Utah State at Iowa
Location: Iowa City, Iowa (Kinnick Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 2nd at 12:00 P.M. EST (10:00 Utah Time)
Streaming: You’ll need a cable log-in, but the game will be streamed here
Radio: KVNU (610 AM/102.1 FM)
Odds: Iowa (-24) (Provided by DraftKings Sportsbook)
Head-to-Head: Utah State and Iowa have only met twice and both games were blowout wins for the Hawkeyes in Iowa City in 1957 (70-14) and 2002 (48-7). This is the third time that both teams have met in Iowa City.
Three things to look for:
1. How does Utah State create pressure and stop the run?
Utah State loses two talented defensive ends that were able to create pressure in Byron Vaughns, who had 6.5 tackles per loss last season and Daniel Grzesiak, who had 4.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Iowa returns leading rusher Kaleb Johnson (817 rushing yards and six touchdowns) in addition to adding transfer Cade McNamara from Michigan. Iowa returns a very experienced offensive line that has a combined 114 starts and it is expected to be the best Iowa offensive line in the past seasons. However...
Utah State does return talent at defensive line with Hale Motu’apuaka (35 tackles, three tackles for loss, five sacks), Seni Tuiaki (15 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss) and Poukesi Vakauta (13 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack) so the depth on the interior of the defensive line should be a strong point of the Utah State defense.
Looking at the middle of the defense Utah State returns MJ Tafisi (69 tackles, eight tackles for loss, one sack), Kaleo Neves (59 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks), Max Alford (40 tackles, four tackles for loss), Omari Okeke (18 tackles, two tackles for loss). The Aggies also add transfers Gavin Barthiel from Washington State and Logan Pili from BYU.
Utah State’s defense gave up an average of 399 yards of total offense last season which is a number that is going to need to improve against an Iowa team that adds more weapons and experience this season as they look to compete in the BIG 10. A big way that Utah State can limit Iowa’s offense is to create pressure up front and force Cade McNamara to throw the ball into a more experienced Utah State secondary.
2. Can Utah State’s offense find success?
The return of a seasoned starters such as quarterback Cooper Legas, receiver Terrell Vaughn, and tight end Broc Lane as well as adding Stanford transfer Colby Bowman is going to be huge for Utah State, especially since the Aggies lose three of their top five receivers and are looking to improve on 195 passing yards per game and an overall points per game average of 22.2. It would also help Utah State to improve on the 57.8% completion percentage per game as in 2021 and 2018, which were both successful seasons, the Aggies had completion percentages of 60.2% and 65.2%.
Iowa returns corner Cooper DeJean, who had 75 tackles and five interceptions last season, in addition to right end Joe Evans (41 tackles, 6.5 sacks), right tackle and Logan Lee (54 tackles. 5 tackles for loss, three sacks). The Hawkeyes will not only have a strong defensive back unit but will also have one of the best defensive line units in the nation, which is going to make a difficult for Utah State’s offense to find success on Saturday afternoon.
3. Will this game go over the predicted over/under?
The over/under for this game currently sits at 43 points (Provided by DraftKings Sportsbook). While that number does seem a little low it is important to consider that Iowa is not a team that is built on offense but they are going to have one of the best defenses in the nation again. That defense could impede the Aggies from moving the ball and could also make the final score lower than some of the other week one games.
Utah State struggled throughout the 2022 season due to injuries and inexperience. There are players that did not have experience last season that come back ready to contribute. There are several things that Utah State needs to do on both sides of the ball to improve this season, however going up against a top 25 team that brings back offensive talent and one of the best defenses in the nation is not the type of game that Utah State needs to improve, especially on offense.
This will be an important game for Utah State in terms of gaining experience for players and building a routine, but the most likely outcome is that the Aggies are coming out of Iowa City with a loss. Expect Utah State to turn the ball over twice and for Iowa to take advantage of failed third down conversions to build a comfortable lead against the Aggies.
Score prediction: Iowa: 38, Utah State: 7