Midseason report: Iowa

The Hawkeyes have already matched last season's win total and are an improved team from 2012 -- that much is obvious.

But midway through the season, it remains difficult to pinpoint exactly where they belong in the Big Ten. They're 4-2 -- with good wins over Minnesota and Iowa State -- but they have an upcoming murderer's row of Big Ten opponents.

Five of their next six opponents are Ohio State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska. Kirk Ferentz's team has shown it's no pushover, but it hasn't yet shown it's better than any of those five teams.

The defense, headed by an experienced group of linebackers, has paced this squad and ranks ninth in the nation. But the passing offense is what's holding Iowa back.

Jake Rudock has made progress since an opening-day loss, but he still ranks near the bottom of the conference in passing efficiency. To build off its success, Iowa will need to show it's not one-dimensional.

If Iowa can continue to make the right steps, a best-case scenario should see it in play in a postseason game like the Texas Bowl. But with the Hawkeyes' slate, a bowl game is no guarantee.

Offensive MVP: RB Mark Weisman. He doesn't have the breakaway speed of a Melvin Gordon or the flash of an Ameer Abdullah, but the former walk-on certainly gets the job done. At 236 pounds, the hard-nosed runner has been the only constant on the Hawkeyes' offense. He's averaging a solid 5 yards a carry and is third in the conference with 624 rushing yards. His performance usually dictates the success of the Hawkeyes' offense. There's no doubt who the MVP is on this side of the ball.

Defensive MVP: LB James Morris. No, he's not the tackle vacuum that Anthony Hitchens is -- but he's been a big-play machine. Morris leads the Hawkeyes with three interceptions and also forced one fumble. He's obviously been good in pass coverage -- only cornerback B.J. Lowery has more pass deflections -- but he's also a ballhawk who constantly finds himself around the play. He's second on the team with 43 tackles and is third on Iowa with four stops in the backfield.