Iowa Football: Way Too Early Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions for 2013

David Fidler Correspondent IFebruary 19, 2013

Iowa Football: Way Too Early Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions for 2013

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    For the Iowa Hawkeye football program and its head coach Kirk Ferentz, as with every FBS program, each new year and new schedule brings new challenges and opportunities.

    The Hawks are undergoing a major staff renovation as three long-term assistant coaches have moved on, while two new hires have been made.

    This will be a key step towards stemming the bleeding that has taken place in Iowa City over the past three seasons, the bottom of which was last year's 4-8 squad.

    The 2013 schedule won't make it any easier, as 10 of Iowa's 12 opponents were bowl-eligible in 2012.

    Based on what little the general public knows now, this article will attempt to make a way-too-early prediction on how the Hawkeyes will fare against that schedule.

    All cumulative records were compiled on Stassen.com.

    Returning starters were compiled by cross-referencing NationalChamps.net with Phil Steele's blog. When the two didn't match, I did some research and came up with what I felt was an accurate number. For my purposes, a "returning starter" started at least four games in 2012.

Northern Illinois Huskies

1 of 13

    When: Aug. 31

    Where: Kinnick Stadium

    Iowa's All-time Record vs. NIU: 8-0

    Ferentz's Record All-time Record vs. NIU: 4-0

    Last Meeting: 2012, 18-17

    NIU's 2012 Record: 12-2

    Returning Starters: Nine on offense, five on defense and the kicker. NIU is replacing its head coach.

    Key Playmakers: Quarterback Jordan Lynch, wide receiver/return man Tommylee Lewis, free safety Jimmie Ward

    Iowa's Best Chance of Winning: Score a lot of points

    Iowa's Best Chance of Losing: Try to play a shortened, sloppy defensive game

    Early Favorite: Northern Illinois

    Final Words: Iowa is going to have to score. With Lynch and the entire offensive line returning, there is no way the Iowa defense will hold this offense to fewer than 24 points. It will be lucky to hold it to fewer than 35 points.

    In short, to win, Iowa needs to put points on the board.

Missouri State Bears (FCS)

2 of 13

    When: Sept. 7

    Where: Kinnick Stadium

    Iowa's All-time Record vs. MSU: N/A

    Ferentz's All-time Record vs. MSU N/A

    Last Meeting: N/A

    MSU's 2012 Record: 3-8 (MSU competes in the Missouri Valley Football Conference)

    Iowa's Best Chance of Winning: Never allow MSU to get into the game.

    Iowa's Best Chance of Losing: Act like Missouri State is a "quality" opponent.

    Early Favorite: Iowa

    Final Words: Kirk Ferentz allows lesser opponents to compete against his Hawks—as Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette detailed—because he treats all opponents the same. He has yet to lose to an FCS program.

    This contest should be no exception. If Ferentz approaches the Bears the way they should be approached, the game should be out of reach by halftime.

At Iowa State Cyclones

3 of 13

    When: Sept. 14

    Where: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA

    Iowa's All-time Record vs. ISU: 37-18

    Ferentz's All-time Record vs. ISU: 6-8

    Last Meeting: 2012, 6-9

    ISU's 2012 Record: 6-7

    Returning Starters: Seven on offense, five on defense and both specialists

    Key Playmakers: Running back Shontrelle Johnson, tight end Ernst Brun Jr., cornerback Jacques Washington

    Iowa's Best Chance of Winning: Attack both on offense and defense.

    Iowa's Best Chance of Losing: Sit back and allow a young Clone team, along with a raucous home crowd, to build confidence.

    Early Favorite: Iowa

    Final Words: The number of returning starters is deceptive, as the majority of returnees were part-time starters in 2012. The reality is the starting quarterback is gone, the top three receivers are gone, the top four pass rushers are gone, three of the four starting defensive linemen are gone and all-everything linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott are gone.

    Iowa has two bad losses in a row to their inter-state rival. Allowing this young team to get settled in is asking for trouble.

