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IOWA FOOTBALL IN 2018: The Schedule

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Iowa catches a break with conference crossovers and home games, can they capitalize?

NCAA Football: NCAA Football: Purdue at Iowa The Des Moines Register-USA TODAY Sports

This time last year, the Iowa Hawkeyes’ opponents had a collective record of 83-72 (53.5%). They ended up 99-52 (65.5%) with Iowa pretty much winning and losing the games they should, with a couple flipped scripts in Ohio State and Purdue.

Going into next year, Iowa’s opponents are collectively 77-63 (55%), not including the 8-5 UNI Panthers. So what does next season’s schedule look like?

Iowa Should Win: Non-Conference

September 1st, vs. Northern Illinois Huskies
September 8th, vs. Iowa State Cyclones
September 15th, vs. Northern Iowa Panthers

The year-on-year litmus test during the Kirk Ferentz of Iowa Hawkeye football is “does Iowa beat Iowa State?”

Iowa vs. Iowa State in the Kirk Ferentz Era

Year Result Iowa Record ISU Record
Year Result Iowa Record ISU Record
1999 L, 10-17 1-10 4-7
2000 L, 14-24 3-9 9-3
2001 L, 14-17 7-5 7-5
2002 L, 31-36 11-2 7-7
2003 W, 40-21 10-3 2-10
2004 W, 17-10 10-2 7-5
2005 L, 3-23 7-5 7-5
2006 W, 27-17 6-7 4-8
2007 L, 13-15 6-6 3-9
2008 W, 17-5 9-4 2-10
2009 W, 35-3 11-2 7-6
2010 W, 35-7 8-5 5-7
2011 L, 41-44 7-6 6-7
2012 L, 6-9 4-8 6-7
2013 W, 27-21 8-5 3-9
2014 L, 17-20 7-6 2-10
2015 W, 31-17 12-2 3-9
2016 W, 42-3 8-5 3-9
2017 W, 44-41 8-5 8-5
Iowa hosted in even years; 2001 was in November, 2011 was 3OT, 2017 was 1OT

With 2002 as the exception, a loss to Iowa State, irrespective of the Cyclones’ season, all but stamps Iowa’s ticket to mediocre town, aka 7 wins or less. To drive the point home, 2006 was the only time Iowa beat ISU and had fewer than 8 wins.

Despite the departures of three senior linebackers and two early entrants to the NFL draft, Iowa should be better next year than this year. As such, I have this as a “should win” game.

Since you can never trust Kirk Ferentz against lesser competition, I’ve marked the home games against Northerns Illinois and Iowa as “should wins” and not a more solidified term. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Iowa Should Win: Conference Play

October 6th, at Minnesota Golden Gophers
October 13th, at Indiana Hoosiers
October 20th, vs. Maryland Terrapins
November 17th, at Illinois Fighting Illini

All four of these teams finished under .500. Unlike Michigan State of 2016-17, none of them have the track record of sustained recent success. If Iowa loses any of these games, we’re in for a bad year.

Toss Up: Return to Glory?

November 23rd, vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Scott Frost faces a rebuild at Nebraska so it’s really difficult to say what type of mindset his team will possess. If there is carryover from the Mike Riley tenure, Iowa should win this game. But if Frost can provide an immediate culture change, even if he obtains results like Purdue this year, Iowa fans shouldn’t mark this game as a win just yet, though I would lean that way as Iowa will be playing the Black Friday game at home.

Toss Ups: Battle for Second Place

November 3rd, at Purdue Boilermakers
November 10th, vs. Northwestern Wildcats

Both of these teams bring a lot back from overperforming 2017 squads. Perhaps most important are the guys on the sidelines: both Jeff Brohm and Pat Fitzgerald have mirrored the intensity, if not the talent or results, of the best of the Big Ten West. Iowa may very well win both of these games, but neither will come easy. Northwestern may or may not have Clayton Thorson back, who suffered an ACL tear in their bowl win.

Should Lose: Joe Moorhead Effect

October 27th, at Penn State Nittany Lions

Though Iowa probably wins the showdown in Kinnick if Penn State doesn’t have Saquon Barkley, it’s actually Joe Moorhead’s departure which has me holding onto some hope for a victory in Beaver Stadium. To me, he was the Wizard of State College and I expect James Franklin to be exposed as a coach. Further, Iowa has really improved in recent years at managing mobile quarterbacks and with Phil Parker at the helm, I expect it to continue, despite the loss of Josey Jewell. If Iowa can contain to Trace McSorely, they’ll have a chance.

Should Lose: Come at the king, you best not miss

September 22nd, vs. Wisconsin Badgers

Paul Chryst has things humming and there won’t be much dropoff talent-wise as Jonathan Taylor returns after a stellar freshman season and Alex Hornibrook can’t possibly be more mediocre than he was this year. Their line will still give Iowa fits. The Hawkeyes have scored 15 offensive points the last three games against the Badgers. The early game does Iowa no favors, as it’s the first game of conference play and I expect Iowa to be sorting out things offensively and defensively. But... the Badgers should be ranked incredibly high and weirder things have happened in Kinnick Stadium.

Summary

I’ve tabbed the 2018 squad as one which should be really good. The offense has a lot of potential and the offseason should help Brian Ferentz build on the highs of 2017 while mitigating its lows. Phil Parker is as great a coordinator as any Kirk has had, so he’ll have Iowa aligned defensively. Here’s how I see it shaking out.

v. Northern Illinois - W
v. Iowa State - W
v. Northern Iowa - W
v. Wisconsin - L (but all bets are off if it’s a night game)
at Minnesota - W
at Indiana - W
v. Maryland - W
at Penn State - L
at Purdue - L
v. Northwestern - W (could flip with Purdue)
at Illinois - W
v. Nebraska - W (but not feeling good about it)

The bar for success is 9-3 next year. Let’s make it happen.