One week from today, we’ll be making our final preparations for game day. Finally. We’ll be throwing the meat on the smoker, picking up a pack of cold ones, laying out our best Hawkeye gear and heading to bed with an excitement we haven’t felt in quite some time. At the Pants, we’ll also be posting our weekly prediction for that week’s game.
But today marks the last Friday without football for the next several months. Without a game to make predictions about and having not formalized our individual views on the season as of yet, it’s time we put our opinions on (digital) paper. Not because we’re clairvoyant geniuses (though there would certainly be a LOT of happy Hawkeye fans if we were), but because we enjoy a good public flogging. Can we trust that you’ll give us that as the season goes on? Thought so.
So what, exactly, is The Pants predicting for the Hawkeyes this season? Well, by and large we’re a pretty optimistic group. If you’ve been listening to SpoCo Radio at all, you know a few of us are VERY optimistic. That’s countered a bit by some
sad, tortured souls more realistic opinions.
On average, we’re calling for a 9-3 finish overall and a 7-2 finish in the Big Ten. That actually feels plausible despite being quite a bit better than the 7.5 wins Vegas started with for Iowa. It’s hard to know how things would shake out for the rest of the West, but 7-2 would likely put the Hawkeyes in a great position to return to Indianapolis depending on where those 2 Ls come from.
That’s the collective opinion, or “house view” for The Pants. Now let’s dive into what each of us thinks individually.
JPinIC (10-2, 7-2): Look, I know the narrative on the schedule. Iowa faces off with 5 teams ranked in the preseason top 25 this year and almost all of them will be on the road. That’s brutal. But this is one of the most talented rosters Kirk Ferentz has had at Iowa.
It’s not often that Iowa has a pair of first rounders at tackle. One? All the time. Two, together? Not so much. On the other side of the ball, A.J. Epenesa is a generational talent. The DBs look like what we’ve come to expect under Phil Parker, the WRs look as good as we’ve had in nearly a decade and the team is being led by a 3rd year starter who is poised to leave as the all-time leader in touchdown passes.
If this roster can’t handle a tougher than normal schedule, I don’t know what it would take. Vegas seems to think the schedule will be too much to handle with the over/under at 7.5. While I’m inclined to think that’s just Vegas not knowing anything about the talent and completely overrating some of Iowa’s opponents based on brand name, the town was built on the backs of fools like.
Either way, I’m calling my shot: 10 wins and a West title. I’m going to be disappointed, aren’t I?
Mattcabel: (7-5, 5-4): For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt like I at least had a decent sense of what sort of on-field product I would see from the Iowa Hawkeyes in the upcoming season by the time August comes around. This year, I still have no idea, and the season starts next week, so in true Kirk Ferentz fashion, I’m going to punt in opposing team territory and pick a predictable 7-5 season.
Do I think this team could be better than that? Absolutely. This defense is going to be terrifying, and having Nate Stanley under center for his third year certainly gives this team a great leader with an even better arm. But the schedule is full of equal parts opportunity for a special season and the possibility of another middle of the pack season. I’m expecting to see a lot of running and passes to Ihmir Smith-Marsette for the first few games for Stanley to get in a better groove with the newbie WRs and TEs. For me, the offensive chemistry is going to make or break the season.
Ben Ross: (9-3, 6-3)
I wanted to put 10 wins here. Really, I did. And honestly now I want even more to mark it an 8 because this Iowa offense has about as much spark as my dating life.
For once I think we win games off of sheer talent instead of some brilliant footballing, which is going to be frustrating as all hell because 10 or 11 wins will certainly be on the table until we decide to give to a running back at a pivotal moment in the fourth quarter who fumbles it away.
Nate Stanley, I’m afraid, still has the yips and the passing offense is going to be worse than we ever imagined as Oliver Martin is still looking at an ellipsis on his iMessage from the NCAA.
