Iowa Hawkeye Football: Swing Games That Will Determine Success in 2012
August is upon us and September 1 will be here soon. We have analyzed the players, team units, coaching, the schedule and even posted a picture or two of the cheerleaders.
Why stop now?
There is still so much more to learn before toe meets leather.
Let's look at this year's Iowa swing games. Every year, you can divide up your opponents into three categories: 1) the games you are likely to win; 2) the games you could easily lose; and 3) the games that could go either way—the swing games.
I define a swing game as a contest that is projected to be decided by eight points or less. Your team may be favored or the underdog but either way, it is by no more than a single score and conversion.
To a fan's eyes, these games are a lock, but the bookmakers, who get into comparisons as a business, see them quite differently.
According to my analysis, Iowa's case this year goes like this.
They have five games where they are likely to be favored by more than eight points—I see those as likely wins.
The Hawkeyes have two road games in which they are considered the underdog by more than eight points. They could easily lose these two. If both games were at home, they would be considered swing games.
That leaves five swing games.
Of the five, my information indicates Iowa would be favored to win four of them if they played tomorrow and they are only a 4.5-point underdog in the fifth.
Read on! And let's see if your picks agree with mine.
5: Iowa State
Reese Strickland/Getty Images
Iowa State is a difficult team to figure out.
Last year, they beat No. 19 Texas Tech 41-7, No. 2 Oklahoma State in double overtime, and Iowa in three overtimes.
Then they lost their bowl game to Rutgers by 14 points.
In 2010, they beat No. 22 Texas and almost upset No. 9 Nebraska, but lost in overtime 31-30 and still they only won five games for the year.
What is fairly normal in the case of Iowa State is they don't win a lot of ball games. But they generally ruin the fun for one or two teams every year. Which obviously helps make up for the fun they lack in not winning a lot.
Being the spoiler can be very fun.
In the Hawkeye's case, Iowa State has won two of the previous five games. Last year and then again in 2007 when Iowa State won 15-13.
The Hawkeyes would likely do themselves a favor if they can get a lead on this team early. They don't want to allow these guys to hang around and get their confidence up throughout the course of the game.
I don't think Iowa State will beat the Hawkeyes again this year, especially in Kinnick Stadium.
But, this game would likely have a line at about -8 if it were on the board right now. Not really that big considering about 4.5 points of it is for home field.
Still, Iowa should win this game.
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Those Golden Gophers! Your homecoming opponent this year!
What happened in Minnesota last year, Iowa fans?
How do you dominate a team as fully as Iowa dominated Minnesota for better than three quarters and then lose the ball game?
Never mind, it is a rhetorical question. But, my guess is Iowa will get some payback this year.
I'm sure some folks will say Iowa gave that game away last year, up 20-7 with a 300 yard advantage in the fourth quarter. But, Minnesota did have the two long drives and they did kick and recover the onside kick. So, they deserved to win the ball game last year.
Iowa went into that game a 16-point favorite last year. Despite how it came out, I think Iowa will be double digit favorites again this year.
Still, since Minnesota now has a two game win streak on the Hawkeyes, I have to rate this a swing game.
A game Iowa should win handily, but recent history says it should be closer than the line indicates.
3: Penn State
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
As I am writing this, other college football programs are offering places for the top players at Penn State to come and play ball. You can't blame the players—especially those with no Penn State ties—if they choose to take the NCAA up on their offer to go to other schools penalty-free.
These kids want to play for a team eligible to compete in conference championships or bowl games. What happened at the school is not their fault and as a result, I am sure several will leave.
If so, the make up of this team may change drastically.
As I write now, I grade Penn State based on the team they were last year.
When they arrive to play Iowa on October 20, they may be only a shell of that team.
Time will tell.
Bob Levey/Getty Images
How about them purple kitties?
They remind me a lot of Iowa State: They don't win a huge amount of games each year but they always give someone a headache. They have given a few to Iowa recently.
Like in 2009, when No. 8 ranked, 9-0 Iowa, a 15-point favorite, hosted the Wildcats and lost 17-10. I always felt the hangover from that game hurt Iowa the next week when they lost in overtime to No. 10 Ohio State by three points.
Iowa recovered and beat Minnesota 12-0, then won their bowl game over top-ten ranked Georgia Tech to finish the year at 11-2. I wonder if they won that Northwestern game and went on and beat Ohio State, if they could have overcome Texas that year?
Texas barely beat No. 21 Nebraska for the right to play Alabama in the national title game. A game Texas didn't do very well in (Alabama dominated 37-21).
Anyway, if wishes were fishes, there would be lots to fry. But, that was a close finish for Iowa. Does anybody even remember that Northwestern game?
Iowa plays Northwestern in Evanston this year.
That should make the line hang around -8.
Iowa should win this game and cover.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Last year, Nebraska seemed to manhandle Iowa's lines.
The lone Iowa score came after the game was decided, with an 80-yard drive and a score with 3:26 left.
Before the final Iowa drive, Nebraska had over 350 total yards to Iowa's 190. Of the Nebraska yardage, 222 came on 61 rushing plays—a clock eating average of 3.6 yards per carry.
Like Iowa, Nebraska lost three starters from their tough offensive line from 2011. Also like Iowa, they reloaded with linemen who had plenty of playing experience.
In fact, I believe Nebraska's line is even more experienced overall and since it was also better last year, the Iowa coaches have a goal to work towards this year.
This game will be big.
The winner could be on their way to the B1G Championship Game.
Iowa will not start the fall favored in this game. This is a swing game instead of one likely to be lost only because it's played at home.
That said, it's one ballgame and it is late in the year. Iowa has a shot in this game.
They will have to play good ball and likely will need a break or two. But, that is what that home field advantage can bring you.
This one should be fun!
Hopefully, it will be for the right to play in the title game as well.
Someone from the Legends Division needs to win the title this year. According to some Ohio State fans, all titles and trophies after 2012 will reside in Columbus.
Hey, I just repeated what was said to me. I would never dream of trying to start anything...