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Iowa Football: Early Look at Iowa's Odds Against Each Opponent

David Fidler Correspondent IOctober 9, 2016

Iowa Football: Early Look at Iowa's Odds Against Each Opponent

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    The Iowa Hawkeyes are slated to begin spring practices on March 27, and that means head coach Kirk Ferentz and his squad can put 2012's disastrous 4-8 behind them and move forward.

    Needless to say, Iowa fans will know a great deal more about their team in only one month—at the conclusion of spring practices—than they do now. Nonetheless, it's worth looking at how Iowa's schedule looks and what the Hawks' chances are against each of their 2013 opponents.

    It's impossible to project exactly how much the Hawkeyes or their opponents will improve from their 2012 performances.

    In effect, the following assumes a reasonable improvement wherever applicable—i.e. wherever there are returning starters or a coach or new offense that is in its second or third year.

    With a schedule featuring 10 teams that qualified for a bowl in 2012 and facing what can generally be considered an up conference in 2013, it won't be easy for the Hawks to achieve bowl eligibility let alone respectability.

Northern Illinois Huskies, August 31

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    In Iowa's Favor

    1. At Home.
    2. NIU will break in a new coach—its third new coach in six years.
    3. The Huskies lose three of their front four on defense.
    4. Northern Illinois graduated its best tackler in Tyrone Clark.
    5. Due to the above two, NIU's run defense projects to be suspect.

     

    Working Against Iowa

    1. Return man Tommylee Lewis is one of the best in the game.
    2. Most of the NIU secondary returns, which won't help what was 2012's No. 115 passing offense.
    3. Northern Illinois returns nine on offense, an offense which averaged 38.6 points per game.
    4. More specifically, the entire offensive line returns.
    5. Jordan Lynch.

     

    If These Teams Played 100 Times Under the Same Conditions...

    ...despite what looks to be a distinct NIU advantage, Iowa would win 50 of them. The coaching change combined with the game being early in the season work heavily in Iowa's favor.

Missouri State Bears (FCS), September 7

3 of 13

    In Iowa's Favor

    1. At Home.
    2. MSU is an FCS program, and thus, has 23 fewer scholarships available than FBS programs like Iowa.
    3. This is not only an FCS program, it is a bad FCS program—10-23 over the last three seasons.
    4. Kirk Ferentz has never lost to an FCS program.
    5. All tangible factors work in Iowa's favor.

     

    Working Against Iowa

    1. Iowa, under Kirk Ferentz, has at least one far-too-close shave against an FCS program—2009's 17-16 victory over Northern Iowa.
    2. In fact, Iowa's 2012's 27-16 win over UNI was closer than it should have been against an FCS team that went 5-6 in 2012.
    3. Though Ferentz hasn't lost to an FCS team, as Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported during the 2011 season, Iowa had nine losses as double-digit favorites going back to 2006.

     

    If These Teams Played 100 Times Under the Same Conditions...

    ...Iowa would win 95 of them.

At Iowa State Cyclones, September 15

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    In Iowa's Favor

    1. According to Phil Steele, ISU is tied for 117th in the country with nine returning starters.
    2. Five of the defensive front seven are gone.
    3. The quarterback and top three receivers are gone.
    4. The Cyclones' top four pass-rushers are gone.
    5. All of ISU's top playmakers—uber-linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott, receiver Josh Lenz, defensive tackle Jake McDonough, strong safety Durrell Givens, quarterback Steele Jantz—are gone.

     

    Working Against Iowa

    1. Ferentz has not been impressive against Iowa State—6-7 lifetime record
    2. And it hasn't mattered who has coached the Clones—Gene Chizik had five wins in two years as the ISU head coach. One of them was against Iowa. Ferentz was 3-5 against Dan McCarney (1999-2006). Ferentz is 2-2 against current Clones coach Paul Rhoads. 
    3. It is an away game, and Ferentz has been especially poor in Ames—2-5 lifetime record.
    4. It hasn't mattered how good Iowa has been or how bad ISU has been—in 2002, 6-7 ISU beat 11-1 Iowa.

