that the Hawkeyes get into trouble. Iowa follows the defensive strategy of bending but not breaking. More often than not however, the Hawkeye secondary breaks. Since defensive back Micah Hyde graduated to the NFL, Iowa’s secondary has constantly been beaten for big plays. Through three games Iowa has allowed more total passing yards (662), passing yards per game (220), and touchdown passes (7) to opposing offenses. Last week, Iowa allowed Iowa State receiver Quenton Bundrage to catch seven passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns. In the Cyclones first game against Northern Iowa — which they lost 28-20 — Bundrage only managed 3 catches for 31 yards. The Hawkeyes rushing defense — which has only allowed 292 yards and zero touchdowns — is unreliable due to the inferior teams Iowa has played thus far. Iowa finishes its non-conference schedule this Saturday against Western Michigan. After playing the Broncos the Hawkeyes will start Big Ten play and only then will we see how the Hawkeyes measure up against more challenging opponents.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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