Nobody really predicted that the Iowa Hawkeyes would be entering week four of the season with a 2-1 record. Following their loss to North Dakota State on Saturday, the Iowa Hawkeyes will have to prepare to head on the road and make sure another upset is not completed.
The Hawkeyes will need to have a short memory this week heading into a Saturday matchup with Rutgers.
Rutgers fired former head coach Kyle Flood after four seasons. Flood led the Scarlet Knights to three bowl games in four seasons, including two winning seasons in 2012 and 2014. However, that was not enough for Flood to keep his job.
Enter Chris Ash.
Ash, who is an Iowa native, spent the past couple seasons on the Ohio State staff serving as the co-defensive coordinator. And he did that job quite well, which is why he is now the head coach at Rutgers. The Buckeyes ranked second in all of the FBS in points given up per game at just about 15 last season.
He brings a defensive mindset to a Rutgers team that is probably still a few years away from being somewhat relevant again. The Knights got blown out by a very good Washington team in their opener, but did bounce back with wins against Howard and New Mexico.
Strong Running Game
Rutgers' running game has been very strong over the course of the first three weeks of the season. You can give much of the credit to Robert Martin, who is averaging nearly 7 yards per carry early on in 2016.
Martin did not play in the teams opener against Washington, but thrashed New Mexico last week to the tune of 169 yards and a TD on 21 carries.
Josh Hicks, who is Martin's backup is also averaging a very respectable five yards per carry early on this season. Iowa will need to be sure they key on this running game after getting embarrassed this past week by the North Dakota State Bison on the ground.
Lost Leading Receiver
Rutgers wasn't good last year, but they did have a few bright spots and one of them was Leonte Carroo. Carroo, who was taken in the third round of this past years' NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, led the Knights in both receptions and receiving yards last season with 39 catches for 809 yards.
Then you can go back to the season before that and Carroo was a 1,000 yard receiver for the Knights.
This will without a doubt hurt them.
They have a guy in Janarion Grant who is leading the team in receptions this season, but he has big shoes to fill. He finished second on the team in receptions last season with 35, but Carroo's average yards per catch nearly doubled Grant's in 2015.
Ash will be looking for someone to step up in the pass game for his QB, Chris Laviano.
Defense Still Figuring It Out
I believe that this defense has the talent to be a middle of the road defense in the FBS, but they just haven't quite put it all together just yet. They are allowing 30 points per game over the first two games, and allowed 48 early on to Washington. They've racked up 12 sacks as a team with Julian Pinnix-Odrick leading the way at 3.5 over the first three games.
They are only giving up around 365 total yards per game, so they have looked good, but it has been against Washington, Howard, and New Mexico.
They only gave up 380 total yards to Washington, but the offense turned the ball over three separate times, which did not help the cause.
This defense has the talent and I think the right guy is in place in Ash, but the offense has to do their part as well.
Rutgers is 2-1, but has fell behind by 24, 14, and 21 in the first quarter of each of their three games. They let Howard jump out to a 14 point lead before putting their foot on the gas. Then they let New Mexico jump ahead by 21 this past week, both were games that Rutgers wound up winning.
Iowa will need to do the same thing on Saturday. If they are able to do this, it will be awfully difficult for Rutgers to mount a comeback considering Iowa is not Howard or New Mexico.
If you're Ash, this has to be a point of emphasis during the week because as you start to play better teams, you can't be falling behind by multiple touchdowns in the first quarter of the games.
Iowa and Rutgers will take the field this Saturday with kickoff set for 11 A.M. CT.null