We win some good ones. We take down the best Iowa State team ever. We expose James Franklin. Kirk gets the Jeff Brohm monkey off his back. But Jim Harbaugh finally killed the goat at just the right time under the first harvest moon and Kirk still coaches like Henry Winkler in the Bourbon Ball when we get to Madison. Then we suffer an inexplicable loss to Minnesota, Nebraska or Northwestern and that’s show biz, baby!
I’ll take 10 wins with a bowl tho.
DC (11-1, 8-1): Great moments are born from great opportunity [/takes off Herb Brooks hat]. There are two opportunities this team has in front of them to make 2019 a great moment in Hawkeye football history. Opportunity #1 is maximizing the talent on this roster. As I’ve said repeatedly on SpoCo Radio, the coaching staff needs to embrace arguably the most talent its ever had and become more unpredictable on offense. Using different personnel groups and more play action will keep defenses off balance and allow Iowa to dictate tempo and have better control of the overall game. We’ve already seen how this can be successful with Phil Parker opting to play nickel in 2018. I think we’ll see even more of that this year and even more exotic looks/blitzes from Parker as his unit carries this team in 2019.
Opportunity #2 is the schedule. Sure, some people will say it’s too difficult for this to be a great Iowa team but I choose to look at it as an opportunity. The Hawkeyes have an opportunity to put their program on a national level that it hasn’t been able to reach for a variety of reasons. 2015 was proof that just winning the games on your schedule won’t earn you respect nationally. Instead, if you’re going to shake up the college football world, you have to take some contenders down with you and I’m here to tell you I think Iowa does just that in 2019.
Jerry Scherwin (11-1, 9-0): You can check the receipts, I’m all in on the Hawkeyes this season. I don’t just believe, I KNOW that great things are in store for this team. I KNOW that Brian Ferentz is going to finally put his stamp on this team and take all of the reigns away from his father on the offensive side of the football (Did y’all see his quote about moving the receivers all around the field? It’s like football ecstasy.). I KNOW that Nate Stanley is going to finish the season with a sub 61% completion percentage and 30+ touchdown passes. I KNOW that Mekhi Sargent is the Hawkeyes version of David Montgomery and will be the missing piece that makes all of this click. I KNOW that Maui is a Top-3 NFL Draft Pick. I KNOW that the Birds of Prey are the most underrated group of defensive backs in the country. I KNOW that Phil Parker is going to finish the season with a Top-15 defense. I KNOW that we’re winning the Big Ten West and going to Indy once again. There isn’t a single unit on this team that I’m concerned about on a week-to-week basis. Iowa is loaded and has a roster full of high class competitors that want to win for each other. That’s what the best Kirk Ferentz teams are always predicated on.
So call me a fool or a blind optimist all you want. I KNOW you’re wrong and I KNOW the Hawkeyes will prove me right.
BoilerHawk 9-3 (7-2): We’ve gone back and forth on the pod about just how talented this team is but the simple conclusion is Iowa has never had as much high-level talent on its roster (except for last year). Two first round-y tackles, a projected top 10 pick, a three-year starting quarterback. If a really good season isn’t going to happen now, it’s not going to happen ever again under Kirk Ferentz. Truth be told, 9 wins is the least I feel comfortable with predicting for a team this talented.
I’m not saying 7-5 isn’t possible or even likely, I just think they should be held to a higher standard, even if that standard is set by some anonymous blogger on the Internet.
The schedule is difficult, but it’s August and that’s a fine prediction for August. I can guarantee that if Iowa does as I predict, nobody will be talking about how they ran through a gauntlet, especially if their three losses are to the three best teams.
One of the tricky road games ostensibly doesn’t matter (it matters) and TOE State will be hella motivated and off a bye week so I’m marking it as Iowa’s rivalry loss on the way to 3-1 in those games.
They’ll sweep the Miami (OH) Fighting Rugumbas, Rutgers, MTSU, and Illinois because they have to. They’ll split the remaining four, and probably in the weirdest way possible. 7-2 in conference should be enough to get them to Indianapolis. I’m not saying Iowa will split games against Michigan but that’s my prediction right now.
