Iowa Football: What to Know for Each Game on the 2011 Schedule

Kevin TrahanAnalyst IAugust 9, 2011

Iowa Football: What to Know for Each Game on the 2011 Schedule

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    The college football season is quickly approaching, as fall camps have started and games start in less than a month.

    With media day in the books, all of the freshmen on campus and practice well underway, Iowa is getting set for a seemingly unpredictable season.

    The Hawkeyes lose a number of star players, but return a lot of talent and a surprising amount of experience. In addition, they have a very easy schedule.

    Check out what you should know for each of Iowa's games in the upcoming season.

Tennessee Tech: Sept. 3, 11:00 a.m. CDT

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    All-Time Series Record: 0-0

    Opponent's 2010 Record: 5-6 (4-4 Ohio Valley)

    Opponent's Outlook: Tennessee Tech was less than mediocre in the Ohio Valley Conference last season and will try to improve on two blowout losses to FBS teams last year. The Golden Eagles lost to both Arkansas and TCU to start the season.

    Tennessee Tech Will Win If: Even if the Golden Eagles play the best game in program history, that still probably won't be enough.

    Iowa Will Win If: All the Hawkeyes need to do to win this game is simply not implode. Even if they play as bad as they did against Northern Iowa in the 2009 opener, they will likely still come away with a win.

At Iowa State: Sept. 10, 11:00 a.m. CDT

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    All-Time Series Record: Iowa leads 39-19

    Opponent's 2010 Record: 5-7 (3-5 in Big 12)

    Opponent's Outlook: After a bowl win in 2009, Iowa State was hampered by a tough schedule in 2010 that saw the program home for the holidays once again. Quarterback Austen Arnaud is gone, and there is still uncertainty at that position. This will be a rebuilding year for the Cyclones.

    Iowa State Will Win If: On paper, the Cyclones are the underdog.

    However, they've won two of the last four Cy-Hawk series games in Ames, and if they are able to feed off the emotion of the crowd and the rivalry, they could pull out a win.

    They have to limit turnovers—that's hurt them the past two years—and will need to force Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg into some bad decisions.

    Iowa Will Win If: Iowa will be favored in this game, especially after beating Iowa State by a combined score or 70-7 over the past two seasons.

    Really, all the Hawkeyes have to do is play fundamentally-sound football, and they'll come away with a win, but it wouldn't hurt to come away with a huge turnover margin like they did the last two seasons.

Vs. Pittsburgh: Sept. 17, 11:00 a.m. CDT

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    All-Time Series Record: Pittsburgh leads 3-1

    Opponent's 2010 Record: 8-5 (5-2 in Big East)

    Opponent's Outlook: Pittsburgh had a relatively disappointing 2010 season, a year it was expected to win the Big East with ease and advance to a BCS bowl.

    The Panthers return quarterback Tino Sunseri, but lose star running back Dion Lewis. Plus, coach Todd Graham is in his first season with the Panthers. It's hard to predict Pitt's season with a new coach and some new faces, but this will likely be a rebuilding year.

    Pittsburgh Will Win If: Iowa will have a somewhat inexperienced secondary, and Sunseri will be the most experienced quarterback the unit has faced so far. The Hawkeyes thrive on preventing the deep ball, but with an inexperienced safety, Sunseri could exploit the secondary for some big plays.

    However, Pitt must avoid becoming one-dimensional on offense.

    Iowa Will Win If: Iowa will likely be favored in this game as well, but it must be cautious, as it blew a lead to Pittsburgh in 2008.

    The rushing game will be the key for the Hawkeyes on both side of the ball. Marcus Coker and the offensive line should be able to wear down the Pitt defense, and the Iowa front seven must shut down Pitt's running game and force Sunseri to be one-dimensional.

Vs. Louisiana-Monroe: Sept. 24, Time TBA

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    All-Time Series Record: 0-0

    Opponent's 2010 Record: 5-7 (4-4 in Sun Belt)

    Opponent's Outlook: After a bowl-less season in 2010, Louisiana-Monroe has a shot at the postseason this year with 20 returning starters.

    Granted, that is 20 returning starters from a 5-7 team,—in the Sun Belt, no less—but the Warhawks have the chance to be good. However, games at Florida State, Iowa, and TCU won't help their record.

