With the Terrapins coming off their bye week ready to take on a 5-1 Iowa Hawkeyes team, it’s worth looking at the opponent that seems pretty equal to Maryland at face value. The Hawkeyes lone loss came at the hands of in-state opponent Iowa State, but since then they have ran off three straight wins against Pittsburgh, Purdue, and Indiana by a combined score of 93-59.
But exactly how good is this team that’s tied for first place in that much maligned Big Ten – West division? Well, for one thing, they’re easily the most Big Ten team Maryland will face all year. By that I mean the way they play is not explosive at all.
Only two teams average fewer yards per play than the Hawkeyes at 5.1 yards per play (Northwestern and Purdue), good for 92nd nationally. The Hawkeyes are a throwback run-based team by a solid margin; they’ve ran the ball 238 times versus 207 passing plays. They control the clock very well though because of their propensity to run, averaging about 33 minutes of possession time. That is good enough for 23rd nationally in that metric.
Back to that explosiveness thing, though. Iowa is bereft of what one could really consider top-tier playmakers. Their points per play, which is typically pretty indicative of how efficient an offense is, .336 and 85th nationally. Compare that to a team like Maryland which is at .463 and within the top 30, and you get an understanding of just how different these two teams operate. Maryland relies on big plays and gets them quite often, but Iowa just likes to pound, pound, pound.
But the Hawkeyes record sits on a throne of lies, plain and simple. The Hawkeyes haven’t faced a single opponent with a winning record; their opponents are a combined 15-22. The Hawkeyes may have blown out Indiana, but the Hoosiers are a bad team that’s giving up 35.6 yards per game. Subtract that 45-point outing and Iowa is averaging a paltry 20.5 points per game. The game was so bad it skewed how effective this team’s offense actually is. Rather, the first half of that game is not indicative of how bad Iowa is offensively, because they scored 38 points in one half and 7 points in the other. Total.
You’ve also got to look at the Hawkeyes defense a bit more closely as well, because of how mediocre the teams they’ve played have been. The Hawkeyes are an incredibly stout 26th nationally in total defensive yards per game at 330, up there with the likes of Penn State, Alabama, and a score of other monster defenses. But if you add a single filter (total defensive yards vs FBS ranked opponents), Iowa completely disappears. Point being? They haven’t been tested, period.
Much of their vaunted run defense, which has given up fewer than three yards per game leading up to this one, is actually not great when it’s been tested. Tevin Coleman blasted the Hawkeyes for 219 yards, and the Hoosiers racked up 316 total rushing yards. Mind you, this was the first relatively decent run offense Iowa faced and they were completely decimated. Maryland is a terrible run team, so that may not matter much, but the Hawkeyes might make everyone look alright.
Before you write Iowa off, remember that Maryland is a horrible defense in their own right. The Terps are actually worse than Indiana defensively (except in red zone defense, where they’re top notch). The Hawkeyes could very well shred Maryland in the exact same manner as they did Indiana, but it’s worth mentioning that the Terps have way more talent than that team on defense even with injuries. Most attribute Maryland’s poor defensive play to the injury bug, and Iowa could offer a test as to whether or not this team defense will crack against even mediocre offenses, or will play well enough to stop them.