Iowa heads into Saturday's opening contest against Illinois State with some intensity and excitement as they try to grow from last season's disappointments. They're just eager to get back on the field and not have the TaxSlayer Bowl be their last memory of a footgball game. Three more days and that comes true.
Hawkeye Insider looks at some of the advantages, and some of the challenges the offense will face against their first foe, the Illinois State Redbirds.
There's two areas where I like the Hawkeyes' chances in their matchup against the Illinois State defense. The first is the virtually brand new secondary for the Redbirds. They don't have any defensive backs with regular starting experience. Iowa has three receivers that have contributed already in Tevaun Smith, Matt VandeBerg, and Jacob Hillyer. Those three should be able to create separation and find space to make plays downfield in this contest. Add that with the more aggressive quarterback in junior C.J. Beathard, and there could be chances to be had for Iowa through the air.
The second area where I like Iowa will kind of open up the passing game even more, possibly. New running back LeShun Daniels is going to be running behind three big boys on the interior offensive line who have a ton of experience and size in Jordan Walsh, Austin Blythe, and Sean Welsh. On the other side of the coin, defensive tackle is another position that is a bit green for the Redbirds. They will be starting two new defensive tackles that are only sophomores and are much slimmer than Walsh, Blythe, and Welsh. Advantage Iowa. If they can pound the ball inside with Daniels, they should have even more opportunities to exploit the Illinois State secondary.
It's not all roses and sunshine. Illinois State poses challenges for the Hawkeyes. They have some strong pass rushers in David Perkins (formerly of Ohio State), David Kenney (former Iowa commit and was at Indiana), Reggie Spearman (former Iowa player), and Teddy Corwin. They also bring back two returning starters at linebacker in Alex Donnelly and Pat Meehan. That's a stout front seven, even if they are undersized at defensive tackle. Iowa should be fine in the interior, but protecting the edge with Boone Myers and Ike Boettger will be a necessity. They're new and they'll be tested right out of the gate.
Find out more about Iowa's matchup against Illinois State in the video above.