I did this last year and got a decent amount of feedback and responses, so we will try it again. I basically want to go through the schedule this year and break down really what I think will be Iowa's toughest/most important games this season.
Looking at our schedule, I already realize that we got lucky. No Wisconsin, no Ohio State, and to a lesser degree, no Illinois. Same story as last year, but after the result of last season we need all the breaks we can get. Even better for us, some teams that may have been considered elite a couple years ago may be in rebuilding seasons, making our schedule a little more doable. So, without further ado, here are my toughest games of 2012, with % chance of win following:
1. Iowa @ Michigan: 40%
Michigan is good again, and if their team is anything like last year's, Iowa will have another tough time with them. Somehow the Hawks eeked out a win last year, but being at the Big House and playing a team that won 11 games last year makes this my toughest game on the schedule.
2. Iowa vs. Nebraska: 49%
This game is going to be crazy. B1G finale, Friday primetime, Thanksgiving weekend, AT Kinnick. This Nebraska team probably doesn't have quite the offensive firepower they had last year (which really wasn't even that fantastic last year) although their defense may be just as good. I still think it would be an upset if Iowa won, but it's basically a toss-up.
3. Iowa @ Michigan State: 52%
Trying to replace a 3 year quarterback along with the backfield and some more weapons both offensively and defensively is tough. Iowa had to do it after 2009. I think it will be a tough game, being on the road, but I feel Iowa can outscore them with a decent showing on offense, although this is another toss-up.
4. Iowa vs. Iowa State: 55%
This could actually be the toughest game of the year. Iowa State is on a roll. Paul Rhoads has led his team to 2 bowls in 3 seasons as head coach and he's done it with a top-5 toughest schedule in the nation each of those 3 years. I feel like Iowa can win it in Kinnick, but it's not the same Cyclone team as it used to be.
5. Iowa vs. Penn State: 57%
Penn State has so much hanging over their heads that this season could be a looooooong season. They had a decent year last season but I feel like there is not enough incoming talent or depth to beat Iowa. If this game was at Penn State I wouldn't be as confident, but I think the home crowd under the lights will help.
6. Iowa @ Northwestern: 60%
No doubt that Iowa has more talent than jNW, it's just the curse that I'm worried about. Yes, it might have been broken last year, but they are still a tough team. Since it's at Northwestern, I have a bit more concern than maybe I should.
7. Iowa vs. Purdue: 63%
The Boilermakers actually had a pretty good year last year, but they don't match up well with Iowa. I don't really think this game is too difficult, but they are on the rise.
8. Iowa vs. NIU: 70%
NIU won the MAC(?) last year and had a 10-win season (maybe 11?). It's a good team, but they also just lost 4 of their starting linemen and the offense returns something like 4 starters. I think Iowa will certainly outscore this team.
9. Iowa vs. Minnesota: 71%
If Minnesota beats Iowa for the 3rd year in a row, Ferentz gets fired after this game.
10. Iowa vs. UNI: 75%
Fantastic FCS team that gave Iowa a scare a few years ago, but Iowa is going to be prepared this time around. UNI simply doesn't have the depth to keep up with Iowa.
11. Iowa @ Indiana: 85%
They won 1 game last year. If they win 1 game this year, it won't be against Iowa.
12. Iowa vs. Central Michigan: 99%
I can picture how this game goes in my head right now. Ball State, Tennessee Tech, etc. This is the punching bag of the year.
So, there you have it. I want to see what your toughest games of the year are. You can post your rankings in the comments or vote in the poll. Or you can tell me how terrible my predictions are. By no means do I think Iowa will go 10-2 this year, but I do think Iowa should be favored in 8-10 of their games. Discuss.