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College Football Preview 2024: Iowa Hawkeyes win projections, strengths and weaknesses, quarterback spotlight and more

2T02MCX Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara (12) signals teammates during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

You won’t find a program with a bigger disparity between its offense and defense. The Hawkeyes fielded the worst offense in the country last year, finishing 134th out of 134 programs in expected points added (EPA) per play. But of the 25 lowest-graded offenses in the country, Iowa was the only one to boast a winning record.

Not only that, the Hawkeyes played in the Big Ten Championship game and won 10 games. That doesn’t happen without an elite defense, which Iowa should have again in 2024.

Unless the offense takes some serious strides forward, the Hawkeyes will be limited to being a very good but not elite team.

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Biggest Strength: Defense

The defense is the only reason the program has had any sort of success recently. The Hawkeyes have finished top-10 in EPA allowed per play in each of the past four seasons. With the nation’s No. 2 secondary, No. 2 linebacker unit and the country's best defensive coordinator in Phil Parker, Iowa will most likely be elite on that side of the ball once again.

Biggest Weakness: Offense

The Hawkeyes’ offense has struggled just as much as the defense has dominated in recent years. Iowa has fielded one of the nation’s 10 least efficient offenses in each of the past three seasons and finished as the worst in the country in EPA per play last year. The Hawkeyes have some key players returning from injury and a new offensive coordinator in Tim Lester, but it likely still won’t be pretty on that side of the ball.

2023 Team Overview

EPA per play Yards per play Successful play rate Explosive run play rate Explosive pass play rate
-0.302 4.0 25.1% 9.5% 7.7%
134th 134th 134th 132nd 133rd
EPA allowed per play Yards allowed per play Successful play rate allowed Explosive run rate allowed Explosive pass rate allowed
-2.07% 4.1 28.4% 7.9% 7.6%
6th 1st 5th 1st 1st

Three Notable Transfer Portal Additions

  • C Cade Borud (North Dakota): 71.1 PFF Grade
  • QB Brendan Sullivan (Northwestern): 56.3 PFF Grade
  • WR Jacob Gill (Northwestern): 49.7 PFF Grade

Three Notable Transfer Portal Losses

  • WR Diante Vines (Old Dominion): 53.4 PFF Grade
  • QB Deacon Hill (Utah Tech): 41.2 PFF Grade
  • QB Spencer Petras (Utah State): 60.6 PFF Grade (2022)

Quarterback Spotlight: Cade McNamara

2023 Grade: 60.3
Key Stat: 105 pass attempts over the last two seasons


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