Iowa took a bunch of crap from national media and fans of college football last season for having a weak non-conference schedule and then subsequently not having to play Michigan, Ohio State, or Michigan State during the Big Ten season.
Well, Iowa's non-conference schedule didn't get any tougher this fall as they'll play Miami (OH) to start, the Iowa State Cyclones the week after, and then the North Dakota State Bison to round out non-conference play. I am going to be previewing Iowa's opponents for this fall and will start with their week 1 opponents, the Miami (OH) Redhawks.
The Redhawks are coming off a year in which they finished second to last in the Mid-American Eastern Division. They were 3-9 overall and 2-6 in the conference with their only wins coming against Massachusetts and Eastern Michigan, or in other words, two teams that combined for 2-14 in conference play. Their other win came in non-conference play against Presbyterian, who finished dead last in the Big South.
They were a fairly young ball club last year considering their leading passer and rusher were both freshman and will be returning for the 2016-17 season.
They averaged right around 18 points per contest, which was good for 117th out of 128 FBS teams. Their defense allowed nearly 32 points per game, which came in at 95th out of 128 teams. Long story short for the Redhawks last season, they were bad.
As previously mentioned, their leading passer and rusher last season were both freshman, so they were lacking experience in 15-16. Billy Bahl will most likely get the nod as the starting quarterback come August considering Drew Kummer finished up his collegiate career last season. Bahl had his struggles last season completing just 45% of his passes for 1,416 yards. He tossed just eight touchdown passes compared to his 13 interceptions as well.
Bahl is a big guy at 6'4" and 250 pounds, but he just couldn't seem to get on track during his freshman season last year. He played in all but one of the Redhawks' games last season, but didn't play much in a few of the games he did appear in. He'll likely be the starter under center and Alonzo Smith likely lines up behind him. Smith, another freshman, scampered for 498 yards last season and found the end zone five times. A dark horse to look out for could be fellow freshman Maurice Thomas. He carried the ball 18 times for 206 yards, which is good for 11.4 yards per carry last year.
Bahl gets his two top targets back in Rokeem Williams and Sam Martin. The duo combined for 62 catches, 1,085 yards, and four touchdowns. They both caught touchdown passes for 70 or more yards so they do have big play ability.
The offense is young, but they did get some good experience last season. They will likely have their hands full with a good Iowa defense, however.
The Redhawks were already terrible on defense last season and to go along with it, they lose their two leading tacklers from 15-16. They'll be taking on an Iowa team that returns a lot of talented players. The only question marks will be on the outside with the wide receivers. Other than that, that Miami (OH) defense will have to deal with the experienced C.J. Beathard and then two running backs who are capable of going for more that 150 yards in a game.
They return their third leading tackler, Paul Moses, who is a converted running back. Moses had 31 solo tackles and 40 assisted tackles last season. He also added three sacks of the quarterback.
With how much experience and talent Iowa brings back, there is no reason that Iowa should not roll right over the Redhawks. Iowa is deeper and has more talent, which usually leads to a victory. It should be a decent early season tune up for the Hawkeyes before they welcome in the Iowa State Cyclones for a night time matchup in week number 2.
I think Iowa has a field day running the football and both Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels go over 100 yards. The Hawkeyes should handle business fairly easily, they win 45-17.