1. Which non-conference opponent should Iowa fans be most concerned about?
No offense to Northern Iowa or Iowa State, but a Sept. 20 road trip to Pittsburgh could be especially tricky. The Panthers must replace quarterback Tom Savage (2,958 passing yards, 21 touchdowns), but return their top three rushers from an offense that averaged 5.5 yards per snap. They also have one of the nation’s top young receivers in sophomore Tyler Boyd (85 catches, 1,174 yards and seven touchdowns). Iowa and Pittsburgh produced an instant classic in 2011, with the Hawkeyes rallying for a 31-27 win at Kinnick Stadium.
2.When will tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz hear his name called during the NFL Draft?
Most projections have the 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end going in the middle rounds, but Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke touted him as a “definite” starter for whichever team chooses him. Scouts seem to love his long arms and pass-catching ability, but he’s not particularly fast. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock lists Fiedorowicz among the top five players at that position. My guess is he’ll be picked in the third or fourth round.
3. What’s missing from Iowa’s receiving corps?
A reliable second option. Kevonte Martin-Manley emerged as a primary target last season (9.7 yards per catch, five touchdowns), and the guy quarterback Jake Rudock looked for in sticky situations. But no other wideout could match his consistency. Jacob Hillyer (12.3 yards, two touchdowns) showed glimpses, but disappeared at times. Same with Tevaun Smith (12.9 yards, one touchdown) and Damond Powell (24.3 yards, two touchdowns). One of them needs to become a regular presence.
4. Why is Iowa so blue about its red-zone results?
The Hawkeyes ranked 105th nationally when it came to scoring from inside an opponent’s 20-yard line. They reached the red zone 54 times last season, scoring 28 touchdowns (51.9 percent) and kicking 13 field goals (for a total scoring rate of 75.9 percent). Some of this can be traced to an evolving offense and a sophomore quarterback, but play calling also a factor. Iowa is a program that always has a thin margin for error and cannot afford to squander scoring opportunities.
5. Is Tim Dwight a serious candidate for the College Football Hall of Fame?
You bet. Dwight, who played from 1994 to 1997, was one of the most electric performers in Hawkeye history. His five punt return touchdowns remain an Iowa record, and he is tied for second with 21 receiving touchdowns. Dwight is among 75 former players and six coaches on the ballot, and the 2014 inductees will be announced in May.
THE WORD FROM HAWKEYE NATION
Last week’s reader question: How Iowa should handle its trio of running backs, Mark Weisman, Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri? Here’s what Michael in Davenport had to say:
“Canzeri should be the featured back, because of his big play ability. Something Mark does not have as much of. Then rotate Weisman and (LeShun) Daniels in for rest and change of pace or short yardage. Move Bullock to receiver to help with lack of depth.”
This week’s question(s): What is most encouraging and discouraging about Iowa’s offense? Lots of returning starters, but results have been mixed? E-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your hometown in your message.
BIG TEN BUZZ
No alcohol will be served in Michigan’s famed “Big House,” according to athletic director David Brandon. He told the Ann Arbor News the risk of serving alcohol with so many fans being under legal drinking age is a primary factor in his decision. According to Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, alcohol is available in 21 of 125 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision stadiums. … Spring practices hit full stride at Ohio State, but quarterback Braxton Miller is unavailable after undergoing shoulder surgery. That leaves Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett to take most of the snaps, as they compete to be Miller’s backup. … Michigan State revised coach Mark Dantonio’s contract, including a total of $785,000 being allocated for assistant coaches. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi now earns $904,583 annually. Dantonio will earn $3.64 million. … Defensive tackle Scott Ekpe is helping solidify Minnesota’s interior. He played in all 13 games last season, recording 19 tackles and becoming a frontrunner for a starting spot in 2014. … Big Ten newcomer Rutgers agreed to play Washington in 2016 and 2017, joining other conference schools that have set dates with Pac-12 opponents. The Scarlet Knights also play UCLA in 2020 and 2021. … Isaac Griffith, a freshman wide receiver for Indiana, remained in stable but critical condition after being involved in a swimming accident Monday while on a spring break trip to Sarasota, Fla. Griffith was pulled to shore unconscious Monday evening. He was in a medically induced coma.