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How the Hawkeyes go Undefeated: A Roadmap to Perfection

It’s been seven years since Iowa ran the table in the regular season. Can they do it again in 2022?

Big Ten Championship
The last time Iowa ran the table they came up just short in the Big Ten Championship Game. Can the Hawkeyes repeat their 2015 season?
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It’s a tougher schedule. Quarterback play could still be shaky. And the injury bug keeps floating around. But that’s not enough to stop us from dreaming at BHGP.

This is your game-by-game roadmap for how your ’22–23 Hawkeyes strike perfection.

September 3: South Dakota State // Home

The Jackrabbits are a capable FCS team. Emphasis on ‘FCS’.

By now, you’ve heard the buildup: South Dakota State is a talented and well coached team that’s experienced deep FCS playoff runs, reaching the semi-finals in 4 of the previous 5 seasons. But again, let’s make sure we’re emphasizing ‘FCS’.

The Hawkeyes are 10–1 against the FCS under Kirk Ferentz, outscoring their opponents by an average of 20 points per game. While that number may not seem egregiously high, the black-and-gold faithful know it’s still well-above standard team averages. Outside of the NDSU blemish and the infamous blocked-kick(s) against UNI, Ferentz-led teams have overmatched their opponents through sheer physicality and athleticism — and I expect the same to happen here.

I already punched numbers into a calculator and had more than 10 tabs open, you’re not getting anything more out of me for this preview.

Prediction: You can play with your food and eat it too. Hawkeyes 31, Jackrabbits 10

September 10: Iowa State // Home

How does Iowa State plan to replace Brock Purdy and Breece Hall? No, seriously, how?

We don’t need to dive too deep with this one.

As long as Iowa doesn’t do things like running into their own punt-returner, it should be a relatively easy outing in Iowa City.

Prediction: Matt Campbell will drop to 0–6 in the Cy-Hawk series. Hawkeyes 27 // Cyclones 13

September 17: Nevada // Home

It has to sting to lose your head coach to the juggernaut of Colorado State. But life isn’t always fair, and the Wolfpack will be faced with the task of replacing not only their HC, but a variety of skill and interior players who left for the portal.

The good news is the cupboard isn’t completely bare for first-time head coach Ken Wilson. Preseason All Mountain West nominee Tao Taua highlights an experienced backfield. The Wolfpack don’t return much on defense. But there are pieces there, like lineman Dom Peterson, who totaled 40 tackles in 2021.

The recipe for success against the Wolfpack is simple: limit their backfield production and expose the holes in their defense — newsflash, there’s a lot to pick from.

Prediction: Nevada never gets going. Hawkeyes 24 // Wolfpack 3

September 24: Rutgers // Away

Remember when Wake Forrest got rewarded for a 2nd place ACC finish by playing a 5-win Rutgers team in the Tax Slayer Bowl? Neither do I, but it happened!

The Scarlet Knights are expecting to build on what was considered a relatively successful campaign for Greg Schiano in his second year of stint #2.

Gavin Wimsatt, a borderline top-100 QB recruit, is generating some buzz — and for good reason. The 18-year-old can do it all in the pocket and has an ability to stretch the field with his athleticism and speed. Wimsatt has the build and background required to take a team to the next level, but it’s going to take some time.

Prediction: Rutgers will be the first team to challenge Iowa, but youth and inexperience leads to late turnovers that help Iowa run away with their first road victory of the season. Hawkeyes 23 // Scarlet Knights 13

October 1: Michigan // Home

Michigan starts their season with 4 games in Ann Arbor: Colorado State, Hawaii, UCONN, and Maryland. In other words — Michigan is going to be undefeated and ranked in the top 10 when visiting Kinnick stadium.

The dynamic rushing duo of Blake Corum and former 5-star recruit Donovan Edwards will be hard to contain behind what could be the best offensive line in the B1G. We haven’t even touched the wideouts yet, who return 88 percent of last year’s production — and that doesn’t include former WR1 Ronnie Bell, who’s now healthy after suffering a season-ending injury against Western Michigan.

But don’t let the hype concern you. In fact, I can provide a quick pick-me-up; just take a glance at Harbaugh’s record in the B1G Ten:

OSU: 0–5 // MSU: 3–4 // PSU: 3–3 // Wisconsin: 3–3 // Iowa: 1–1 // Indiana: 5–1

Rutgers: 7–0 //Maryland: // 5–0 NW: // 3–0 Minn: // 3–0 Neb: // 2–0 Ill: // 2–0 // Purdue: 1–0

There is a pattern here. Harbaugh is .500 or worse against the 5 best B1G teams during his tenure. 28–1 against the bottom feeders.

