The 2009 Iowa Hawkeyes finished second in the Big 10 Conference to Ohio State.
Iowa Hawkeyes seniors carry the Floyd of Rosedale trophy of the field after the game with the Minnesota Gophers at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa beat Minnesota 12-0. (Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports).
(C+P) — This year’s Iowa Hawkeyes football team has been compared to the 2009 Orange Bowl winning team that finished 11-2 in terms of talent, but there are reasons to believe that the 2014 Hawkeyes may have a higher ceiling than even that.
The 2009 Hawkeyes started the season 9-0 before an injury to quarterback Ricky Stanzi, and a pair of close losses as a result, ended hopes of an undefeated campaign. That team was one of the most talented teams that head coach Kirk Ferentz has ever coached. This year’s may be even better.
The 2009 version had an average offense, with some skilled players, but they were mainly carried by their defense. In the next two years, seven defensive starters were selected in the NFL draft.
Their defense was led by future All-American Adrian Clayborn, and a monstrous offensive line with future NFL first rounder Bryan Bulaga. This is where some comparisons start as the 2014 Iowa team is led by a future first rounder on the offensive line in senior Brandon Scherff. While Bulaga was more of a technician, and Scherff (6-foot-5, 320 pounds) relies more on strength and athleticism.
While the 2009 team had a stud at defensive end, this year’s stud on the defensive line plays in the middle. Senior Carl Davis had a breakout year last season and looks to build on it on his way to All-American honors. The 2009 team had perhaps the best defensive line in the nation, and this year’s defensive line will have to play up to that level.
The 2009 defense likely has the edge as they had a tremendous back seven. This season’s back seven appears shaky as they only return two starters; three if you include experienced middle linebacker Quinton Alston. While there are high hopes for some of the new starters, they probably won’t be as skilled as the players in 2009.
The 2014 offense meanwhile may be better than 2009’s. They return similar quarterbacks, as their sophomore seasons were practically identical. Because Jake Rudock played in more games than Stanzi, he had 2,383 yards compared to Stanzi’s 1,956. Stanzi had a completion percentage of 59.1 while Rudock’s was an even 59. Stanzi threw 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, while Rudock’s had 18 and 13. Their records were similar too: Iowa went 9-4 in Stanzi’s sophomore season and Rudock went 8-5.
Rudock will hopefully have a better junior season than Stanzi had in 2009. Stanzi’s completion percentage dropped to 56.3, and he threw 15 interceptions to only 17 touchdowns. While comparisons to Stanzi are very nice in terms of leadership and intangibles, you typically don’t want your quarterback to have the type of year that Stanzi had statistically that season.
Iowa will rely heavily on their running game with a running back by committee approach this season. The 2009 Hawkeyes relied mainly on Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher to carry the offense as both received over 160 carries that season. The 2014 Hawkeyes plan on using four running backs. Expect this year’s running attack to be more dangerous than 2009.
Overall, the offense in 2014 should be slightly better and the defense may be bit worse than the 2009 team, but the similarities are clear. Both teams have loads of talent, but the 2014 team could have an even better record than the 2009 team.
That 2009 team had a very difficult schedule. It’s two toughest opponents — Ohio state and Penn State — were both on the road. This year, Iowa only plays two ranked opponents, both at home. There is a possibility that a couple of Iowa’s other opponents could creep up the rankings, but that doesn’t seem too likely. With the talent and schedule that Iowa has this season, they can surpass the 2009 team.
The 2009 team didn’t win the Big Ten; they placed second behind Ohio State. This Hawkeyes team has a great chance to win the conference — or at least reach the conference title game. Don’t think that having a season like 2009 is the ceiling when it can be so much higher than that. Don’t be afraid to dream big with this team.