Iowa Football: Defenses alone don’t win championships in college

IOWA CITY, IOWA- OCTOBER 12: Wide receiver Nico Ragaini #89 of the Iowa Hawkeyes is tackled during the first half by safeties Lamont Wade #38 and Jaquan Brisker #7 of the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 12, 2019 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
IOWA CITY, IOWA- OCTOBER 12: Wide receiver Nico Ragaini #89 of the Iowa Hawkeyes is tackled during the first half by safeties Lamont Wade #38 and Jaquan Brisker #7 of the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 12, 2019 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

The old adage is that offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. The old adage and the Iowa football team’s strategy is wrong.

The special Iowa football teams, on the other hand, are not defined by a good offense. At least those teams haven’t been in the last decade.

In 2015, Iowa had the 54th ranked scoring offense and was 74th in total yards. With 128 teams, neither of these numbers is anything more than average.

In 2009, Iowa was ranked 86th in scoring offense and 89th in total yards. This team actually ranks fairly low offensively, considering there were only 120 teams in the FBS in 2009.

At this point, I doubt any reader is surprised. Over the last 21 years, Iowa has been built on an elite defense and a somewhat serviceable offense.

Here’s the problem. Defenses alone do not win college football championships.

In the College Football Playoff era, every single National Champion has been ranked in the top 30 in scoring offense and top 46 in total offense. This is actually skewed by 2015 Alabama, who had the worst offense of any national champion in the last five years.

That year, Alabama was still averaging over 35 points a game and over 427 total yards per game. To put this into context, Iowa, under Kirk Ferentz, has only averaged over 35 points a game in 2002. Iowa football under Ferentz has never averaged more than 425 total yards per game.

The point is that Iowa’s best offensive season is essentially the worst season that a national champion has had. Even in the BCS era, there are few exceptions to this rule.

The two exceptions are 2006 Florida and 2002 Ohio State.

I am not here to tell you that Iowa football should be competing for a College Football Playoff berth or a National Championship every season. The point is simply that in today’s environment, Iowa’s formula of an elite defense and a barely average offense will continue to yield barely average results.

The expectation of having a team that can compete for and win the Big Ten every so often is not unrealistic. Aside from in 2015, where Iowa was just one second effort away from winning the Big Ten, a good offense is required.

Brian Ferentz is now in his third season and has actually shown improvement. However, he is nowhere near where fans want or expect Iowa football to be.

For Hawk fans to embrace the probable inevitability of Brian’s succession to head coach of Iowa football, the younger Ferentz needs to build more than just a serviceable offense. Until then, Iowa fans cannot expect more than 8-4.