Our “Get to Know the Enemy” series will be just that… a preview of upcoming opponent and a prediction. We’ll get started by looking at the Hawkeyes first opponent.
The Hawkeyes open their season with a stiff test against the Wyoming Cowboys. That’s right. I did say the Hawkeyes open their season with a stiff test against the Wyoming Cowboys. Over the course of the last couple of decades that sentence may not have made a whole lot of sense, but Craig Bohl has been busy turning the Wyoming football program around. The football program from the middle of no where has experienced a bit of a resurgence under the tutelage of Coach Bohl, and if the Hawkeyes dare take them lightly they will end up regretting it in a hurry.
Coach Bohl won 3 titles at North Dakota State. He has proven that he can figure out a way to win in sparsely populated states. This will be his fourth season at Wyoming, and he has good reason to be optimistic. Starting with his QB Josh Allen.
Josh Allen could have gone pro a year ago. He is a dual threat type QB who plays more like a pocket passer, but absolutely has the ability to hurt you with his legs. In fact, his play style is a lot like former North Dakota State turned number one player in the NFL draft Carson Wentz. Allen probably would have been taken in the first or second round had he decided to enter the draft a year ago. He made the decision that he wasn’t quite ready to leave, and it sounds like a big part of the reason he decided to stay is because he wasn’t happy with the way his season ended last year.
Allen will present Iowa’s defense with a stiff challenge in week one, but if he wants to lead his Cowboys to the victory then he’s going to need some help. The Cowboys lost a ton of talent around him on the offensive side of the ball. Four starters on the offensive line return from what was an excellent run blocking group a year ago. That’s a start. The biggest question mark for the Cowboys offense will be replacing the playmaking ability of RB Brian Hill who is currently with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and WR Tanner Gentry who is with the Chicago Bears.
Wyoming may take a three headed approach to replacing Brian Hill. Junior Nico Evans, sophomores Kellen Overstreet and Milo Hall are all poised to get reps at RB. CJ Johnson is the Cowboys top returning WR who had 21 catches for 304 yards and 3 TDs a year ago. He’ll need to step up big, and he’ll have to do so fast in order to give Josh Allen the help he needs to score on Iowa’s defense.
Wyoming’s defense returns a whopping 9 of its starters from a year ago, but it is tough to say at this point whether or not that is a good thing. Last season the Cowboys defense gave up an average of 34 points and 453 yards per game. Their rushing defense was atrocious. This is a major concern going into the opening game match-up against the vaunted Hawkeye rushing attack. They do have a new defensive coordinator in Scottie Hazelton. They’ll have to hope Coach Hazelton can figure something out to help put his experienced players in better positions to make plays.
MLB Logan Wilson was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year last year as an OLB. They moved him to the MLB position this year where he’s poised to make a bigger impact. Defensive end Carl Granderson showed that he’s capable of providing a formidable pass rush last season, but then he suffered an ACL tear in the 6th game of the year.
Unless Scott Hazelton worked some magic on the Cowboys rush defense Iowa’s offense should be able to run the ball at will. This is best case scenario for the Hawkeyes because running the ball also runs the clock, and keeps Josh Allen and Company on the sidelines. Allen can’t make plays if he’s not playing. When Allen is on the field it would be naive to think he won’t be able to make plays against Iowa’s defense. The young man is one of the best QBs in college football, and he will be in an NFL uniform a year from now. Iowa’s defense is no slouch however.
Allen is going to make some plays for the Cowboys. If he can make enough plays he may be able to keep this one close. I expect this to be a close game going into the second half, but Iowa’s running game will create a scoring cushion that puts Allen in a position where he has to start forcing it. Once that happens he’ll make some mistakes, and the Hawkeyes will make them pay. Iowa pulls away in the second half.
Hawkeyes 31 Cowboys 17