The Box Score: How football Hawks stack up

BY BEN ROSS | DECEMBER 03, 2013 5:00 AM

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With the Big Ten regular season at a close for the Iowa football team, the Hawkeyes find themselves ranked at respectable levels both in the Big Ten and nationally. Let’s take a peek, shall we?

Total Defense — No. 9 in NCAA

Contrary to popular belief, the Iowa defense has played stellar as a collective unit so far this season, stymieing opposing offenses on the ground and through the air. It’s allowing slightly more than 300 yards a game, barely more than 4 yards a play. The Iowa defense has given up only 5 rushing touchdowns all year, which ties it for second in the nation with Michigan State. Florida State has allowed just 4 scores on the ground. That’s pretty good company for the Black and Gold. By comparison, last year, Iowa gave up nearly 100 more yards per game and allowed 5 more points on average per contest.

The Hawkeyes gave up 182 yards through the air per game, good enough to put it 11th in the nation for that mark.

Opponents’ 3rd-down conversions — No. 2 in Big Ten, No. 24 in NCAA

Opponents have lined up against the Hawkeye defense on third down 178 times this season and have moved the rock far enough to get a first down just 61 times. The 34 percent clip is among top 25 in the nation, and only the Michigan State defense is better on third down than Iowa’s in the Big Ten.

This is a big improvement over last year for Phil Parker’s defense, which allowed opposing offenses to move the sticks almost half the time in 2012.

Tackles for a loss allowed per game — 4.75, No. 4 in Big Ten, No. 26 in NCAA

Iowa is always known for having stellar offensive lines, but this current position group is likely the best the Hawkeyes have fielded since 2009 when Brian Bulaga, Julian Vandervelde, and Riley Reiff anchored the line. Bookends Brett Van Sloten and Brandon Scherff have been rock-solid at the tackle spots to keep quarterback Jake Rudock’s free and propel any of Iowa’s numerous backs to the next level.

The offensive line has allowed just 12 sacks on the season, sixth-best in the nation and leading the conference. Van Sloten and left guard Conor Boffeli are the lone seniors on the Hawkeye line, but Scherff is projected to be a first-round draft pick should he decide to forgo his final season and head to the NFL. After he went down for the year against Penn State with an injury in 2012, the running game took a huge hit. Scherff will be a tough one to replace.

Total Sacks — 20, No. 8 in the Big Ten

This isn’t the best stat in the world, but it’s important to look at for improvement purposes. Iowa was dead last in the conference in quarterback sacks a year ago with just 13. The squad surpassed that number after October of this year, and that’s huge. This hasn’t allowed opposing quarterbacks to sit back and pick apart whichever side of the field Tanner Miller is covering. Parker has blitzed linebackers and defensive backs what seems like every play, and that has rattled QBs. Here’s to hoping these nifty blitz packages are here to stay.

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