The Iowa Effect
Traditionally Iowa football is known for their punishing defense, zone blocking run game and their amazing fans. Fans who wander the streets of Minneapolis caught in a daze, staring up at the glass and concrete as if they were relics of a long-ago age when magic was real.
Over 4 stories? How did they do that? Maybe Ancient Aliens knows.
I’ m just teasing. I love Iowa. I spent a few summers there in the Peace Corps setting up generators and teaching the locals how to dig wells. I had some of the most fulfilling days of my life there until we powered up the generators and the locals chased me out of town thinking I was a demon who had marshaled the forces of fire.
Over the past few years the Hawkeyes’ normally reliable defense has begun to erode. Both passing and rushing defense have backslid but it’s the pass defense in particular that’s sabotaging Iowa. The first clue to their struggles defending the pass is evident in how often teams are taking to the air the past two years against the Hawkeyes compared to 2009 when they finished 3rd in opponent passer rating.
YEAR G ATT ATT/G
2009 13 383 29.46
2010 13 479 36.85
2011 7 245 35.00
5 – 7 attempts per game is a significant boost, and as it turns out those attempts are proving very productive for the opposition:
YEAR G CMP/ATT CMP% YDS TD INT Y/A Y/G TD/G INT/G RATING
2009 13 190/383 47.8 1988 9 21 5.2 152.9 0.69 1.61 90.00
2010 13 298/479 52.2 2997 12 19 6.3 230.5 0.92 1.46 115.11
2011 7 163/245 66.5 1716 12 6 7.0 245.1 1.71 0.85 136.62
By any statistical measure Iowa is getting much worse against the pass over the past three seasons. Some regression was to be expected from their stratospheric heights in 2009, but none of the major defensive passing categories favor them this season:
CMP% PL Y/A PL YDS/G PL RATING PL INT/TD PL PD/G PL
66.5% 113th 7.0 53rd 245.1 90th 136.62 86th 0.5 73rd 3.86 80th
Ultimately what this means for the Gophers is the potential for one of their best passing games of the season. Take a look at the Iowa Bump opposing FBS starting QBs have received against Iowa this season. The following numbers are per game averages.
VS ATT/CMP YDS CMP% Y/A TD INT RATING
Other 13/22 144.9 58.9 6.5 0.82 0.68 120.53
Iowa 20/28 211.3 70.4 7.5 1.50 0.67 147.71
IOWA BUMP +66.4 +11.5 +1.0 +0.68 -0.01 +27.18
That is a significant difference. One of the biggest benefactors of the Iowa bump was JC transfer and walking porn alias Steele Jantz who torched Iowa in a 44-41 shootout at Jack Trice stadium. Let’s compare his averages outside of the Iowa game to his performance in the Iowa game.
VS ATT/CMP YDS CMP% Y/A TD INT RATING
Other 20/38 209 51.3 5.5 1 2 96.98
Iowa 25/37 279 67.6 7.5 4 0 166.6
IOWA BUMP +70 +16.3 +2.0 +3 -2 +69.62
Or to put it another way:
His 166.6 QB Rating against Iowa puts him just two slots below Andrew Luck while his QB Rating of 96.9 against non-Iowa teams puts him in Larry Smith territory.
Does this mean a victory for the Gophers on Saturday? Probably not. Sagarin predicts a 12 point loss while Vegas pegs the Gophers as 16 point dogs.
What it does mean is a chance for an offense starved for success to put some points and yards on the board against the worst pass defense this side of Lawrence. As a Gopher the only points Matthew Limegrover may have piled up are Weight Watcher points (17.4 PPG, 110th overall) but this could be a game where the offense can exhibit significant growth and production.
Additionally if there’s any game left on the schedule that represents a safe opportunity to insert Shortell for extended snaps it’s this game. Iowa’s pass rush should be too slow to expose Shortell’s lack of mobility and he should be able to stand back in the pocket and wait for options to come open.
If only Iowa’s offense was as bad as their defense then we might be on to something.