     

    If These Teams Played 100 Times Under the Same Conditions...

    ...based strictly on tangible evidence, Iowa would win 70. However, this matchup is about the most unpredictable annual contest in all of college sports. In effect, Iowa would win 51 out of 100.

Western Michigan Broncos, September 21

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    In Iowa's Favor

    1. According to Steele, WMU is tied for 112th in the country with 10 returning starters.
    2. The Broncos return two offensive starters.
    3. WMU's top three pass-rushers are gone.
    4. Three starting defensive linemen are gone.
    5. Going back to 2008, the Broncos have gone 0-9 against teams currently in the Big Ten. That includes losses to Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue and Indiana.
    6. Going back to 2000, WMU is 2-17 against Big Ten opponents.

     

    Working Against Iowa

    1. Both of the aforementioned two wins against Big Ten opponents have come against Iowa (2000 and 2007). 
    2. The Broncos return a number of quality receivers, including MAC Freshman of the Year Jaime Wilson.
    3. WMU returns its entire defensive back seven.
    4. 10 of the Broncos' top 12 tacklers return.
    5. Though Western Michigan only officially returns two offensive starters, a slew of injuries in 2012 provided a great deal of playing time to would-be 2013 starters, including probable starting quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen.

     

    If These Teams Played 100 Times Under the Same Conditions...

    Iowa would win 80 of them, but the same could have been said about last year's contest against Central Michigan.

At Minnesota Golden Gophers, September 28

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    In Iowa's Favor

    1. The Gophers return three in the defensive back seven. 
    2. You thought Iowa had a weak recruiting class? According to 247Sports.com, Minnesota was one of only two Big Ten programs that had a weaker class than the Hawks. 
    3. The 2010 and 2011 fiascoes aside, Ferentz has done well against arguably Iowa's second biggest rival, posting a 9-5 record against the Gophers.
    4. Minnesota, which finished ninth in the Big Ten in rush defense (yards per carry or YPC), is still suspect against the run. 
    5. Without MarQueis Gray or A.J. Barker, the Gophers offense does not have an established go-to man amongst any of its returning skill position players.

     

    Working Against Iowa

    1. It's away. Iowa has yet to win one in TCF Bank Stadium.
    2. According to Steele, the Gophers are tied for 17th-most returning starters with 16.
    3. That's 10 returnees on offense, including the entire offensive line.
    4. This is year three of the Jerry Kill era. This is not only the year that Notre Dame coaches put things together as Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times pointed out; it is also the year that most coaches experience a major turnaround. The Hawks turned around for Ferentz in his third year.
    5. Outside of D.L. Wilhite, every Minnesota player who recorded a sack in 2012 returns.

     

    If These Teams Played 100 Times Under the Same Conditions...

    Iowa would win 45 of them. This game could determine the tone of the season for both teams.

Michigan State Spartans, October 5

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    In Iowa's Favor

    1. Kirk Ferentz's teams match up well against pro-style, power-based offenses. Ferentz has a 4-2 record against Dantonio, and Dantonio's time in East Lansing has been watershed years for MSU.
    2. Michigan State was the only team in the Big Ten that had a worse passing offense (passer efficiency rating) than Iowa. 
    3. With that in mind, the Spartans haven't settled their quarterback issues.
    4. Running back Le'Veon Bell was MSU's offense last year, and he is gone. Probable starter Nick Hill only saw 21 carries in 2012, and he was mostly unsuccessful, posting 2.29 YPC.
    5. Iowa will be going into a bye week.

