Rutgers kicks off their 2016 B1G campaign by hosting the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa is the defending B1G West champions after going 12-0 in the regular season last year. This year, they started off 2-0 before being upset at home by the North Dakota State Bison of the FCS. This means Iowa will be coming into this game extra pissed off which does not bode well for Rutgers. Now let’s learn about these Hawkeyes.
Ranking: NR (AP) | #25 (Coaches)
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz (129-88)
2015 Record: 12-2 (8-0)
Current Streak: L1
SB Nation Site: Black Heart Gold Pants
One Big Thing
As previously mentioned, Iowa just lost to FCS team North Dakota State. This means Iowa is pissed off. Iowa is a very good team and would be ranked in the top 15 if they had won. That was their first regular season loss since 2014 and against an FCS opponent no less. If you remember last year, Rutgers played Washington State right after they had been upset by FCS team Portland State. Rutgers wound up losing a heartbreaker. I think Kirk Ferentz is way too good of a coach to let his team lose two easy games in a row. The Scarlet Knights find themselves in an unlucky spot on the Iowa schedule.
Key Offensive Players
QB CJ Beathard
Beathard is entering his second season as the starter, but had seen extensive action previously as a reserve. In 2015, he threw for 2,809 yards with 17 TDs and most impressive, only 5 interceptions. He was one of the most efficient QBs in the conference and led Iowa on an improbable run to the Rose Bowl. So far in 2016, Beathard is averaging 193 yards/game with 8 total touchdowns and only 1 interception. After seeing what running QBs from Howard and New Mexico were able to do to throwing the ball against Rutgers, they are going to have to be extra careful with Beathard, who is also responsible for one of the greatest Gus-gasms in recent memory.
WR Matt VandeBerg
VandeBerg is the leading receiver for the Hawkeyes, already with 267 yards and 3 touchdowns. He tallied an impressive 65 catches last year for just over 700 yards and 4 scores. VandeBerg is typical Iowa player: not the flashy guy but is incredibly productive and gets the job done. He will be a difficult task for the young cornerbacks on Rutgers.
Key Defensive Players
CB Desmond King
King was arguably the best cornerback in college football last year and decided to return to Iowa for his senior year. He put up some ridiculous stats in 2015, including 8 interceptions and two games in which he had 2 interceptions. He has yet to pick off a pass this year, and Chris Laviano is a very vulnerable target so look for King to feast on the lack of true wide receivers on the Rutgers roster.
DL Anthony Nelson
Nelson is a disruptive force on the line who leads the team with 3.5 sacks already. In addition to those pass rushing statistics, Nelson has a pass broken up, an additional QB hit, and two forced fumbles. Look for him to line up across the right tackle, where Rutgers typically does not do as well pass blocking.
Why they are better than Rutgers
Iowa is incredibly well coached and they are a model for what Rutgers wants to be. Chris Ash even said so himself. They are incredibly disciplined, run a balanced offense, and have an elite defense that wins them games. The Rutgers offense will probably not do very well against this defense and CJ Beathard is a sneaky good QB who can burn the secondary. Iowa is a team that is simply more advanced and better than Rutgers in just about every area of the game.
A few more notes (h/t)
- Ben Niemann, son of defensive coordinator Jay, is a starting linebacker for Iowa and leads the team in tackles.
- Niemann’s other son, Nick, is a freshman on Iowa and will most likely redshirt
- Iowa has won 6 straight road games
- This is the first time Rutgers and Iowa have ever played
- Rutgers OL coach AJ Blazek played center at Iowa and was All-B1G in 2000
- Chris Ash was born and raised in Iowa and spent around 10 years coaching college football in Iowa and different spots
Stay tuned for even more game content, including roundtable predictions from the OTB staff as well as an official game preview later this week!