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Iowa Football: 2020 Season Long Predictions

Spoiler alert: we’re on the over for the Hawkeyes’ season-long win total.

NCAA FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl Game - Stanford v Iowa
How can Kirk Ferentz go 8-4 with a 9-game schedule?
Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re just over one week from the triumphant return of Big Ten and Iowa Hawkeye Football and there’s no time like the present to start thinking about what exactly this season could entail. We learned the revised scheduled for each of the Big Ten’s teams a few weeks ago and for the Hawkeyes, it means 8 regular season games plus 1 cross-divisional matchup on Championship Weekend for a total of 9 games. Iowa will travel to Purdue next Saturday to kick off the season with future road trips to Minnesota (on a Friday night), Penn State and Illinois while playing host to Northwestern, Michigan State, Nebraska (on Black Friday) and Wisconsin.

Vegas has set the line for Iowa’s season win total at 5. The BHGP staff, as a whole, is taking the over pretty comfortably. Not a single staffer is on the under, though one of us is just too baffled by the craziness of 2020 to make a call at all. Our consensus projection is for the Hawkeyes to finish the season 6-3 (ok, so more precisely we came in at 6.4-2.6, which is bordering on rounding to a 7-2 call).

Here’s a look at our individual predictions on the upcoming 2020 season for your Iowa Hawkeyes.


Final Record: 7-2

This has all the makings of a wild year and frankly in 2020, we should expect nothing less. Vegas isn’t expecting much from the Hawkeyes this season and that’s probably with good reason. Breaking in a new QB is supposed to be difficult, but I suspect Iowa will thrive on offense this year. The defense, on the other hand, has me worried.

I fully expect to see some early struggles and am calling a loss at Purdue to open the season as Petras gets his feet under him and this defense figures things out. But as the season wears on, I think we’re looking at one of the best offenses we’ve seen in some time at Iowa. I think the Hawkeyes win a few they aren’t expected to, including at Minnesota and finally against Wisconsin, but come up short at Penn State.

Because it’s 2020, they still manage to lose the West to the Badgers, whose only loss is to Iowa in a game that means nothing. The Hawkeyes come back on Championship Weekend and topple Michigan (not because they finish 2nd in the East but because the Big Ten tries to avoid rematches) leaving us all talking for years to come about what could have been if Iowa has just avoided the dumb loss out of the gate at Purdue.


Final Record (7-2)

So normally I’m kind of the terrified, pessimistic predictor of all things Hawkeyes. Maybe it’s my reverse psychology thinking to then be happily surprised with the outcome of a game. I’m going big here. Why not? It’s 2020. Let’s shake things up.

The first game will be pretty epic for all of us. Purdue has two elite (can I say that or does P.J. have that patented yet?) receivers. We’ve struggled with them. I’m betting the Hawks squeak by that one and get on a roll. 2020 with no home crowds is the perfect recipe for running out an untested quarterback. Spencer has weapons and a very good line. Offense will bail the defense out a time or two. Other than taking a loss in Not-so-Happy Valley, the Hawks won’t lose again until the B1G championship game vs OSU.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta warm up my waving arm, get Back in Black queued up, and put on my Tim Dwight jersey. Go Hawks!

Ben Ross

Final record: 8-1

I’m typically of the strong belief that Iowa, like all good football teams, gets much better as the season goes on. That line of thinking seems to affect Iowa more profoundly than other schools, as we’ve often seen this team flounder early in the season against lesser competition. This hasn’t been a serious problem since 2016, (OK it was kinda sorta a problem in ‘17 and ‘18, too) and all we’ve been told about this pandemic is that it’s the great equalizer.

Well, Iowa football has already paid its penance to the wheel in the sky this offseason, and it’s high time we cash in our chips and ride off into the sunset. Since this season is starting sometime between four and six weeks later than usual, I figure all the hiccups for Iowa are already outta the way.

Furthermore, while some teams were worried about their best players bolting for the NFL early on, Iowa’s offensive line was dead-pulling combine harvesters. Spencer Petras was lighting up the dunk tank he stole from local fairgrounds, and Phil Parker was fudging the paperwork on a last-second linebacker grad transfer named Brad Gleanweigh.

So yeah, I’m thinking we’re back.


Final record: 5-4

I have no idea what to expect from Iowa football this season! And thus, I am going to go with a middle-of-the-road prediction.

My biggest reasons for this are the difficult schedule combined with the shortened schedule, and the breaking in of Spencer Petras at quarterback

Now, I have a long term good feeling about Petras, but I can definitely see him taking a few games to really hit his stride. Combine that with the shortened schedule, and there are probably a few losses that come down to fixable quarterback mistakes. Yes, there are offensive weapons but losses across the offensive and defensive line in particular are going to hurt, especially early.

I’m not going to go as far as predicting what games Iowa wins or loses this season, just that I think no matter what happens, we’ll need to give these guys credit for what they’re about to do: put themselves at more risk than normal to play a shortened season primarily for our entertainment and for some, a better shot at the NFL.

My prediction might be pessimistic, but now more than ever it’s clear that there are bigger things than sports, and I’ll take what I can get from my team, win or lose.


