The scouting report on the Iowa Hawkeyes, LSU’s opponent for the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1:
Record: 8-4, (5-3 Big Ten).
Best Win: 24-21 vs. Michigan.
Worst Loss: 30-27 vs. Northern Illinois.
Offensive leaders: Running back Mark Weisman (208 carries, 937 yards, 7 touchdowns); quarterback Jake Rudock (195 of 324, 2,281 yards, 18 touchdowns, 12 interceptions).
Defensive leaders: Linebacker Anthony Hitchens (102 tackles, 4 quarterback hurries, 2 forced fumbles); linebcker James Morris (98 tackles, 5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions).
2012 record: 4-8 (2-6 Big Ten Legend, sixth of six teams).
2012 postseason: None.
2012 starters returning: 14 (6 offense, 8 defense).
Green spots: Iowa has a lot of experience. In fact, the Hawkeyes start only one freshman. It’s true freshman cornerback Desmond King. Seventeen of Iowa’s 22 starters are upperclassmen.
Program rumblings: The Hawkeyes are happy to be in Tampa, especially after missing the postseason last year. While LSU fans are cool about playing Iowa in the Outback, Iowans are expected to flock South for the game.
Offense: The good
Pounding runner: Mark Weisman averages nearly 80 yards rushing a game. He’s a 6-foot, 235-pound bowling-ball type. He’s run for 100 yards four times this season and has seven touchdowns. He had more than 800 yards rushing a season ago. Things is, Weisman has been somewhat contained in the conference. He has just 466 rushing yards in the eight Big Ten games. Still, Weisman’s a stud runner. He’s a former walk-on fullback.
Spreading it around: Iowa isn’t known much for its passing game. The Hawkeyes are ranked 10th out of 12 teams in the Big Ten, averaging 200 yards through the air per game. But they do spread around the ball. Four receivers have 250 yards receiving or more and three have 24 or more catches. Seven Iowa receivers average at least one catch per game. Two of Iowa’s top five receivers are tight ends and another is a running back.
Offense: The bad
Scoring trouble: The Hawkeyes average 23 points an outing in conference games, ninth out of the 12 Big Ten teams. Iowa has scored 30 or more points in just two games. The Hawkeyes average 360 yards of offense a game, ninth in the Big Ten. They’ve scored just 16 touchdowns in 31 trips in the red zone. Iowa’s offense is better than last year’s unit, but that’s not saying much.
Not stellar: Quarterback Jake Rudock has completed 60 percent of his passes, but that’s where his impressive stats end. He averages just 16 completions a game and passes for less than 195 yards an outing. He has thrown 12 interceptions to 18 touchdowns. The sophomore and first-year starter didn’t play - not just start - in a college game before this season. Rudock was a three-star prospect out of Florida, picking Iowa over Miami. He’s passed just once for more than 250 yards in a game this year. He’s attempted more than 30 passes just three times.
Defense: The good
Top 10 defense: Without getting into specific players, Iowa’s defense as a whole is a good one. The Hawkeyes rank seventh nationally in total defense allowing just 303 yards a game.
Iowa in other defensive rankings: pass (11th, 182 yards), rush (17th, 120 yards), pass efficiency defense (25h, 116.23), scoring (11th, 18 points) and third-down defense (23rd, 34 percent).
James Morris (bottom) was a wrestler in high school because that’s what Iowans do.
No. 44: James Morris, Iowa’s stud senior linebacker, wears that number. When speaking with LSU players who have watched Iowa film, No. 44 often comes up.
Morris has a whopping 14.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks this season. His tackles for loss ranks 22nd nationally. Despite his gaudy stats, Morris is ranked as the 11th inside linebacker in the 2014 NFL draft. He’s projected as a seventh-round to free agent pick.
Defense: The bad
Against the good ones: Against good teams, Iowa’s defense hasn’t fared well. The Hawkeyes have allowed 30, 26, 34 and 28 points in their four losses, all coming to Top 25 teams. There’s not much bad to write about the Iowa defense, though.
Special teams nuggets
Returning punts: Kevonte Martin-Manely leads the Big Ten in punt returns. He averages more than 16 yards a return, seventh in the nation.
He’s returned two punts for scores. On just 18 returns, he’s racked up 292 yards. He also serves as a receiver, leading the team with 39 catches for 384 yards.
Giving it up: Iowa ranks ninth in the Big Ten, giving up 38 yards a kickoff return.