Nate Stanley’s career at Iowa has been a bit of an enigma. Sometimes, he looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the country, with the potential to be a high pick in the NFL Draft. In other instances, he’s been a middle-of-the-road B1G gunslinger.

At his best, Stanley threw for 333 yards and five touchdowns without an interception against Iowa State in 2017. He had another five-touchdown performance later in the season, when the Hawkeyes demolished Ohio State in a 55-24 win.

This past season, Stanley threw for 320 yards and six touchdowns in a 42-16 victory on the road against Indiana.

At his worst, Stanley struggled to find receivers in a lopsided loss to Wisconsin two years ago, completing just 8-of-24 attempts for 41 yards and an interception. This year, he hit just 18-of-49 targets with two interceptions and no touchdowns in a 21-19 loss to Penn State.

Inconsistency has been a theme throughout Stanley’s career in Iowa City. Whether it’s entirely his fault or a collaborative effort with other aspects of the offense, Stanley is the one who shoulders most of blame.

Life of a B1G quarterback, right?

Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

It’s those last two records that will be most important when it comes to defining Stanley’s career in Iowa City. Entering his third year as the starter, he’ll have one last chance to get over the hump and steer the Hawkeyes back to Indianapolis, or at least into contention in the B1G West.

Stanley has the ability to be one of the top quarterbacks in the B1G this season, right along with Shea Patterson, Adrian Martinez and Justin Fields — though he doesn’t quite get the same attention as the other three. He isn’t quite as mobile as the other quarterbacks in the league, but his arm strength, accuracy and awareness is comparable to the best in college football.

Providing more consistent performances is the hurdle Stanley has to clear this fall, though.

The amount of progress made by Stanley from 2017 to 2018 was minimal on the stat sheet. Sure, he threw for 400 more yards last fall, but he recorded the same number of touchdown passes and his interception total increased by four. Stanley’s greatest leap came in his accuracy, improving his completion rate by nearly four percent from the previous year.

Nate Stanley     2018 2017
   Passing yards     2,852    2,437
   Passing touchdowns       26    26
   Interceptions       10     6
   Completion percentage      59.3     55.8
    Record      9-4     8-5

There isn’t much difference from Stanley’s first year to his second under center. Because of Iowa’s offensive approach, it wasn’t very likely that he’d see much statistical improvement outside of the completion percentage, anyway.

Where the real disparity comes in, and where the inconsistency is much more noticeable, is in Iowa’s wins and losses over the last two seasons. Groundbreaking stuff, isn’t it?

It’s not just that Stanley has been worse in every statistical category among the wins and losses, it’s that there’s a significant difference between the two, particularly in terms of accuracy and touchdown passes.

Nate Stanley In Wins (average)   In Losses (average)
   Passing yards      3,456 (203.3)    1,813 (201.4)
   Passing touchdowns         44 (2.6)      8 (0.9)
   Interceptions          10 (0.6)       6 (0.7)
   Completion percentage          60.8%       52.8%
   Games             17          9

Stanley has to be better against the big boys in the B1G. Sure, he had that stellar performance against the Buckeyes two years ago, but he’s had trouble moving the football and finding the end zone against the likes of Wisconsin, Northwestern and Penn State each of the last two seasons.

In seven of the nine losses over the last two years, the Hawkeyes have failed to reach the 20-point mark. The two exceptions came last season in a 30-24 loss to Penn State and a 38-36 defeat against Purdue.

When the defenses have gotten better, Iowa’s passing attack has gotten worse. Again, there’s nothing earth-shattering about that statement, but it perfectly explains the hurdle Stanley has to clear as he enters his final season with the Hawkeyes.

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not that there’s been a huge talent gap between Iowa and the rest of the B1G. The Hawkeyes have dropped those nine games by an average of eight points, losing six contests by a touchdown or less.

The Hawkeyes have come close, but haven’t quite been able to hurdle the brick wall.

Now, as a third-year starting quarterback entering his senior season, the responsibility to have Iowa competing for a B1G title falls on the shoulders of Stanley. With a stout offensive line and talent at receiver and running back, the Iowa quarterback will have plenty of help to get the Hawkeyes back in the mix this year.

Nobody can deny that Stanley has had a good career with the Hawkeyes. Regardless of what happens this season, he’ll be known as one of the better quarterbacks to put on the Iowa uniform. He’s won some big games in his first two years.

Heading into his senior season, though, he’s carrying a stigma that he hasn’t been good enough to win the big one. Stanley has one more season to change everyone’s mind.