Iowa At The Mid-Point: A Better Offense?

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sport

Iowa is nearly in the same position in 2013 as they were in 2012. A big question is whether or not their offense is actually any better than last season. I break down the numbers here.

Tell me if you've heard this before: Iowa is 4-2 with a decent road win, a loss to a MAC team, an ugly win over an FCS team and has a rivalry trophy. If that sounds familiar it's because up to this point, 2013 shares many similarities with 2012 Iowa. They're both 4-2 midway through the season. They have decent road wins: 2012, Michigan State; 2013, Minnesota. They lost to a MAC team: 2012, Central Michigan; 2013, Northern Illinois. They have an ugly win over an FCS team: 2012, UNI; 2013, Missouri State. They have a rivalry trophy: 2012, Floyd of Rosedale; 2013, Floyd of Rosedale (HA) and the Cy-Hawk Trophy. From a distance they look to be the same team. From a distance, anyway.

Upon closer examination that isn't necessarily the case. Anyone who has watched an Iowa game this season will agree that they "look better" as a team. Or more importantly: Iowa's offense "looks better." But what does that even mean? Just because they look better doesn't mean they're any better at scoring points. While it may be more enjoyable to watch, "enjoyable to watch" doesn't put a W in the win column.

With that being said I decided to do a statistical comparison between 2012 and 2013 Iowa with an emphasis on the offense. I'll start with quarterbacks and focus on the following statistics: completion percentage, yards, average yards per completion, touchdowns, interceptions, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.

CMP%

YDS

AVG

TDS

INTS

RSH YDS

RSH TDS

Vandenberg

58.4

1134

10.1

2

3

-11

1

'Rudock

60.3

1202

6.9

8

6

139

5

At this point Jake Rudock is having a far better year than Vandenberg was having in 2012. The fact that Vandenberg had only thrown for two touchdowns six games into the season is flat out embarrassing. Rudock is prone to making boneheaded moves (as expected for his age) but he shows impressive composure throughout the game (something that isn't expected for his age). The biggest difference comes on the ground. Unlike Vandenberg, Rudock has no hesitation about tucking and running when a play breaks down. Did you know Rudock averages 4.5 YPC?

So how does that stack up nationally and against the Big Ten? We'll look at passing offense (yards per game) and team passing efficiency (here's a Rivals article on understanding the stat). To summarize from the Rivals article:

The NCAA's passing efficiency rating contains four basic factors -- completion percentage, yards per pass, touchdowns per pass and interceptions per pass -- computed to give a quarterback and/or a team a rating to measure effectiveness.

Passing Offense

National Rank

B1G Rank

Passing Efficiency

National Rank

B1G Rank

2012

189

99

8

106.56

114

12

2013

209.3

87

10

127.63

73

9

Passing offense isn't the best statistic to determine how well Iowa throws the ball because they're a run first team. The passing efficiency stat is more appropriate and gives us a better idea of how Iowa has fared throughout the season. While they're still down in the dumps in the Big Ten and on the wrong side of the national ranks, they've at the very least shown improvement.

As previously stated: Iowa is a run first team. Mark Weisman returned as Iowa's workhorse in the backfield so it isn't necessary to do a player comparison. Instead, I'll focus on rushing offense, yards per carry and rushing touchdowns. I'll also include national and B1G ranks where available.

Rushing Offense

National Rank

B1G Rank

Rushing YPC

National Rank

B1G Rank

Rushing TDS

2012

154.6

75

9

4.5

56

N/A

10

2013

207.5

38

6

4.5

59

8

9

At this point the Iowa rushing attack is about 50 yards per game better than last season. They're still only averaging around 4.5 YPC and actually have less touchdowns than in 2012 but that statistic is probably skewed, as Iowa's only option last year was to score rushing touchdowns (Greg Davis made it illegal for James Vandenberg to throw passing touchdowns).

The senior season for wide-receiver Keenan Davis was a forgettable one as the offensive implosion prevented him from seeing the end zone more than one time. His graduation made Kevonte Martin-Manley Iowa's number one wide-receiver and allowed younger players like Damond Powell, Tevaun Smith, Matt VandeBerg and Jacob Hillyer to step into the fold. I could delve into the wide-receiver stats or just tell you to compare the above referenced statistics for Vandenberg and Rudock. In short: the wide-receivers are having a much better season in 2013.

