Iowa football: Keith Duncan faces tough battle to win Lou Groza Award

Iowa football player Keith Duncan faces an uphill battle to win the Lou Groza Award this year after being named a finalist today.

Redshirt junior Keith Duncan has been a revelation for the Iowa football program this year, and in the absence of a high-functioning offense, Duncan has been the main weapon for Kirk Ferentz’s squad when it comes to scoring.

Against Illinois, he scored more points on four field goals than the entire Fighting Illini squad, and with those four field goals, he broke the single-season Big Ten record. With two games remaining, he has the NCAA record of 31 now in his sights. His performance resulted in him being named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week.

In addition to setting an NCAA record, Duncan also has been named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, an award handed out to the nation’s top kicker.

The pure volume of his scoring is impressive, but he faces a tough battle against the other two finalists, Rodrigo Blankenship from Georgia and Blake Mazza from Washington State. Both Blankenship and Mazza have Duncan edged on the accuracy numbers, which begs the question, what exactly will the committee value?

So let’s break down the numbers. Duncan’s field goal accuracy is currently sitting at 84.4% after missing two field goals versus Illinois. Blankenship’s is a few points higher at 88.5% and Mazza takes the cake with an impressive 94.7% success rate. The big factor here is opportunities though as Duncan has taken 32 field goal attempts compared to Blankenship’s 26 and Mazza’s 19.

Regardless though, Duncan’s 84.4% field conversion rate would rank as the second-lowest of this decade when matched up with the other Lou Groza winners.

From a distance perspective, Mazza again takes the cake with a 51-yarder to his name. Blankenship follows with a 50-yarder and Duncan, again, takes last with a 49-yarder.

Extra points-wise, Blankenship and Duncan have both hit 100% of their attempts while Mazza has hit 96.2% of his. The Washing State kicker, however, has attempted just five fewer extra-point attempts than the other two combined.

Where Duncan is able to separate himself though is within the 40-49 yard range where he has made 16 attempts and converted 12. His 16 attempts are 4 more than the next closest kicker, and there are only 3 kickers within the top-44 that have even attempted double-digit attempts from that range. Meanwhile, Blankenship has had 9 opportunities and Mazza has had 2. Combined, that’s still 5 fewer than Duncan.

So while the accuracy is concerning (and again, partially deflated from the Illinois game where he had a bad wind gust on one kick and a bad hold on another), he’s been challenged significantly more. If the voters go mostly off accuracy, he’s got a tough shot at claiming the Lou Groza Award, but if they look at the full picture, we could be seeing our first Iowa football player since Nate Kaeding win the award.