     

    Working Against Iowa

    1. Iowa also hasn't settled its quarterback issues, and MSU will have one of the two top secondaries the Hawkeyes will face in 2013.
    2. The Spartans will also have some of the best linebackers Iowa will face in 2013.
    3. While the pass rush is suspect, the Michigan State front four will be staunch against the run. All of this leads to an Iowa offense that will have to move the ball through the air in order to score, something it rarely did in 2012.
    4. Part of the reason the MSU passing game struggled had to do with replacing all of its receivers. That won't be a problem in 2013, as every Spartans wide receiver who caught a pass last year will return. 
    5. Michigan State will be coming off a bye week.

     

    If These Teams Played 100 Times Under the Same Conditions...

    Iowa would win 40 of them. MSU looks to be the decidedly better team, but the Hawks match up well against the Spartans.

At Ohio State Buckeyes, October 19

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    In Iowa's Favor

    1. The Ohio State defense under Urban Meyer still has a lot to prove. 
    2. Iowa is coming off a bye.
    3. It might rain. Kirk Ferentz does well in sloppy games.

     

    Working Against Iowa

    1. Kirk Ferentz has a 1-7 lifetime record against the Bucks.
    2. He has never won a game in the Shoe.
    3. Historically, Ferentz's defenses—even the good ones—have issues with dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks. For evidence of this, see Seneca Wallace or Dan Persa. Braxton Miller might be the best dual-threat quarterback Ferentz has ever faced.
    4. Nine players return from the Big Ten's best scoring offense in 2012.
    5. The last time Iowa won at OSU was 1991. Iowa's all-time record at OSU is 8-29-1.

     

    If These Teams Played 100 Times Under the Same Conditions...

    Iowa would win five of them. 20 in rainy conditions. Pray for rain.

    Incidentally, yes, Iowa is to Ohio State what Missouri State is to Iowa.

Northwestern Wildcats, October 26

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    In Iowa's Favor

    1. Northwestern has to replace three long-time starters on the offensive line. That is a big deal for a team that had the third-most rushing attempts in the conference in 2012.
    2. Two of the Cats' top three pass-rushers are gone.
    3. NU has minimal depth on the offensive line or on defense. That could be a major factor as the season moves toward November.

     

    Working Against Iowa

    1. Ferentz's record against Northwestern: 5-6.
    2. Ferentz's record against Pat Fitzgerald: 2-4.
    3. The Wildcats and Fitzgerald picked up most of those wins as underdogs. In 2013, as in 2012, they will be the superior team.
    4. Northwestern's skill players are as good as any team in the Big Ten, including OSU and Michigan.
    5. Last year, Kain Colter was a one-dimensional quarterback who picked up 166 yards rushing on Iowa. This season, his passing will improve which will only make him more dangerous.

     

    If These Teams Played 100 Times Under the Same Conditions...

    ...Iowa would win 35 of them. It's a long shot, but the Hawks should have a staunch run defense this season. That will go a long way toward stopping the Cats.

Wisconsin Badgers, November 2

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    In Iowa's Favor

    1. Kirk Ferentz's teams match up well against pro-style, power-based offenses. Ferentz has a 6-6 record against the Badgers, with two of the losses coming in 1999 and 2000, which were transitional years.
    2. The Badgers have a new head coach in Gary Andersen. He brings with him a 3-4 defense and new wrinkles in the offense, which have the potential to cause transitional pains Wisconsin hasn't seen since Barry Alvarez was hired in 1990. 
    3. Wisconsin will replace three of its four starting defensive backs.
    4. The Badgers have not had a defensive lineman who could consistently get to the quarterback since J.J. Watt left in 2010.

     

    Working Against Iowa

    1. Wisconsin returns six of the defensive front seven, and all of the six are seniors.
    2. Montee Ball, Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner are gone? Enter James White, Rob Havenstein and Ryan Groy. 
    3. Iowa was Tight End U in the early part of the millennium, but the Badgers have taken the mantle. Jacob Pedersen is the next in line. 
    4. UW's passing game had some issues last year—62nd in the country—but every receiver or tight end who caught a pass in 2012 will return in 2013.
    5. Whatever quarterback issues Wisconsin has pales in comparison to Iowa's.

