Game-By-Game Predictions for Iowa's 2014 Season
After a disappointing 4-8 season in 2012 that had some questioning if the Kirk Ferentz era should be coming to an end, the Hawkeyes stormed back with a surprising 8-5 campaign last year. There wasn’t a bad loss in the bunch, and it propelled Iowa back into the conversation of conference contenders.
This year the schedule is favorable; no Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State, and the Big Ten West could be won with Wisconsin and Nebraska coming to Iowa City in late November.
With the element of surprise out the window will this be the next step towards a championship or a step back into Big Ten mediocrity?
8/30 vs. Northern Iowa
It’s the first of two intrastate games for the Hawkeyes. The Panthers shocked Iowa State to start the season a year ago in Ames. That was Iowa State. That was last year. This is Kinnick Stadium.
9/6 vs. Ball State
Ball State is typically one of those MAC teams that like to give Big Ten teams fits. It has beaten Indiana recently and came within a field goal of winning at Nebraska (when the Cornhuskers were still in the Big 12). But the last time the Cardinals traveled from Muncie to Iowa City? A 45-0 shellacking. Expect more of the same this year.
9/13 vs. Iowa State
I can’t help but feel the Hawkeyes will lose one of the next two games. The battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy has brought us some exciting and unpredictable games in the past three years: a six-point win in Ames last year, a bizarre 9-6 loss in 2012 and the triple-overtime thriller back in 2011. If Iowa wants to be taken seriously this season, this is a big game. Watch out for the rivalry factor but the Hawks keep the trophy at home.
9/20 at Pittsburgh
So if I think the Hawkeyes are going to lose one non-conference game, and I have them starting 3-0, then it looks like a trip to Pittsburgh could be a pitfall. The Panthers were just 7-6 last season, but they were awfully tough at home with wins against New Mexico, Virginia and Notre Dame. The Panthers look to be better than last year, and Iowa could get tripped up right before Big Ten play begins.
9/27 at Purdue
If you have to start conference play on the road, there’s no better place to do it this year than West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue is in a major rebuilding phase. There wasn’t a whole lot for fans at Ross-Ade Stadium to get excited about last year, and this will be a depressing start to the B1G slate for them in 2014.
10/11 vs. Indiana
Remember when I mentioned the schedule was kind to the Hawkeyes? After a bye week Iowa welcomes Indiana to Kinnick Stadium for Homecoming. This Hoosiers team can score points. Iowa’s job will be to keep the ball out of the hands of Indiana’s high-powered offense as much as possible and create some defensive stops. Sounds like what Ferentz-led teams have been doing to opponents for years…
10/18 at Maryland
And the hits just keep on coming. The Hawkeyes should cruise to a 3-0 conference start after a trip to College Park. Maryland is a team to keep an eye on in the future, but this season there’s not much need to fear the turtle.
11/1 vs. Northwestern
Now we’re getting somewhere. Northwestern was the Hawkeyes’ antithesis last year: high expectations but disappointing season. The Wildcats have quite a bit of talent, and you know Pat Fitzgerald will have his ‘Cats playing hard-nosed football. Even though I’m calling for a Hawkeyes win at home, this is the only opportunity I see for Iowa to possibly be bitten by the upset bug.
11/8 at Minnesota
If Iowa is going to take that next step in the Big Ten, this is a game they MUST win. Minnesota got a taste of winning last year, and these Gophers are hungry for more. That being said there are questions at quarterback, questions on defense (having to replace two stars in the front seven) and questions about the health of head coach Jerry Kill. Another thing to think about: Minnesota has a brutal schedule leading up to this game, and if it gets punched in the mouth several times, it could be primed to get knocked out.
11/15 at Illinois
If this was almost any other team in the Big Ten, I’d say Iowa needs to be careful of a trap game with Wisconsin and Nebraska looming in the distance. Well, this is Illinois, another of those teams trying hard but failing to figure it all out. As long as the Hawkeyes don’t completely overlook this one, they will avoid the completely frustrating loss they took in their last trip to Champaign back in 2008.
11/22 vs. Wisconsin
Ladies and Gentlemen, what you’ve all been waiting for, the battle for the Big Ten West begins NOW. Most pundits predict the West will be won by Iowa, Nebraska or Wisconsin. You really could make a case for all three. But Wisconsin seems to have the edge with a potent rushing attack and a defense with a knack for creating turnovers. That’s what happened last year in Iowa City, when two costly turnovers led to 14 points en route to a 28-9 Badger victory. This will be the biggest game at Kinnick in quite some time, but by now the Badgers are used to hostile crowds and big moments. The key to an Iowa win would be to shut down Melvin Gordon and make whoever Wisconsin has behind center throw the ball. That is the chink in Bucky’s armor.
11/28 vs. Nebraska
If there is a better running game in the B1G than Wisconsin it’s Nebraska. It packs a potent one-two punch with Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross. This one has all the makings of a classic Big Ten slugfest; two teams with good ground games and big offensive lines trying to impose their will on the opposing defense. This won’t be the Black Friday blowout we saw a year ago in Lincoln, but I think Iowa can withstand the attack just a little better. Plus, the Hawkeyes certainly hold the edge at quarterback unless the Huskers’ Tommy Armstrong can make great strides from his freshman year.
How does 10-2 sound for the Hawkeyes? The loss to Wisconsin will likely mean the Badgers will go the conference championship game. Thanks to Iowa’s incredibly soft schedule, if Bucky stumbles somewhere along the line Iowa will be flying high into Indy. That will be where things get a little more difficult with a likely date with either Michigan State or Ohio State. But that is nothing to sneeze at considering just two years ago morale was low in Iowa City. This could be the type of season to swing the pendulum very far the other way.