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At First Glance: The Iowa Hawkeyes

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Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

After a 2-0 start, Pitt heads into its first real challenge of the season this weekend against Iowa.

It's not that the Panthers went untested in their first two games. They beat Youngstown State by only seven and trailed 7-3 late in the second quarter before pulling away for a 24-7 win against Akron this weekend. But in Iowa, Pitt will face a legitimate P5 program and, for the first time this season, will play a major-conference team.

Iowa, too, is 2-0 having beaten both Illinois State and Iowa State. The magic number for the Hawkeyes has been 31. They've scored that amount in each game and have given up only 31 combined to those two teams. Iowa won comfortably each time, topping Illinois State 31-14 and Iowa State 31-17.

The Hawkeyes didn't receive much of a challenge from Illinois State, but Iowa State pushed them as the two teams were tied into the fourth quarter until Iowa pulled away late.

For the second week in a row, Pitt will see a familiar face in quarterback C.J. Beathard. Beathard came into the game last year as a backup with his team trailing 17-7 in the third quarter, leading them to a come-from-behind 24-20 victory. In that game, he went 7-8 for 98 yards in relief but despite his efforts, couldn't supplant starter Jake Rudock the rest of the way. This year, the job is Beathard's and he's played well, completing 30-49 passes for 426 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions. On the receiving end of many of those yards has been wide receiver Matt VandeBerg. Vandeberg has 173 yards and two touchdowns on the seasons.

The Panthers also must deal with a solid rushing attack. The Hawkeyes are averaging 5.3 yards per carry and are led by LeShun Daniels and Jordan Canzeri, who have combined for 331 yards through two games. Beathard also has shown some scrambling ability with 18 carries for 103 yards so far. This weekend, he had a 57-yard run against the Cyclones.

It's more than offense that Pitt should worry about, though. A strength of the Panthers has been the running game, but Iowa boasts one of the nation's top run defenses so far this season. Giving up only 98 total yards rushing through the first two games, the Hawkeyes rank No. 8 in the country in that department. Overall, Iowa has performed well on both sides of the ball. They haven't done nearly as well against the pass (79th in the nation) but as we've seen from Pitt, the passing game has been a work in progress for them.

Pitt's defense looks improved over last season and with Tyler Boyd and a capable running game, they shouldn't be counted out of this game by any means. But playing against Iowa will be a challenge as it is and being on the road will make it much more difficult. The Panthers will need to work to start 3-0 for the second consecutive year.

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