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Big Ten preview: Iowa Hawkeyes

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Jan. 01, 2016 - Pasadena, California, U.S. - Iowa enters the field prior to the 102nd Rose Bowl game against Stanford. (Credit Image: © Keith Birmingham/San Gabriel Valley Tribune via ZUMA Wire)

Jan. 01, 2016 – Pasadena, California, U.S. – Iowa enters the field prior to the 102nd Rose Bowl game against Stanford. (Credit Image: © Keith Birmingham/San Gabriel Valley Tribune via ZUMA Wire)

Location: Iowa City, Iowa

2015 record: 12-2

Head coach: Kirk Ferentz 

2016 record so far: 2-0

Record vs. OSU since 2006: 0-3

What’s happened so far in 2016: The Hawkeyes used 21 first-half points en route to clobbering Miami (Ohio) in Week 1, 45-21. Week 2 featured more of the same, as Iowa scored 28 unanswered points on its way to a 42-3 final over in-state rival Iowa State.

Key offensive player: The Hawkeyes’ offense is led by senior quarterback C.J. Beathard. A 2015 All-Big Ten Second Team selection, Beathard was a key piece to Iowa’s undefeated regular season a year ago, as well as to a dominating start in 2016 — completing 32 of 48 passes for a total of 427 yards and four touchdowns. His breakout game was last weekend at home against Iowa State, where the Franklin, Tennessee native threw for a career high of 235 yards and three touchdowns — with all three scores coming in the first half. The experienced leader looks to build on last season’s success, and now prepare for the team’s final nonconference game Saturday at home against five-time defending Football Championship Subdivision national champion North Dakota State.

Key defensive player: Kirk Ferentz’s defense was one of the strongest in the Big Ten West in 2015, and is off to an impressive start this season — forcing three fumbles and three sacks against Miami (Ohio), and holding Iowa State to just a field goal. Leading the pack is senior defensive back and returner Desmond King. A first team All-Big Ten selection and Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year in 2015, King already has recorded nine tackles, and is averaging almost 35 yards per return through two games. The veteran looks to follow up a big season from a year ago, and lead the Hawkeyes back to the Big Ten championship game.

Weaknesses: Iowa’s biggest weakness through two games of the 2016 season has been its inability to convert on third down. Last season’s Big Ten West champions have converted just 42 percent of the time thus far, a slight improvement from last season’s 41 percent total. If the Hawkeyes hope to again compete for a Big Ten Championship — and win conference road games at Penn State and Illinois in November — this juggernaut must find ways to keep drives alive and move the chains.

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