There’s just too much elite talent on this roster and I’m rolling over my 2018 angst into 2019 expectations.
MattReisener (8-4, 6-3): Is predicting Iowa to go 8-4 a cop-out prediction? Maybe, but it also feels like the right answer. On one hand this Hawkeye team is undeniably talented. Nate Stanley has the chance to finish his career as one of the most decorated quarterbacks of the Ferentz era, AJ Epenesa is one big season away from achieving program immortality, Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs look like they were chiseled by the gods themselves to protect quarterbacks at the next level, and Chauncey Gholson and Geno Smith have all the makings of future household names. If Iowa can coax better production from its running backs, wide receivers, and linebackers, they could be in for a special season.
Still, one cannot overstate the significance of Iowa’s losses from last season, something which I fear many fans are taking for granted. The departures of TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant deprived Iowa of two of the most dynamic offensive skill players that program has produced in decades, as well as two walking mismatches that Stanley may find difficult to replace. As amazing as AJ Epenesa was last season, Iowa benefited from historic levels of depth along the defensive line last year and is now being forced to replace 19 of its 35 sacks from 2018, a task which should not be taken lightly. Finally, Amani Hooker was so transcendently effective that he single handedly revolutionized Iowa’s notoriously static defensive scheme. With Hooker off tormenting opposing offenses in the NFL, we’ll truly get a chance to see how good Iowa’s linebackers and defensive backs are in his absence.
And OH GOD THE SCHEDULE. If Iowa wins 10 games this season it will be the crowning achievement of Ferentz’s tenure in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes play five road games against ranked teams, and let’s be honest, that number should probably be six, as Northwestern would be a preseason top 25 team if they were basically any other program in the conference. Between this treacherous road schedule and tricky home bouts against an improved Minnesota squad and two teams in Penn State and Purdue which seem to have the Hawkeyes’ number of late, Iowa is one awkward hit to their quarterback away from fighting for bowl eligibility. And aside from 2015, can you name a single year in which Iowa DIDN’T lose at least one game to a team that had no business beating them?
My heart says this team has the talent of a 9-10 win team, but my gut and experience tells me that 8-4 with a third consecutive bowl victory is more likely (though Oliver Martin getting the go-ahead from the NCAA may be enough to get them an additional “W”). But this is also a self-serving prediction; Iowa’s best seasons ALWAYS come during years when I think they’re in line to win 7-8 games, so with any luck my colleagues will prove me wrong and the black and gold will be pummeling some poor chumps from the Big Ten East in Indianapolis come December.
Doug Saye (9-3, 6-3): As previously mentioned, it’s super easy to write this narrative each year. Iowa will win 8-9 regular season games and then represent well in a bowl game.
On paper this could/should/may be a ten win team but each year there is a brain fart game that they lose that at the end of it you say that if they played this Purdue/Northwestern/Wisconsin team 100 times, Iowa would win 95 of them - except for when they don’t.
A lot of people are worried about the Iowa State game, I am not. The team knows how important this game is, especially now that Iowa State is ranked. Additionally, none of the senior (redshirts included) want to have a loss to the Cyclones as a blemish on their career.
With that said, Iowa should be undefeated as they head to Ann Arbor to play Michigan. I don’t expect a win here, but if they can pull that one off, they may run the table with the confidence of a team that knows they have strength in all the critical areas. If they lose to Michigan, it will be critical to bounce back against Penn State or things could unravel quickly during that tough five game stretch.
I’m going with losses to Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin resulting in a tie for the west division but losing to Wisconsin due to the head-to-head results. This sets Iowa up for a berth in the Citrus Bowl against Texas A&M where Iowa struggles due to a number of players sitting out the game in what is now becoming common practice for high potential draft picks in marginal bowl games.
So that’s what we think. You can’t possibly agree with us, right? Tell us where we’re wrong. What’s your full season prediction?