116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Iowa football’s defensive success is no secret, nor is it anything new in Iowa City.
Defensive coordinator Phil Parker has been a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, which goes to the best assistant coach in college football, for three straight seasons.
As in many of Parker’s other seasons leading the unit, Iowa’s defense was among the best in the country in the most commonly recited statistics.
Iowa ranked second among 131 FBS teams in yards allowed per game and points allowed per game.
Perhaps the most telling statistic of the 2022 season, though, was how few yards per play Iowa allowed.
Iowa's defense allowed only 3.99 yards per play, averaging 0.4 fewer yards per play than second-place Illinois.
The 3.99 yards allowed per play are not only the fewest by any FBS team in 2022, but also by any defense in the last five seasons, according to a Gazette analysis of NCAA data.
The next best teams in the last five years were Ohio State in 2019 and Mississippi State in 2018. Both allowed 4.13 yards per play.
The only other schools to come within 0.3 yards of Iowa’s 3.99 mark in the last five seasons have been Clemson, Wisconsin and Georgia (twice).
Looking back at the last 10 seasons, Alabama has been the only other team to have a sub-4.0 season. The Crimson Tide allowed 3.99 yards per play in 2017 and 2016.
Clemson came close with 4.03 yards per play in 2014, as did Michigan State in 2013 with 4.04.
Defensive success was certainly not a new phenomenon for Iowa in 2022, but Iowa’s 3.99 yards allowed per play is a significant improvement from past years.
Iowa’s next-lowest average since 2018 was 4.34 in the COVID-19-affected 2020 season. The 2021 Hawkeyes allowed 4.72 yards per play.
When a team does accomplish what Iowa’s defense accomplished in 2022, it has historically come with a high level of postseason success.
Both of the aforementioned Alabama teams appeared in the College Football Playoff, and the 2017 Alabama team won the national title.
When Florida State held opponents to 3.86 yards per play in 2012, the Seminoles won the Orange Bowl.
Iowa did not achieve that level of success, finishing 8-5 after a 21-0 win against a short-handed Kentucky team in the Music City Bowl.
While the Iowa defense thrived, the offense was 129th out of 131 FBS teams in yards gained per play.
Fourteen offenses averaged fewer than 4.8 yards per play. Iowa, at 4.24 yards per play, was the only one to appear in a bowl game.
Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said before the Music City Bowl he believed he did “the best I could this year with the pieces we had to try to put the team in a position to win.”
Thankfully for Ferentz and the Hawkeyes, the success on the other side of the ball lowered the bar for what it took to put Iowa in a “position to win.”