Mike Meyer returns for his senior season and has handled 99.99% of the kicking duties (Marshall Koehn kicked an XP). Despite being placed on the Lou Groza preseason watch list, Meyer probably isn't going to find himself a finalist come award time as he's already missed three field goals, two being inside 40 yards. Consider that in 2012 he only missed four field goals total. For a kicker the definition of worth is making a field goal when it really matters. It's hard to say that Meyer has been placed in that situation in 2013. Statistically, he hasn't been as reliable to start off this year but we'll see how he performs down the line.

How does it all add up? How does Iowa's overall offense compare from 2012 to 2013? We'll look at total offense, yards per play, third down conversions per game and third down conversation percentage. National ranks will also be provided where available. I include the third down statistics because converting on third down is a crucial part of any successful offense. If your team can't convert on third down you might as well just punt. Steve Spurrier actually did that once. No, really.

Total Offense

National Rank

Yards Per Play

3rd Down CPG

3rd Down C%

2012

343.67

98

4.9

5.0

N/A

2013

416.8

62

5.4

7.8

48

The Hawkeyes numbers on offense are up across the board. They're averaging more than 50 yards, the yards per play is up a half yard and they're completing 48% of their third downs. I'm unable to find the conversion percentage from 2012 but I can tell you that they're currently ranked 27th in the nation for 2013. So while they definitely aren't Baylor, who averages 780 yards per game (WHAT?), the offense has undoubtedly improved.

But...now we come to the center of the shrubbery maze. What do yards and averages matter when you don't put points on the board? Last season Iowa only scored 30+ points twice in a game. They didn't throw a passing touchdown until week four. Hell, they only scored 232 points on the year. In comparison the Nebraska Cornhuskers scored 487. The true focal point of this piece is whether Iowa can score points this season. To do that we'll look at a few statistics.

Fortunately, the statistics are self-explanatory. Here's a list:

  • Scoring Offense (Points per game)
  • Red Zone Scoring Percentage (Both FGs and TDs)
  • Red Zone Scoring Attempts Per Game (Number of times a team gets into the red zone on average)
  • Red Zone Scores Per Game (Number of times a team scores in the red zone on average)
  • Offensive Touchdowns Per Game (Average touchdowns scored per game)

The statistics:

Scoring Offense

National Rank

RZ Scoring %

National Rank

2012

22

98

93

12

2013

29.7

67

68

116

RZ Scoring Attempts PG

National Rank

RZ Scores PG

National Rank

Offensive TDS PG

2012

2.8

96

2.6

72

1.8

2013

3.8

56

2.6

85

2.6

Well then. That tells you everything you need to know. I'll do it in bullets to make it easier.

  • Iowa is scoring more points this season but they're continuing to do it in a horribly inefficient manner.
  • That red zone scoring percentage figure from 2012 is somewhat misleading. Iowa wasn't making it into the red zone that often and when they did, they kicked a field goal (as the offensive touchdowns per game statistic shows).
  • The red zone scoring percentage numbers from this season are the worst. Iowa has only converted 68% on the year which means they're either turning the ball over or missing field goals. Getting into the red zone isn't all that impressive if you can't score points.
  • A stat I would like to find is an overage of how many points a team walks away with when they get into the red zone.  I'm thinking Iowa's wouldn't be that impressive.
  • It isn't all bad though. The offensive touchdowns per game is encouraging.

In conclusion it appears that Iowa's offense is improved in nearly every aspect of the game. They're getting into the red zone more often, scoring more touchdowns, averaging more yards per game and converting on third down. But when it comes to actually scoring points they go all Three Mile Island and trip over their own shoelaces. Kirk Ferentz preaches execution and fundamentals but in the red zone Iowa neither executes nor plays fundamental football.

A key to the second half of the season will be cleaning up these mistakes and walking away from the red zone with points (ANY POINTS). Hawkeye fans have seen the fumbles, interceptions, penalties etc. etc. etc. that have forced Iowa to settle for a field goal despite being in a great position to score a touchdown. Personally, I can't single out one moment in the red zone that has cost Iowa a football game because they couldn't convert. But I do know that if Iowa doesn't figure out their offense inside the 20, there are going to be plenty of those moments in the near future.

All of the stats used in this article were either pulled from NCAA.comESPN or Teamrankings.com. I should point out that Teamrankings.com statistical rankings aren't exactly reliable as they do not account for ties. With that being said I would probably give them a margin of error of around 10 or 15.

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