Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa junior running back Mark Weisman.
Prediction: 6-6, 3-5 (5th in Big Ten Legends)
Head coach Kirk Ferentz heads into the season on the hot seat after going 4-8 last season, the Hawkeyes' worst record since 2000. The defense was average and the offense was dismal. It could be another one of those seasons, especially without a quarterback whose never taken a snap under center at Iowa.
James Vandenberg, who took every snap last season, is done after a disappointing senior campaign. The starting job is between three quarterbacks—Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard. The spark of the Hawkeye offense, junior running back Mark Weisman, returns and will try to top his 815 rushing yards and eight touchdowns from last season. The receiving unit must improve this season if the Hawkeyes want to average more than 19.3 points per game and the line, led by junior left tackle Brandon Scherff, should continue to be strong up front.
The Iowa defense basically has everyone back, including all three linebackers—James Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens. The defensive line, led by defensive end Dominic Alvis and defensive tackle Carl Davis, struggled to get to any sort of pressure on opposing team’s quarterbacks last season and needs to improve. The secondary also needs improvement as well, and will miss Micah Hyde. Free safety Tanner Miller and B.J. Lowery will need to step up and lead the secondary this season. The defense will have to put up gutsy performances if they want to win in low scoring affairs.
The Hawks have a tricky non-conference schedule and difficult conference schedule. They face last season’s BCS qualifier, Northern Illinois, at home the opening week and then play away in their annual game with Iowa State. Oct. 5 to Nov. 2 could be a nightmare with home games against Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and an away game at Ohio State.
The last two games of the season might not be pretty either with a home game against Michigan and a road game at Nebraska. Whenever anyone doubts Iowa and Kirk Ferentz they somehow surprise. Six wins this season and a bowl birth is possible. The Minnesota, Michigan State and Purdue games are all must win games.