Not all that many years ago, it was tough for college football players to transfer inside the same conference because schools could block such a move. That’s no longer the case in the Wild, Wild West of the transfer portal. Which leads us to No. 25 Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ new starting QB is Michigan transfer Cade McNamara, but he’s in question for Saturday’s home opener against Utah State.
McNamara’s uncertain status has dropped the Hawkeyes from -25 to -24 at many books and an already low total from 44 points to 43. It’s the second-lowest Week 1 total after Northwestern at Rutgers, which is set at 40. The three-lowest totals on the board all involve Big Ten teams as Nebraska-Minnesota is next at 44.5.
McNamara was Michigan’s starter in the 2021 season when he led it to the Big Ten title game, a 42-3 rout of Iowa. The Wolverines were routed in the College Football Playoff semifinals by Georgia. Coach Jim Harbaugh set up an early-season competition in 2022 between McNamara and backup JJ McCarthy, who won the job. McNamara didn’t play at all after suffering a leg injury in Week 3 that required surgery and committed to Iowa through the portal in December. He finished 13-3 as a UM starter.
On Aug. 13, McNamara was injured in an Iowa practice. He returned last week in a limited capacity and is medically cleared, coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. Ferentz described McNamara's injury as a "soft-tissue" strain and said he was questionable. Frankly, Iowa doesn’t need him to win Saturday.
“What it boils down to is, can he play effectively?” Ferentz said. “And then second thing is ... is that going to knock him out for three weeks if he does play? We have to be smart about that.”
McNamara’s backup is Deacon Hill, a transfer from Wisconsin who appeared in one game last season for the Badgers but did not attempt a pass. Iowa comes off an 8-5 season but was terrible offensively, ranking last in the Big Ten in total plays, total yards per game and passing TDs. The #Hawkeyes lost multi-year starting QB Spencer Petras to eligibility and Alex Padilla to the transfer portal.
Iowa’s defense is always among the nation’s best and should be again despite losing two 2023 NFL first-round picks in end Lukas Van Ness and linebacker Jack Campbell and star cornerback Riley Moss (third round). The under is 9-1-1 in the Hawkeyes' last 11 non-conference games. Iowa is 15-3 in season openers under Ferentz.
Utah State was 6-7 last year (4-9 ATS, 1-5 ATS on road) but expected to take a step back under Blake Anderson with only nine starters back and 59 new players on its roster, which is tied for the sixth-most in the nation.
The #AggiesAllTheWay are 6-65 all-time against Associated Press-ranked teams. They last beat one in the 2021 Mountain West title game, knocking off No. 19 San Diego State. USU is 1-15 all-time vs. the Big Ten and that victory was in 1968 vs. Wisconsin.