Iowa’s defense has really been it’s calling card all year. Especially the rushing defense. According to cbssports.com, Iowa ranks as the 7th best defense in FBS this year. They’re also allowing just 19 points per game, which is good for 11th in the FBS.
These guys can play. Especially the three guys in the middle of the field. You know, the trio of senior linebackers that has put this team on their backs and willed their way to a couple victories.
I wanted to take a look at the entire front 7 for the Iowa Hawkeyes, just like I did for the LSU Tigers.
According to Iowa’s official Outback Bowl depth chart, Mike Hardy, Louis Trinca-Pasat, Carl Davis, and Drew Ott will all start on the defensive line and James Morris, Anthony Hitchens, and Christian Kirksey wil be the linebackers.
Hardy gets the start over senior lineman, Dominic Alvis, who has battled injuries all year. Hardy has played in 11 games this year and has recorded 30 tackles to go along with 1.5 sacks. Davis is a big, strong defensive tackle that some offensive lineman struggle with. At 315 pounds, Davis is a load to handle in the middle. He has 39 total tackles on the year and 1.5 sacks. Trinca-Pasat has just 2 sacks on the year. As you can see, Iowa’s defensive line doesn’t exactly get to the quarterback too often. Ott rounds out the group. He has 50 total tackles on the year and leads all defensive lineman with 2.5 sacks.
This front four won’t get a lot of pressure on the QB, but they do a good job of occupying offensive lineman so the linebackers can come make the stop.
That becomes a perfect transition right into the linebacker portion of this. Iowa’s linebackers are good, maybe great, and that’s all there is to it. The only problem is they’re all seniors and will be very difficult to replace.
Morris has been a four year starter in the middle of the field for the Hawkeyes and has only gotten better as his career wore on. Morris finished the year with 98 total tackles, 5 sacks, and 4 interceptions. He truly was Mr. Do-Everything for this defense.
Kirksey has been almost just as good. He finished the year with 97 tackles and 1.5 sacks playing beside Morris. On Morris’ other side was Anthony Hitchens. He may have been the best out of all three, but it’s honestly a toss up. Hitchens finished with 102 total tackles, 2 sacks, and 13 tackles for a loss.
It was the play of these three players that was the reason why this Hawkeye defense didn’t allow a rushing touchdown until the game against Ohio State. They led the attack and everybody else on the defense filled in very nicely.
The most intriguing match up in my mind right now is LSU running back Jeremy Hill vs. this Hawkeye run defense. Hill is so talented, but so is this defense. Whoever prevails in that match up most likely ends up the winner of the ball game, but that remains to be seen.
There are three other pre-bowl game articles that will be coming to Dear Old Gold. I will talk LSU and Iowa’s respective defensive backfields and then on New Years Eve, I will give out my prediction.