The Iowa Hawkeyes have never had to worry about the battle in the trenches.
Iowa’s linemen have consistently been the key to head coach Kirk Ferentz success. This year however, they still have much to prove in order for the Hawkeyes to not only prevail over Minnesota on Saturday, but also to win more Big Ten games than they did a year ago.
Ferentz’s success as an offensive line coach — in the NFL and in college — is well documented. Throughout his tenure though, he has also molded viable defensive lines.
The issue is that over the past year, extending into last season, Ferentz and his linemen — both offense and defense — have been losing the battle inside the trenches.
Iowa’s rushing success thus far has been against inferior teams — such as Missouri State and Western Michigan.
Running back Mark Weisman has rushed for over 100 yards in three of Iowa’s first four games to start the season — last week against Western Michigan he only ran for 43 yards due to the performances of Kevonte Martin-Manley and BJ Lowry.
Iowa’s offensive line is hoping it can have a repeat performance of last year’s 31-13 win over Minnesota — Weisman finished with 177 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown against the Gophers.
Ferentz’s linemen will need to continue creating space as they begin their difficult Big Ten schedule — after facing off against Minnesota, Iowa will play: Michigan State, at currently ranked no. 4 Ohio State, no. 17 Northwestern and no. 23 Wisconsin.
Ferentz’s offensive line seems to be stable enough to compete against the tougher opponents the Big Ten has to offer. The defensive line however, will need help.
On paper, the Hawkeye defense looks good through the first four games of the season.
In the Big Ten they are ranked fifth in rushing defense, allowing only 91 yards per game on the ground, and fourth in passing defense — holding opponents to less 200 yards through the air.
The concern is how will this unit keep points off the board against superior Big Ten offenses, such as Ohio State with dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller and Wisconsin with running back Melvin Gordon.
Iowa’s defense is only allowing 290 yards of offense but that number is sure to increase because of the Hawkeyes shaky secondary and poor defensive line.
The defensive line has only registered two sacks in four games.
The Hawkeyes are not going to win games if they can’t pressure opposing quarterbacks. Good quarterbacks, for instance Jordan Lynch, will wait in the pocket for plays to develop or become another running back when their receivers aren’t open.
Iowa’s defense has to find a way to rush the quarterback or else Weisman and the rest of the offense won’t have the opportunities necessary to sustain drives and eventually score touchdowns.
The Hawkeye linemen will have a chance to fix any kinks when they travel to TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday to defend the Floyd of Rosedale.