Happy Monday, Hawkeye fans. This is the final Monday between you and a real live Iowa football game week. Oh, and lest we forget, there is college football on your televisions THIS WEEKEND.
Football is back.
With this final week between us and the glorious return of Hawkeye football in our daily routines, The Pants is getting into the prediction business. We got a head start on that last week when we asked you all for your predictions on the season (don’t worry, there’s still time to get yours in here before we publish the results later this week), but the real fun starts now.
Like we hope the the Hawkeyes do this season, we’re looking to get a hot start by taking our predictions like we take our coffee: bold.
These aren’t necessarily our most realistic expectations, but they are bold takes on how things may play out. Some are rooted in a bed of realism while others are a bit further out there. But at the end of the day, they’re largely positive for Iowa in 2021 (with a few less positive takes to keep us all somewhat grounded). Which can mean only one thing: we’re all about to be wildly disappointed.
So, without further adieu, here are The Pants’ staff bold predictions for the 2021 Iowa football season.
I’m going to get a little nuts here and say the offense won’t be what costs Iowa any games this season. How’s that for a bold prediction?
I mean, yeah, Brian Ferentz is still the OC. Spencer Petras is still the QB. And Phil Parker is still the DC. But at the end of the day, the biggest question mark for this team to me is on the defensive line and in particular, the middle of the line. That group’s ability to stop the run is what will make or break this season.
To me, that’s ultimately what will cost Iowa losses at Iowa State and Wisconsin, and at the end of the day - the West.
Oh, and Petras is going to complete more than 63% of his passes this year.
My take on this season is that two of the Hawkeyes’ biggest stars will be true freshmen. Keagan Johnson and Cooper DeJean will take a few games to get their feet wet and then they will explode on the scene, much like Tyler Goodson a few years ago. Coop will make a splash on special teams and then become a hard-hitting, playmaking terror on defense. Johnson will lead the team in touchdown receptions as Tracy will be the Hawks’ main guy on the scouting report, at least early on. Also, Arland Bruce IV will make a name for himself as well. Big things on the horizon for these talented young Hawks. As always, Go Hawks!
Iowa will have two finalists for national awards by season’s end:
1. Dave Rimington Trophy (Tyler Linderbaum)
2. Ray Guy Award (Tory Taylor)
Linderbaum will snag Iowa’s only win of the awards season, but Taylor will establish himself as Iowa’s best punter since Reggie Roby even as he comes up short in the Ray Guy voting. Tyler Goodson will just miss out on being a finalist for the Doak Walker, but will surpass in-state rival Breece Hall as the highest regarded tailback in the state, springboarding him to an early NFL departure.
Iowa starts the season 2-0. I expect the offense to come out firing after the end of last season. Indiana Quarterback Michael Penix Jr will be coming off an ACL injury, the defense will need to make his night difficult to come out with a week 1 win. Then obviously comes the trip to Ames. Iowa will be battle tested when going into Ames, they’ll have another dog fight and come out 2-0.
Brian Ferentz solidifies himself as THE guy and clear heir apparent to the head coaching seat once Kirk Ferentz decides to retire.
Two years ago, it was far too early to close the book on Brian and his capability of engineering an Iowa offense that blended new-age philosophies and play design in with what has been the hallmark of Iowa’s offense over the program’s long, rich history. However, at the time, my optimism in Brian was rather low, as there were clear moments of him being out coached, out schemed and in over his head while in the position of offensive coordinator.
Now, after the past two seasons, it’s clear that Brian has taken a significant leap in all three of those areas and last season, at times, Brian was able to put on what was a masterclass in play design and play calling. Grouping that with what was great execution by the players on the offensive side all year long made it all the more gratifying. Look for Brian to continue on that same path this season while capturing the hearts and acceptance of Iowa fans everywhere.
A few bold predictions from me that maybe aren’t that bold?
- This won’t be your average 7-5 or 8-4 Iowa Football season. My crystal ball isn’t clear enough to tell me whether that means 10+ wins or 6+ losses, but something about this season feels unique to me…but don’t ask me why. I just know that it will be memorable, and I hope it’s in a good way.
- Spencer Petras emerges as a top-tier quarterback - We saw the best and the worst of Spencer Petras at QB last season. This year, we’ll see him more consistent thanks to his off-season work, a true training camp, and good targets to throw to. Sure, the wideouts have a lot to prove as a unit, but Tyler Goodson and Sam LaPorta are both excellent receivers, and can help make Petras look better. It might take some time for this trend to emerge, but I think by the end of the season we will be having a different discussion about Petras than we were offseason.
My bold prediction:
Iowa boasts the Big Ten offensive player of the year in Tyler Goodson, AND the defensive player of the year in Jack Campbell, but still finds a way to lose to Northwestern, dooming the Hawkeyes to nine wins and another missed chance at making the trip to Indy :)
Mine seems less bold now that I have read Matt C.’s but after almost a calender year kvetching about Spencer Petras’s play, I’m ready to predict he will be better but the Iowa football team will be worse.
First, his play is arguably a low bar to clear in terms of accuracy (57%), touchdowns (9), and interceptions (5, but how many went off defenders’ hands?) but I’m sold on his play being what Iowa’s intelligentsia wants and he will be where he needs to be. Call it just shy of 60%, more crisp play, and significantly improved yards/attempt because Iowa’s receivers are better after catching the ball. In other words, Tyrone Tracy will not finish with 14 receptions again.
Team-wise, well, 6-2 is a high bar to be better than - call it 7-2 in conference. Iowa’s struggled in regular seasons with Penn State & Wisconsin, whom I expect to be much much improved, and the Hawks are always good for a clunker against someone else. So that puts them at 6-3. Perhaps it all comes down to the ISU game because there’s a huge difference between 8-4 & 9-3 in terms of my prediction.
I know we want to read about all of the good news about the offense from camp, open practice, and the BTN team. I really like the offensive group and think they will once again be in the top 3 in the B1G for scoring. It has a chance to be potent. but I’m not letting that sway me from my early summer prediction.
Unfortunately, the defensive line has too many unproven spots and lacks known depth. I worry this is the year Iowa doesn’t make it through the season without significant injuries along the defensive front (already lost Logan Jones back in the winter). Jack Campbell, Jestin Jacobs, and Seth Benson will be fighting off too many lineman to limit short gains.
So there you have it. Those are our bold predictions for the upcoming season. What say you, Hawkeye fans?