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Iowa Hawkeyes 2017 Team Awards

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On one hand, you'd be inclined to say that Iowa's 7-5 season was a bit disappointing. On the other — given some of the question marks the program had heading into the season — 7-5 could be looked at as an acceptable campaign.

Iowa Hawkeyes QB Nate Stanley

The realistic goal every season in Iowa City is a Big Ten West title. The Hawkeyes fell short of that in 2017. Much of it was of their own doing. Some of it had to do with the quality of teams like Wisconsin, Northwestern and Penn State — all of whom dealt Iowa losses in conference play.

The preseason hype in terms of individual awards and expectations centered largely around running back Akrum Wadley. Some expected the senior to flirt with 2,000 yards, perhaps inserting his name into the Heisman Trophy conversation. Those achievements never came to fruition. As a result, it was a gritty defense that carried the Hawkeyes through a roller coaster of a season.

Here are the team awards for the 2017 Iowa Hawkeyes football season.

Offensive MVP: Nathan Stanley, QB

Anyone who had the chance to watch Iowa's spring game would have walked away from that disaster wondering if the Hawkeyes could even reach .500 in 2017. Luckily, Stanley (above, right) emerged as an adequate-if-not-solid signal-caller in his first season as a starter. In an offense predicated on the run, the sophomore completed 56 percent of his passes for 2,338 yards, 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

Defensive MVP: (Tie) Josey Jewell, LB and Joshua Jackson, CB

Jewell was the rock in the middle for the Hawkeyes and a calming presence all season. Using just the eye test, you could argue that he was one of the best football players in the country. He was never out of position, almost never missed a tackle and was almost always first to the ball. His 121 tackles, five sacks, 11 passes defended and two interceptions are all the more impressive when you consider that he missed a game (17-10 overtime loss to Northwestern).

Jackson led the nation in interceptions and emerged as one of the elite shutdown corners in all of college football. Three of his nation-leading seven interceptions came against J.T. Barrett in the Ohio State game. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 40.2 when targeting receivers he was covering.

Best Freshman: A.J. Epenesa, DE

Epenesa was everything we expected him to be as a freshman. He logged 4.5 sacks and was consistently beating offensive tackles who will play on Sundays, setting up shop in opposing backfields all season.

Best Newcomer: Nick Easley, WR

The junior college transfer from Iowa Western Community College not only provided Iowa with much needed depth at the wide receiver position, he also led the team in catches (50) and receiving yards (498). He was one of Iowa's most consistent and dependable players on offense.

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Best Play of the Season: Joshua Jackson's one-handed interception vs. Ohio State

There really aren't words to describe this play, so just watch the video:

Best Performance by a Player: Josey Jewell vs. Penn State

Jewell's overall body of work against Penn State — from the box score to the eye test — was unmatched. He almost single-handedly kept the Hawkeyes within striking distance right to the very end. Forget the stat line (16 tackles, interception and two passes defended), watching him go blow-for-blow with Saquon Barkley was one of the most entertaining one-on-one matchups in college football this season.

Best Game (Team Performance): The 55-24 beatdown of Ohio State

Everything just clicked for the Hawkeyes right out of the gate in this one. We saw a glimpse of just how good Iowa could be when the Hawkeyes put it all together. This game also elevated Joshua Jackson into the national spotlight. The two lasting images from the contest for most Iowans are likely the aforementioned interception by Jackson and Nathan Stanley delivering a touchdown strike with Nick Bosa wrapped around his feet.

Defining Moment: The Wave

College football's best new tradition was born in Iowa City in 2017 and we can't get enough of it. This — not wins, losses or stats — is what clearly defined Iowa Hawkeye football in 2017. It brought out the best in all of us.

Biggest Surprise: The win over Ohio State

Nobody saw it coming. Nobody.

Biggest Disappointment: The Loss to Purdue

Two weeks after crushing the Buckeyes, the Hawkeyes inexplicably laid an egg at home to Purdue, costing Iowa an eight-win season.

Senior That Will Be Missed the Most Next Season: Josey Jewell, LB

Not only was he an elite talent on the field, "The Outlaw" was the fan favorite and a homegrown source of pride for all Iowans to rally around. You simply don't replace a Josey Jewell.

Player to Watch in 2018: Toren Young, RB

Young figures to be the heir apparent to Akrum Wadley as the bell cow in the Iowa backfield. He's a bigger, more traditional workhorse back who showed some flashes of what he's capable of in limited action. He'll likely also have the luxury of what should once again be a solid offensive line in Iowa City.

Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Can Brian Ferentz's offense become more dangerous through the air?

They have the quarterback in Nathan Stanley. They have an elite red-zone threat in tight end Noah Fant. They're going to need more explosive receivers and a scheme that pushes the ball downfield through the air more effectively if they want to take pressure off the rushing attack and become a more balanced offense.

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also covers the Big Ten for Black Heart Gold Pants, Iowa's SB Nation blog. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.