Western Michigan Broncos

4 of 13

    When: Sept. 21

    Where: Kinnick Stadium

    Iowa's All-time Record vs. WMU: 0-2

    Ferentz's All-time Record vs. WMU: 0-2

    Last Meeting: 2007, 19-28

    WMU's 2012 Record: 4-8

    Returning Starters: Four on offense, eight on defense and both specialists

    Key Playmakers: Running back Dareyon Chance, wide receiver Jaime Wilson, rover Johnnie Simon

    Iowa's Best Chance of Winning: Treat the Broncos as an inferior team—dominate them.

    Iowa's Best Chance of Losing: Sit back and allow a young and inferior team to get settled in.

    Early Favorite: Iowa

    Final Words: Most of the Broncos' returning defensive experience is in the back seven. Three of the front four—WMU plays a modified 4-3 with a standing defensive end—are gone.

    On offense, most of the returning experience is at the playmaker positions. Four of the five linemen are gone. According to Steele, who lists WMU with 10 total returning starters, the Broncos are one of the least experienced teams in the country.

    Maybe in his third try, Kirk Ferentz can finally beat this MAC powerhouse.

At Minnesota Golden Gophers

5 of 13

    When: Sept. 28

    Where: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN

    Iowa's All-time Record vs. Minnesota: 43-60-2

    Ferentz's All-time Record vs. Minnesota: 9-5

    Last Meeting: 2012, 31-13

    Minnesota's 2012 Record: 6-7

    Returning Starters: 10 on offense, six on defense and the punter

    Key Playmakers: Running back Donnell Kirkwood, quarterback Phillip Nelson, defensive end Ra'Shede Hageman

    Iowa's Best Chance of Winning: Make the Gophers a one-dimensional offensive team and attack their inexperienced back seven.

    Iowa's Best Chance of Losing: Allow the Gophers to establish an offensive rhythm and control the tempo of the game.

    Early Favorite: Minnesota

    Final Words: This contest pairs one program that looks to be on the rise—Minnesota—with a program that has had three disappointing years in a row.

    On paper, it is fairly even, which means it will come down to a few game-changing plays and coaching decisions.

Michigan State Spartans

6 of 13

    When: October 5

    Where: Kinnick Stadium

    Iowa's All-time Record vs. MSU: 24-19-2

    Ferentz's All-time Record vs. MSU: 7-5

    Last Meeting: 2012,19-16

    MSU's 2012 Record: 7-5

    Returning Starters: Eight on offense, seven on defense and the punter

    Key Playmakers: Wide receiver Bennie Fowler, linebacker Max Bullough, cornerback Darqueze Dennard

    Iowa's Best Chance of Winning: Make the Spartans pay for their aggressive defense, and limit their big plays on offense.

    Iowa's Best Chance of Losing: Stretch play left, stretch play right, throw just short of the sticks on third down, punt.

    Early Favorite: Michigan State

    Final Words: Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis came into last year's matchup with a strong game plan, and it was good enough to beat MSU by two scores in regulation. He attacked the Spartans' aggressive defense with screens and draws. Unfortunately, the Hawkeye offense couldn't execute it, but the Hawks still pulled out a win in overtime.

    This year, MSU will roll out the same defensive game plan, but Iowa will have to do a better job in executing its counter attack.

    Greg Davis' offense and the bend-don't-break defense are a good match for MSU's dynamic attack on both sides of the ball. This is one where Ferentz's mantra—execution—is accurate.

At Ohio State Buckeyes

7 of 13

    When: Oct. 19

    Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH

    Iowa's All-time Record vs. OSU: 14-46-3

    Ferentz's All-time Record vs. OSU: 1-7

    Last Meeting: 2010, 17-20

    OSU's 2012 Record: 12-0

    Returning Starters: Nine on offense, four on defense and the kicker

    Key Playmakers: Quarterback Braxton Miller, linebacker Ryan Shazier, cornerback Bradley Roby

    Iowa's Best Chance of Winning: Make this into an ugly, finesse-free, shortened street fight that comes down to a few key plays.