     

    If These Teams Played 100 Times Under the Same Conditions...

    ...Iowa would win 40 of them. Once again, the Hawks are decidedly outmanned on paper, but a good matchup and potential issues resulting from the coaching change give them a better chance.

At Purdue Boilermakers, November 9

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    In Iowa's Favor

    1. The Boilers have a new coach in Darrel Hazell. 
    2. Hazell has an offensive background, but Purdue needs a defensive makeover more than anything else.
    3. Speaking of which, Purdue returns eight on defense, but this is a defense that hasn't ranked above seventh in the conference since Joe Tiller was coach.
    4. The Boilers lost their top rusher, top receiver and top two passers.

     

    Working Against Iowa

    1. Despite losing so much offensive firepower, PU has a good amount of experience at all of the offensive skill positions.
    2. Purdue returns eight on defense, including three of the front four.
    3. Four of the top five tacklers return.
    4. The top kickoff return man in the country in 2011 was Raheem Mostert. He missed much of last season, including the Iowa game, with an injury. He'll be back in 2013.

     

    If These Teams Played 100 Times Under the Same Conditions...

    ...Iowa would win 50 of them.

Michigan Wolverines, November 23

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    In Iowa's Favor

    1. Strong-side linebacker Jake Ryan's recent ACL tear leaves UM without a true defensive leader.
    2. Ferentz has fared well against Michigan, boasting a 5-5 record. Yes, that includes two wins over former and failed coach Rich Rodriguez, but Ferentz also went 2-4 against Lloyd Carr and is 1-1 against Brady Hoke.
    3. The interior of Michigan's offensive line is a question mark at best. That's trouble for a run-first team.
    4. This is a classic sandwich game for UM. It follows the Northwestern contest, which could be for the division championship, and it precedes the Ohio State game.

     

    Working Against Iowa

    1. Denard Robinson was the heart and soul of UM for the past three years, but the Wolverines will be more dangerous with Devin Gardner under center.
    2. It's year three of the Brady Hoke era. This is now the team he wants to lead.
    3. Michigan will have one of the better secondaries Iowa will face in 2013.
    4. The Hawks project to have trouble rushing off the edge. Iowa pass rush, meet All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan.
    5. Hoke has had two top-10 recruiting classes in a row. That begins to pay off this season with a boatload of talent and depth.

     

    If These Teams Played 100 Times Under the Same Conditions...

    ...Iowa would win 30 of them.

At Nebraska Cornhuskers, November 29

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    In Iowa's Favor

    1. Taylor Martinez still has awful passing mechanics, and that makes itself felt when facing inclement weather. One can usually depend on inclement weather in late November in Lincoln.
    2. The Nebraska defense, which has underachieved two years in a row, only returns four.
    3. It returns two in the front seven. That won't help a rush defense that ranked No. 11 in the Big Ten (YPC).
    4. Iowa feeds off the turnover. Nebraska has been near the bottom of the conference in turnover margin for both of the last two seasons.

     

    Working Against Iowa

    1. The Huskers, led by Kenny Bell, have some of the best receivers in the conference.
    2. Despite his awful mechanics, Martinez was a much better quarterback in 2012 than he was in 2011. The Hawks can't depend on bad weather to slow T-Magic down.
    3. Ameer Abdullah is one of the best return men in the game, and he will also be tough to stop out of the backfield.
    4. Most of the key parts of the nation's No. 9 pass defense return. 
    5. Although the Friday game has resulted in a short week for both teams, it's seemed to have a greater effect on Iowa, which has looked moribund each of the last two seasons.
    6. Would somebody please remind Ferentz and Iowa that this is supposed to be a rivalry game.

     

    If These Teams Played 100 Times Under the Same Conditions...

    ...Iowa would win 30 of them.

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