Final record: 6-3

While I’m sure some view 3 losses as pessimistic, I’m thinking this would be a pretty high achievement looking at what Iowa lost on both sides of the ball. One could argue that Iowa lost it’s best offensive lineman and defensive lineman of the past decade as well as a three year starter at quarterback. Go beyond that, and you see a lot of question marks about how Iowa will make up for the combined 223 starts missing from last year’s lineup.

I’m high on Petras as a signal caller and leader, but we don’t know anything until that first meaningful snap he takes. He is certainly surrounded by an excellent supporting cast at the skill positions. My main question is can Iowa improve the interior of the offensive line to gain consistency in the run game? I’m not sure it is a good recipe to rely on Petras at this point in his career to go out and win games with 30+ passes.

With a team that plays in the margins, injuries could play a big factor in the outcome of this season. We are seeing a significant increase in the NFL, but will that translate to the shortened B1G schedule? I think Iowa has some great stories about players stepping into new roles this season, but I’m not sure they can survive any significant losses to guys at the top of the depth chart.


Final Record: 6-3

In sprinting through my conference win/loss predictions, I ended up with Iowa at 6-2 in the regular season. I’m as big a fan as Petras as I can be without seeing him take a single relevant snap and think the lack of fans will be to his benefit on the road throughout the season. The offensive line has enough pieces to be pretty good and the skill players Iowa has is really something to behold.

Defensively, I think they take a couple lumps early, especially against Purdue who always seems to know how to attack Phil Parker. I’m already getting night terrors about Riley Moss trying to cover Rondale Moore in the slot as it seems like he’s getting run at the CASH position so god help us if that’s the case. Ultimately, I expect Iowa’s defense to settle nicely in the back half of the year as the weather turns cold and the rotations along the defensive line and defensive backfield settle.

I arrive at 6-2 with losses to Purdue and Minnesota and will expect a loss in the championship weekend matchup whether it is against Ohio State or Michigan, depending on how tiebreakers shake out. I’ll take it.


Final Record: 6-3

This Iowa team is more difficult to get a good read on than any in recent memory. Iowa has the skill players and line talent to have a dangerous offense, but also has an unproven commodity at quarterback and little historical track record of producing consistently on that side of the ball. The defense appears dangerously depleted, but Phil Parker is a proven miracle worker who seems to believe that the linebacking corps, ostensibly the weakness of the defense, is actually its strength. Iowa’s experienced coaching staff and strong team culture should help it weather the chaos of the coronavirus better than most, but added adversity could also reactivate the fault lines that were triggered during this summer’s reckoning on issues of race on the locker room.

Iowa has the top-end talent to compete for and even win the West division, though I worry that they might not have the depth to emerge on top if injuries or COVID take their toll. Iowa’s offense will be a big upgrade over last season’s but it may not improve enough to rank among the conference’s best or to compensate for a defense that lacks the depth of talent to keep it playing at a dominant level late into close games.

If Iowa can get the ball to its weapons in space, find the right combination at offensive guard, and develop yet another shutdown cornerback, there is no reason this team can’t win 6-7 games and contend for a division title. On the other hand, if the offense remains inconsistent, the linebacking corps falters, and the defensive struggles to get off the field on passing downs, a 4-4 or 5-3 record seems much more realistic. A final record of 6-3 seems like the right pick, but as crazy as 2020 has been, I wouldn’t rule anything out.

Rob Donaldson

Final Record: 6-3

On the offensive side things, it’s uncommon to call a college football team who just lost a three year starter at quarterback in Nate Stanley and a premier offensive tackle in Tristan Wirfs loaded. However, when you start compiling the list of names with guys like Tyler Goodson, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Sam LaPorta, Tyrone Tracy, Brandon Smith, Nico Ragaini, Alaric Jackson, etc., it’s hard to refer to the offensive unit as anything but loaded even considering the unknown that sits at quarterback.

The main concern with this roster comes on the defensive side, as the Hawks look to replace an elite level pass rusher and playmaker at defensive end in the form of A.J. Epenesa, as well as two talented backend guys in the form of Geno Stone and Michael Ojemudia. However, the real vacancy sits at linebacker, as the Hawks look to find a way to replace their best starter in Kristian Welch as well as freshman standout Dillon Doyle and veteran Djimon Colbert who has decided to opt-out for the season. In addition, when you consider that Iowa’s linebacking core really struggled at times last season against teams with quality rushing attacks, losing three core contributors surely isn’t going to help against teams like Purdue, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State, etc..

With that said, the addition of Jack Heflin on the defensive line via grad transfer from Northern Illinois is a significant get and will be an immediate upgrade in terms of 2-gapping responsibilities or run defense compared to last year’s starting interior defensive lineman. In theory, this should keep Iowa’s linebackers a little more “clean.” However, Heflin can only be asked to do so much for Iowa’s defense.

Overall, this could be a season where chunk plays on the ground hinder Iowa’s team as a whole and leads to them getting edged out in a few games. Realistically, the win range is anywhere from four to seven in my opinion. However, for the sake of optimism, 6-3 doesn’t sound so bad.

So that’s that. Consensus prediction is for a 6-3 Iowa football season. Bet your proverbial (please not literal) farms accordingly and thank us later. What say you, Hawkeye fans?