    Louisiana-Monroe Will Win If: Iowa undoubtedly has a better team than Louisiana-Monroe, but the Warhawks' one advantage over the Hawkeyes is experience. Iowa's young players will already have three games under their belts by this point, but if ULM's defense can force turnovers, it has a shot to stay in this.

    Iowa Will Win If: Iowa will likely win this game, and it will just simply need to play fundamentally-sound football. ULM will provide a bit steeper test than Tennessee Tech, but this game shouldn't be close.

    However, Iowa has a knack for turning games that shouldn't be close into nail-biters.

At Penn State: Oct. 8, Time TBA

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    All-Time Series Record: Iowa leads 12-11

    Opponent's 2010 Record: 7-6 (4-4 in Big Ten)

    Opponent's Outlook: Penn State is in its second-straight rebuilding year, as its quarterback battle that started last fall has not been settled yet. The Nittany Lions also lose 1,000-yard rusher Evan Royster and top offensive lineman Stefen Wisnieswki. With a very tough schedule, this could be a rough year for Penn State.

    Penn State Will Win If: With such an inexperienced offense, the defense will have to win this game for Penn State. The secondary should be solid, and if it can come up with some turnovers, it will put itself in good position for a win at home

    Iowa Will Win If: Iowa must do what it did last year.

    The Hawkeyes flustered young quarterback Rob Bolden, forcing the Nittany Lions to run the ball and be one-dimensional. Iowa has owned Penn State as of late due to solid defense, and that will be the key once again in 2011.

Vs. Northwestern: Oct. 15, 6:00 p.m. CDT

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    All-Time Series Record: Iowa leads 46-23-3

    Opponent's 2010 Record: 7-6 (3-5 in Big Ten)

    Opponent's Outlook: Northwestern is on track for one of its best seasons in recent history.

    The Wildcats return Heisman Trophy-candidate quarterback Dan Persa, star wide receiver Jeremy Ebert and a solid offensive line. The defense must improve from last season, but it will be much more experienced.

    With an easy schedule on top of the returning talent, Northwestern is a sleeper to win the Legends Division and the Big Ten title.

    Northwestern Will Win If: Dan Persa was a one-man team against Iowa last year, bringing his team back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 21-17 and rupturing his Achilles tendon on the game-winning touchdown. If he can put on the same kind of show this year, the Wildcats will have a good chance to leave Kinnick with a victory.

    Iowa Will Win If: Containing Persa is very difficult, but if the Hawkeyes can shut down Ebert (his top receiver), they have a chance to win. Persa is effective because he is so good at both running and passing, and making him one-dimensional will help Iowa's chances to win.

Vs. Indiana: Oct. 22, 11:00 a.m. CDT

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    All-Time Series Record: Iowa leads 41-27-4

    Opponent's 2010 Record: 5-7 (1-7 in Big Ten)

    Opponent's Outlook: Indiana seems to be headed in a good direction thanks to the confidence and recruiting prowess of new coach Kevin Wilson. Wilson recently landed Gunner Kiel, the top quarterback recruit in the nation.

    However, 2011 is likely to be a rebuilding year for the Hoosiers, who need an improved defense. The offense is typically decent for Indiana, but with so much inexperience on that unit, wide receiver Damarlo Belcher looks to be the lone bright spot.

    Indiana Will Win If: Indiana has played Iowa close the past two seasons, but have come up short in both games.

    Indiana's defense isn't good enough to limit Iowa's offense, so it needs to hope for a high-scoring game. That's pretty far-fetched for the inexperienced offense, but it's the only way the Hoosiers can come away with a win.

    Iowa Will Win If: The Hawkeyes won't have to deal with the high-powered Hoosier offenses of the last few years, and that should serve them well in this Homecoming matchup. If Iowa can play solid defense and disrupt the Indiana passing game, it should have an easy win.

At Minnesota: Oct. 29, Time TBA

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    All-Time Series Record: Minnesota leads 60-42-2

    Opponent's 2010 Record: 3-9 (2-6 in Big Ten)

    Opponent's Outlook: Minnesota went downhill from a bowl season in 2010 and ended up firing head coach Tim Brewster. However, the Gophers ended the season on a hot streak after Brewster's firing, with wins against Illinois and Iowa.

