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2023 Iowa Hawkeyes Football Preview: Can the Transfer Portal Save Brian Ferentz’s Job?

Iowa has landed some big name transfers in the off season as the Fightin’ Ferentzes set out to prove that the offensive woes of the last 3 years have been a skill, and not a scheme, issue.

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

What do we need to know?

325 points.

The magic number for offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz to keep his job may seem like a pathetic benchmark, but that would be a full 95 points more than Iowa managed to score last year.

In the 2022 season Kirk Ferentz found a fan base that had stuck with him for decades suddenly questioning his judgement and accusing him of nepotism as he stuck by his son despite fielding one of the most ineffective and unwatchable offenses in power-5 history (an impressive feat even by Iowa’s, let’s go with “meager”, standards of what a good offense should look like). Rather than seriously addressing his scheme, philosophy, or positional coaches (or COORDINATORS) he decided that the main problem was having players on offense that simply didn’t have that dawg in them.

While that was certainly part of the problem I think most fans would agree that it’s only a small piece of the equation. On top of that, it’s an indictment on Kirk’s ability to develop players on offense (the phase of the game that he’s supposed to know the best). So will adding proven players through the portal be enough to get Iowa back to double digit wins and New Year’s Day bowls? Let’s take a look at the new additions to Brian and Kirk’s offense.

Cade McNamera, QB (Michigan)
Deacon Hill, QB (wisconsin)
Erick All, TE (Michigan)
Kaleb Brown, WR (Ohio State)
Seth Anderson, WR (Charleston Southern)
Rusty Feth, OL (Miami Hydroxide)
Daijon Parker, OL (Virginia)

Obviously this entire experiment is built around Cade McNamera. With the departures of Sam LaPorta (draft), Arland Bruce (transfer portal) and Keagan Johnson (also jumping ship via the portal) Iowa has tried to add some targets for their new QB, who will also have WR Nico Ragaini and TE Luke Lachey returning for next season. All in all it’s a pretty impressive and unprecedented haul for the Hawkeyes, who have long been a program that builds success from developing good players rather than finding them ready to play.

If Iowa’s defense and special teams maintain their usual standard, all the offense has to do is improve from “humiliating” to “sub-par” and they may well be competing for a Big Ten title. I guess the big question is, has the Ferentz brain trust done enough to turn things around, or is this all pointless without any serious changes to the playbook or the coaching staff? Can Iowa even score those 325 points to save Brian’s job, or will the fans set Melrose Avenue on fire when Iowa only scores 299 and he gets to keep his job anyway? Let’s take a look at the schedule:

The Schedule

If you were going into a season knowing you had to score at least 25 points per game, you could do a hell of a lot worse than this. Iowa is going to play some very difficult away games at Iowa State, Penn State, wisconsin, and Nebraska, but they dodge both Michigan and Ohio State. The game against Northwestern will be at Wrigley Field, which could end up being a virtual 8th home game (the Cubs are very popular out Iowa City ways.)

I don’t like having to make a prediction on this because there’s so much uncertainty as to whether or not adding a few good players will reverse a 3 year long skid into hopelessness, but I’m going to recklessly try my hand at it anyway.

I don’t think Iowa loses to ISU this year. They always find a way to piss the game away under Matt Campbell, and an outlier year in 2022 where the Hawkeyes Petras-ed the game away doesn’t make me less confident. Give me Penn State and wisconsin as losses, as well as a loss to either Nebraska or Illinois. 7-5 should be the absolute floor for the Hawkeyes, any less than that and Kirk Ferentz needs to think about hanging up the bubble gum. I think they could finish as high as 10-2 and another division title. Let’s split the difference and call it a 9-3 season (Defensive coordinator Phil Parker is going to find a way to shithouse a win from the jaws of sure defeat at least once or twice).

In Conclusion

Let’s be real here. 25 points per game is nothing and it’s embarrassing to even have expectations that low. As far as I’m concerned, both Ferentzes should be fired the day after the season ends if they can’t hit that benchmark (introducing head coach LeVar Woods????) regardless of what their record is. And hey, without Gary Barta around to shield two guys who report directly to him from any consequences maybe they’ll actually feel the heat this year.

Personally, I promise to be annoyed no matter what happens. 4 or more losses an I’ll be livid at Kirk and Brian’s inability to get results even after coming away as one of the biggest winners from the transfer portal this year. 40 points per game, finishing the regular season 12-0? You know I’m going to be full of piss and rage at the thought of how Kirk could have been doing this the entire time and just never took his offensive problems seriously enough until he had a boss that was willing to replace him. No matter what I’m guaranteed to feel either like it’s not good enough or a sign that we’ve wasted the last 3 or 4 years. Congratulations to all my haters I guess.

Welcome to Iowa week! I’m thrilled to be back talking football with all of you. I dearly missed you all during the offseason, but my wife and children were demanding I “spend time with them” and “go to my real job to make money” so it’s been hard to find time. If you want to help me “write” about Iowa, why not throw a Fanpost together and then reach out to MNWildcat (minnesotawildcat at gmail dot com)?