Inside the Numbers

There has been some talk as to whether or not we are witnessing the best Iowa defense in school history. After taking a closer look 'Inside the Numbers','s Jon Miller feels that there is enough evidence at this juncture of the season for that debate to be reasonably considered. In this week's installment of 'ITN', we take a closer look at the touchdowns that have been scored by Hawkeye opponents this year.

There has been some talk as to whether or not we are witnessing the best Iowa defense in school history.

While I can not personally attest to what took place back in the late 50's during the glorious three year run by Forrest Evashevski's Hawkeye teams, or what Howard Jones' Hawks did back in the early 1920's, I can talk from a first hand perspective on how this defense compares to the 1981 version.

One of the bottom line factors that people look at are rushing, passing and scoring statistics.

For a defense, that would be how much they allow their opponents to run, pass or score.

The first stat that jumps out at me this season is how stingy Iowa has been in keeping opponents out of the end zone.

To this point, Iowa opponents have scored 13 touchdowns this season. That in and of itself is a great, great number. Only five teams in the nation have allowed fewer touchdowns than Iowa this season.

But a closer look inside the numbers shows Iowa's defense to be much better than 13 touchdowns scored against the Hawkeyes this year.

Against Penn State, there was an interception returned for a touchdown. Against Ohio State, the Buckeyes blocked a punt for a touchdown and returned a punt for a touchdown.

So that takes the total down to just 10 touchdowns that have been given up by the Hawkeye defense this season.

A further look also shows that Iowa has allowed just six scoring drives of longer than 51 yards this year that ended in a touchdown for the opposing offense: drives of 74 and 86 v Michigan, 80-yards v Michigan State, 78 and 80 yards v Iowa State and an 80 yard drive against Buffalo.

Penn State's second touchdown drive began at the Iowa 24 yard line after an Edgar Cervantes fumble. Michigan scored on a 51-yard drive after a poor Iowa punt. Michigan State scored on a 41-yard drive after a Ramon Ochoa fumble. Iowa State scored on a 26-yard drive after a fumble.

Iowa held Miami (OH) and Arizona State out of the end zone altogether, and Buffalo scored on reserves. Iowa State's final touchdown, the three-play, 80 yard drive, came against Iowa reserves.

Boil all of that down, and it tells you that the starting defense this year has allowed just four touchdown drives this year where the opponent was not set up by a Hawkeye turnover or the one bad punt.

That is unbelievable.

The 2003 Hawkeyes stack up statistically with the 1981 Hawkeye defense, so much so that it is a bit eerie.

1981: 253.6
2003: 281.2

1981: 86.9
2003: 73.6

1981: 11.7
2003: 14.1

Iowa still has four games to go on the regular season calendar this year and two of those teams have offenses that are explosive: Purdue and Minnesota.

Those games will be a true test to this year's Hawkeye group and they will likely impact the season ending statistics.

Through eight games, Iowa's defensive averages are as impressive as we have seen in the modern era of Hawkeye football.

If they can keep up this pace for the final four games, then you could argue that they are as good as the 1981 defense. But it would appear we can talk about these two squads in the same breath.

Consider these comments from Chuck Hartlieb:

"I have watched Iowa football for 20+ years and I have been watching it pretty closely. To have last year be clearly the best offensive line in Iowa football history, then you have this year to be noted that it might be the best linebacker corps in Iowa history, if not the best overall defense. I do not throw that around lightly. I am really impressed. I don't know if disappointment is the right word or not, but I think these guys should be getting more credit than they are because we are giving up goofy touchdowns in spots that can not be attributed to the defense."

For a complete look at how Iowa ranks statistically compared with the rest of the nation, CLICK HERE

And for updated Big Ten statistics, CLICK HERE.

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