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Nebraska Football

Hot Reads: Playing Iowa Is Like Filing Your Taxes

July 9, 2018
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Care to take a guess how many times Iowa has turned the ball over during its three-game win streak against Nebraska? The Hawkeyes have fumbled once during the last 12 quarters against the Huskers. Nebraska threw seven interceptions over that three-game stretch. (Those interceptions were earned, too. The Hawkeyes had 21 pass breakups over those three games.) That is how a team gets outscored 124-44 over three games.

Particularly a team playing against Iowa. Low-giveaway, high-interception is very much "by the book" for the Hawkeyes.

At least that's what I learned from this tweet from SportsSource Analytics, which was kindly brought to my attention by @CoryHonold over the weekend.

SportsSource Analytics is a great follow if you like this sort of thing. The stats provider for the College Football Playoff committee, SportsSource frequently posts these sort of "recipes" for various teams. Iowa's recipe was very Iowa-y.

You can read through the bulleted list above for the full breakdown, but I came away feeling that losing to Iowa is often like death by red tape. Offensively Iowa's going to go on long drives, which requires avoiding turnovers and can be fairly mind-numbing. Defensively it's going to ask an offense to do the same thanks to extremely low explosive-play numbers. And for those offenses that can move down the field in small doses, the Hawkeyes win more often than not in the red zone. (Note: This is what Bob Diaco's brand of defense looks like when it works.)

Iowa has engineered a style that makes beating the Hawkeyes akin to filling out a particularly complicated tax return. The defense makes you jump through a ton of hoops, confident you'll screw up somewhere along the way. Meanwhile the offense has little problem with those same hoops because Iowa's offense is essentially a CPA.

Is it sexy? No. But relative to how the Hawkeyes recruit it is efficient. Iowa's genius here is in turning football games into tax law, and the Hawkeyes' advantage is that they understand tax law.

And as Cory noted in his tweet, that sets up an interesting clash with Nebraska's presumed offensive strength under Scott Frost. Based on what we saw at Oregon and UCF we know this offense has the potential to be among the most explosive in the country. So what happens when you drop an offense with that potential into the least-explosive conference in the country?

I still don't know the answer to that. It's not the sort of problem you can solve in the summer, but we do know Iowa is one of the better individual examples of that Big Ten "style." Wisconsin, too. 

Nebraska's style is going to be presumably different and there can be value in contrarian strategies. Still gotta do your taxes though. The Hawkeyes and Badgers, the two teams Nebraska most needs to beat in most years, are here to make sure of it.

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