With a number of seniors departing this past season, Iowa is heading into a season full of question marks in 2011.
There is plenty of young talent, and there are some seasoned veterans, but the Hawkeyes will be very inexperienced compared to last year.
For that reason, it's hard to predict where Iowa will end up come December. However, here's 10 odd predictions that could wind up coming true if everything falls into place.
Marcus Coker burst onto the college football scene as a freshman last season, rushing for 219 yards in an Insight Bowl win over Missouri.
Coker will be the Hawkeyes' clear starter in 2011 and will need to carry a workload similar to Shonn Greene's in 2008. Like 2008, Iowa will be breaking in a new quarterback and will likely be a run-heavy team.
While that could be a blessing—it means more carries and more yards behind a veteran offensive line—it will also mean a lot of hits and a tough workload.
However, expect Coker to be up to the challenge and be near the top of the Big Ten in rushing.
Looking at the Hawkeyes' schedule, there is no game that they can't win. The Nebraska game will be tough and it's never easy to play in Happy Valley.
However, if Iowa plays disciplined, it can theoretically win every game on its schedule. Realistically, Iowa tends to lose a few games each year that it shouldn't, so 10-2 seems like a fair prediction.
While the schedule gives Iowa a chance to finish with a double-digit win season, their inexperience, especially on offense, may be cause for concern.
Is new quarterback James Vandenberg the quarterback that nearly came back to beat Ohio State or the quarterback that struggled against Northwestern and Minnesota? If it's the latter, the Hawkeyes could be in for a long year, regardless of how well Coker plays. There is also inexperience along the defensive line.
Even if Vandenberg has an off year, the schedule is so easy that an sub-.500 season is hard to imagine.
Marvin McNutt only needs 1,071 yards this season to break DJK's career receiving record. At some schools it would be very possible. However, at a run-based school like Iowa, it's a stretch.
One thing working in McNutt's favor is that he will be the sole go-to receiver this season, while Johnson-Koulianos had to share that title with McNutt for the last two years.
McNutt will certainly be Iowa's No. 1 target in 2011. If Vandenberg can hit his stride, McNutt has a shot to break the record.
Thanks to two incredible interception returns for touchdowns, Micah Hyde became one of the stars of the Iowa defense last season.
This year, because of the departures of safeties Brett Greenwood and Tyler Sash, Hyde will likely be switching from corner to safety.
Hyde is a tremendous talent, combining good speed and ball skills with good coverage and tackling skills. He and defensive coordinator Norm Parker said the transition is going well, and if Hyde can become the ball-hawk that Greenwood and Sash were, he could be an All-American in 2011.
This is likely the safest prediction on this list.
Parker has had medical problems on and off throughout his career at Iowa, particularly in the last two seasons, as he missed some of 2010 and coached the rest of the time in the press box.
Diabetes complications have forced Parker to have a more limited role with the defense. However, he has been excited to get back on the field and hopes to be back for many years to come.
Okay, this might be the safest prediction on this list.
However, it might actually have some merit besides the "curse" argument this year.
Penn State is still rebuilding and hasn't found a quarterback after struggling at that position all of last season. Northwestern, meanwhile, has arguably the best quarterback in the conference and should be stellar on offense.
Look for the same old story against Northwestern and Penn State this year as the tension between the programs builds even more.
This is assuming we see the Vandenberg that played at Ohio State and not the one that struggled against Northwestern.
The junior quarterback has had two years to learn behind Ricky Stanzi and the coaches have been very pleased with his development.
He will have the benefit of working behind a veteran offensive line and playing beside a strong running back.
There are definitely question marks for Vandenberg. However, he has plenty of players around him that can help him succeed.
After being criticized for playing too conservatively early in the year, Iowa's coaching staff tried to mix up the playbook in the second half of the year, particularly against Michigan State.
The Hawkeyes were still conservative, but they added in a few trick plays—more than they had in the past, that is.
That trend could continue in 2011 and may involve the athleticism of backup quarterback AJ Derby or the passing skills of wide receiver Marvin McNutt, who came to Iowa as a quarterback.
A freshman walk-on, Michael Meyer surprised a lot of people last year by gaining the starting kicking job. He had a few bad kicks—as expected from a freshman—but was fairly consistent, hitting on 14 of 17 field goal tries.
That's better than Kaeding (14 of 22) as a freshman.
While he still has a long way to go to catch the Hawkeye great, Meyer could be well on his way and could be one of the top Big Ten kickers this season. However, before he becomes a legend, he needs to hit a big kick with a game on the line.
With three years left in Iowa City, his chances are pretty good.