    Iowa's Best Chance of Losing: Allow the Buckeyes to out-talent and out-finesse the Hawks.

    Early Favorite: Ohio State

    Final Words: As previously mentioned, Kirk Ferentz attacks every foe, regardless how talented it is, the same way. This puts him at a huge disadvantage against teams the Hawkeyes should beat.

    On the other hand, Ferentz is still one of the better coaches in the league against elite—i.e. ranked—opponents. Over the last three years, which have hardly been watershed years for the Hawkeyes, Ferentz has gone 4-8 against teams that have ended the season ranked.

    Compare this to Michigan State or Wisconsin. Both the Badgers and the Spartans have gone 5-8 against ranked teams. This is despite both having amongst the best three-year runs in either of their histories.

    In short, the Hawks will be huge underdogs against the Bucks. This is a chance for Ferentz to play it his way and shine.

Northwestern Wildcats

8 of 13

    When: Oct. 26

    Where: Kinnick Stadium

    Iowa's All-time Record vs. Northwestern: 46-24-3

    Ferentz's All-time Record vs. Northwestern: 5-7

    Last Meeting: 2012, 17-28

    Northwestern's 2012 Record: 10-3

    Returning Starters: Eight on offense, seven on defense and both specialists

    Key Playmakers: Quarterback Kain Colter, running back Venric Mark, defensive end Tyler Scott

    Iowa's Best Chance of Winning: Contain Colter, control the football and avoid costly mistakes.

    Iowa's Best Chance of Losing: Allow Northwestern to control the tempo and pace of the game.

    Early Favorite: Northwestern

    Final Words: How the tide has turned. From 2005 to 2011, Iowa always came into this game as the favorite and the Cats, five out of the seven meetings, came away with the upset.

    Now Northwestern is the better team, and the pregame spread will reflect that.

    Much of the reason the Wildcats, under Randy Walker in 2005 and Pat Fitzgerald since, have had Iowa's number is because they have suckered the Hawks into playing their game. Kirk Ferentz, perhaps out of sheer stubbornness, has complied.

    Either way, the end results display the dominance NU has had.

    This year, in order for the inferior team—Iowa—to win, it will have to knock Northwestern off its game. It has to go off the pregame script by doing the unpredictable, because the predictable—what Iowa trots out there week in and week out—never has and never will work against the Cats.

Wisconsin Badgers

9 of 13

    When: Nov. 2

    Where: Kinnick Stadium

    Iowa's All-time Record vs. Wisconsin: 42-41-2

    Ferentz's All-time Record vs. Wisconsin: 6-6

    Last Meeting: 2010, 30-31

    Wisconsin's 2012 Record: 8-6

    Returning Starters: Eight on offense, seven on defense and both specialists. Wisconsin is replacing its head coach.

    Key Playmakers: Running back James White, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, linebacker Chris Borland

    Iowa's Best Chance of Winning: Squash the run and control the clock—beat the Badgers at their own game.

    Iowa's Best Chance of Losing: Get outmuscled at the line of scrimmage.

    Early Favorite: Wisconsin

    Final Words: The Badgers are defending three-time Big Ten champions, but the architect of those championships is now in Arkansas.

    The new coach, Gary Andersen, has said, via Madison.com, that he is committed to maintaining the Badgers' style of football. However, at Utah State he ran a balanced spread offense.

    Whatever the Badgers try to do, Iowa has historically matched up well against UW, because the Badgers have played the style of football that Kirk Ferentz prefers—no-nonsense, lunch-pail football.

    This one will probably be the usual Iowa-Wisconsin matchup—toughest team wins. Or it could be a matchup between two teams undergoing identity crises.

At Purdue Boilermakers

10 of 13

    When: Nov. 9

    Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN

    Iowa's All-time Record vs. Purdue: 34-45-3

    Ferentz's All-time Record vs. Purdue: 6-4

    Last Meeting: 2012, 24-27

    Purdue's 2012 Record: 6-7

    Returning Starters: Five on offense, eight on defense and both specialists. Purdue is replacing its head coach.