    Head coach Jerry Kill seems to be a good fit, but he has a lot of inexperience and raw talent to work with, including quarterback MarQueis Gray.

    Minnesota Will Win If: Trickery. It's how the Gophers beat Iowa last year, and it seems like the only way to repeat.

    Minnesota kept the Hawkeyes on their toes, and the Gophers will need some more of that—plus Gray's rushing ability—to maintain Floyd of Rosedale.

    Iowa Will Win If: If Iowa can contain Gray, it should be able to come away with a win. Gray is quick, athletic and a good rusher, but he's extremely inexperienced in the passing game and may not have the tools to throw the ball effectively.

    If the Hawkeyes can force Gray to throw, they should be able to win.

Vs. Michigan: Nov. 5, Time TBA

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    All-Time Series Record: Michigan leads 40-12-4

    Opponent's 2010 Record: 7-6 (3-5 in Big Ten)

    Opponent's Outlook: Michigan is entering the Brady Hoke era and is looking to get out of its current state of mediocrity. The defense definitely needs to improve from last season, but star quarterback Denard Robinson is back to lead the Wolverines' offense.

    Michigan Will Win If: We all know the Wolverines can score, but to win this game they must play defense. That's the key to most of Michigan's season.

    If it can't do that, it is in danger of losing three-straight to Iowa for the first time ever.

    Iowa Will Win If: The Hawkeyes have done a good job of containing Michigan's starting quarterbacks during the past two matchups. Ironically, they did worse against the backups.

    If Iowa can contain Robinson as well as it did last year and force him to pass, it will have a good shot to win.

Vs. Michigan State: Nov. 12, Time TBA

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    All-Time Series Record: Iowa leads 22-18-2

    Opponent's 2010 Record: 11-2 (7-1 in Big Ten)

    Opponent's Outlook: The Iowa game was MSU's one regular-season loss in 2010, and it was a 37-6 blowout. The Spartans return one of the best sets of offensive skill players in the conference, but both lines and the linebackers are questionable.

    Nevertheless, expect Michigan State to be in the thick of the Legends Division race.

    Michigan State Will Win If: Last year, turnovers were what started the blowout. MSU must do the same to Iowa if it hopes to win, and the secondary must have a huge game.

    Iowa Will Win If: Iowa got most of its turnovers in last year's game because it neutralized the running game and forced quarterback Kirk Cousins to throw.

    If the Hawkeyes can make the Spartans one-dimensional again, they have a chance to beat MSU for the third straight year.

At Purdue: Nov. 19, Time TBA

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    All-Time Series Record: Purdue leads 45-33-3

    Opponent's 2010 Record: 4-8 (2-6 in Big Ten)

    Opponent's Outlook: Purdue had a disappointing season in 2010, but has a shot to reach a bowl game in 2011. Coach Danny Hope is firmly on the hotseat and must play in a bowl to keep his job.

    Purdue Will Win If: On paper, Purdue should probably lose, but it has a chance if it can catch Iowa by surprise. The Hawkeyes will be between two monster games against Michigan State and Nebraska, and will be prime for an upset.

    Iowa Will Win If: Iowa is the better team, so it should win. Its key is to not take Purdue lightly.

At Nebraska: Nov. 25, 11:00 a.m. CST

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    All-Time Series Record: Nebraska leads 26-12-3

    Opponent's 2010 Record: 10-4 (6-2 in Big 12)

    Opponent's Outlook: This will be Nebraska's first year in the Big Ten, and the Cornhuskers have a very difficult schedule. The defense should be one of the best in the conference, but the offense, including quarterback Taylor Martinez, was very inconsistent last season.

    Nebraska Will Win If: Martinez was Nebraska's wild card last season. When he performed well, the Huskers did too, but when he was bad, his team was, too.

    Martinez needs to have a good game, or else Nebraska will lose the first Heroes Game.

    Iowa Will Win If: Similar to the Ohio State game two years ago, James Vandenberg must be composed against a solid defense. This won't be a high-scoring game, and if Vandenberg can put together a good game, Iowa can come out of Lincoln with a win.