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Many—such as BTN.com's Tom Dienhart—are pointing to Iowa's schedule as a key factor keeping them from reaching bowl eligibility and beyond.
However, that schedule is not as difficult as it might seem.
Firstly, the out-of-conference (OOC) features an FCS team that went 3-8—Missouri State—and two FBS teams that, according to football guru Phil Steele, rank 112th and 117th in the country in returning starters.
Northern Illinois is a quality foe, but surprisingly, early odds have Iowa as 6.5-point favorites.
In short, the Hawkeyes can start 4-0 if Iowa can get past NIU, and Kirk Ferentz can get past whatever holds him back where it concerns ISU.
After that, though the home conference schedule doesn't shake out well, the Hawkeyes' draws from the Leaders Division are favorable.
Iowa is playing its toughest potential foe from the other division—Ohio State—but its second and third toughest rivals are most likely Penn State and Indiana, neither of which is on the schedule.
This is not to say Indiana or Penn State is a better team than Wisconsin, but Iowa matches up better against the power-based Badgers than it does against up-tempo, pass-heavy Indiana.
As for PSU, the Nits under Bill O'Brien, even with scholarship limits, are built like Northwestern but with higher level talent, and Ferentz has a 5-7 record against the Cats.
In short, 4-0 in the OOC is possible, as are two-four wins in conference.