    Key Playmakers: Wide receiver Gary Bush, safety Landon Feichter, cornerback Ricardo Allen

    Iowa's Best Chance of Winning: Establish the run, contain the quarterback and grab an early lead.

    Iowa's Best Chance of Losing: Keep it close and play it close to the vest.

    Early Favorite: Toss-up

    Final Words: Based on his Kent State offense, new Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell will bring a spread offense to Purdue. That offense is similar to the offense employed by former coach Danny Hope. However, the Boilers will do more to establish the run, as Kent State had the third-most rushing attempts in the MAC last year.

    That said, Hazell is an offensive specialist and more than anything, Purdue needs a defensive makeover.

    Despite being on the road, this is arguably the only Big Ten game in which Iowa might be favored.

Michigan Wolverines

11 of 13

    When: Nov. 23

    Where: Kinnick Stadium

    Iowa's All-time Record vs. Michigan: 13-40-4

    Kirk Ferentz's All-time Record: 5-5

    Last Meeting: 2012, 17-42

    Michigan 2012 Record: 8-5

    Returning Starters: Six on offense, six on defense and both specialists

    Key Playmakers: Quarterback Devin Gardner, running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, linebacker Jake Ryan

    Iowa's Best Chance of Winning: Keep the game close and depend on home-field momentum to give the final push.

    Iowa's Best Chance of Losing: Allow Michigan to dominate the line of scrimmage and get an early lead.

    Early Favorite: Michigan

    Final Words: Michigan is a perfect example of how Kirk Ferentz's philosophy does work. Big Blue might not have had the greatest decade, but 5-5 against UM is nothing to sneeze at.

    Next year, the Wolverines will be much improved over their eight-win 2012. They will also be in the third year of head coach Brady Hoke's system—typically the year when everything clicks.

    Iowa will be substantial underdogs, but the Hawks are at home, and Michigan might be looking ahead toward Ohio State. Also, Ferentz and the Hawks play pro-style teams well.

At Nebraska Cornhuskers

12 of 13

    When: Nov. 30

    Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE

    Iowa's All-time Record vs. Nebraska: 9-22

    Kirk Ferentz's All-time Record vs. Nebraska: 0-3

    Last Meeting: 2012, 7-13

    Nebraska's 2012 Record: 10-4

    Returning Starters: Seven on offense and five on defense

    Key Playmakers: Quarterback Taylor Martinez, running back Ameer Abdullah, wide receiver Kenny Bell

    Iowa's Best Chance of Winning: Shut down the Nebraska running game, force Martinez to win with his arm and score more than seven points.

    Iowa's Best Chance of Losing: Allow Nebraska to establish its running game.

    Early Favorite: Nebraska

    Final Words: Next season will be the third Heroes Game. Based on the scores of the first two—Nebraska won 20-7 in 2011—one would think Nebraska had a great defense in both of the last two years.

    In fact, the Huskers were the No. 42 scoring defense in the land in 2011. They were No. 58 last year.

    The simple fact is the Hawkeyes defense has done its job, but Iowa has to score if it wants to make this a competitive "rivalry."

Iowa's Way Too Early Final Record

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    At this point, the Hawks will only be favored in three games, and one of those is an away game.

    One would have to go back to 2004 to find the last time Iowa went through an entire season without dropping one game in which it was substantially favored.

    Nevertheless, Iowa will win all three, plus the toss-up at Purdue.

    On the positive side, one would have to go back to 2006 to find a season in which Iowa didn't win at least one contest in which it was a significant underdog.

    This year, the Hawkeyes will surprise the Badgers by beating them in Kinnick.

    However, that leaves them at 5-7 and out of a bowl for the second year in a row.

    Despite the staff overhaul and what seems to be a genuine commitment to change, it is hard to see this Iowa team doing well in a competitive Big Ten until proves it can compete at a consistently high level.

    Final Record: 5-7 (2-6 in the Big Ten)