Iowa isn’t beating Michigan in a shootout, but they don’t need to; especially when 70,000+ fans and one of the nation’s best defenses is at their disposal.

Prediction: Revenge is a dish best served inside Kinnick Stadium. Hawkeyes 17 // Michigan 16

October 8: Illinois // Away

I’m not buying into the Bielema hype, who’s 34–41 since leaving the state of Wisconsin.

The Illini have posted 10 consecutive losing seasons, and I don’t see them reversing that narrative this season, especially with 8 bowl (’21) eligible teams on the schedule.

The defense returns 5 of 7 leading tacklers on what was a top 30 unit last year, but the offense doesn’t reflect the skill needed to produce at a high level; if you’re relying on a transfer quarterback from Syracuse to prosper in the B1G, chances are you’re going to have a bad time.

Prediction: Bielema will be Googling ‘Nearby tattoo removal’ by halftime. Hawkeyes 38 // Illini 13

October 22: Ohio State // Away

This is the part of the piece where I ask you to take a deep breath and think positively.

If Ohio State can get through their tough front-loaded schedule that features Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and away at Michigan State, there is a strong possibility College Gameday heads to Columbus for what would likely be a Top 10 showdown.

Iowa has proven capable in tough road environments, most recently winning their last two ‘College Gameday’ appearances, both away at Iowa State.

Again — deep breath.

The Buckeyes return plenty, but they lost some seriously key pieces — including WR’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. This is a team that never struggles to reload, but I don’t envision anyone on the roster making an impact the way Olave did.

CJ Stroud should take another step forward, but how big will that step be? The Sophomore QB could put up daunting numbers against the Hawkeyes, but that doesn’t always result in a victory. Stroud threw for 394 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Wolverines last year, but the scoreboard didn’t reflect it — and the Buckeyes were embarrassed 42–27 in a game that wasn’t close midway through the 3rd quarter.

Kirk and Co. will look at that game as a potential blueprint. Michigan didn’t win because of an unordinary QB performance (McNamara threw for under 200 yards with 0 touchdowns and an interception). Instead, they imposed their will through winning the interior battles, letting Haskins run wild behind a superior offensive line.

Iowa isn’t going to repeat its 55-point outburst of 2017, nor are they likely to outgain the Buckeyes by 100+ yards. But a recipe is still there, and it includes field position, special teams, and mistake-free football — 3 things that Kirk Ferentz-led teams are exceptionally good at.

Prediction: Ohio State loses their first game of the season, falling into the trap of a classic B1G slugfest. Hawkeyes 16 // Buckeyes 13

October 29: Northwestern // Home

I can’t lie to you, this game stinks like a classic trap game. The boys will be buzzing after a historic victory at Ohio State, and it’ll be hard to not look ahead to Purdue and Wisconsin, who’ll likely be right behind Iowa in the West standings.

No coach has more wins against Ferentz than Fitzgerald; and no matter Northwestern’s roster makeup or current standing, they always seem to give the Hawkeyes fits.

I asked you to partake in breathing exercises when thinking of Ohio State, but now I’m going to need you to simply R-E-L-A-X.

The Wildcats only forced 6 interceptions last year, and none of the players involved will be returning. In past years where they’ve beaten Iowa, the Wildcats didn’t have to play ‘perfect’ football, but with a depleted defense and lack of standouts at offensive skill positions, they’ll need to do that + more to steal another game inside Kinnick stadium.

Prediction: The fans, keenly aware of past hiccups, bring the energy — leading to a visibly rattled Wildcats team that struggles with turnovers. Hawkeyes 28 // Wildcats 14

November 5: Purdue // Away

One word: SPICY

Bad blood will be boiling in East Lafayette when the Hawkeyes take on the Boilermakers in what should be a game with massive conference implications.

The Hawkeyes will be hoping to avenge what was an atrocious performance the last time these two met, when Purdue handed Iowa a 24–7 defeat, backed by a 240-yard superstar performance from David Bell.

Thankfully, David Bell has taken his talents to the NFL. But Purdue didn’t let that get in the way of poaching two playmakers from Iowa City, specialist standout Charlie Jones and an elusive WR-threat, Tyrone Tracy Jr.

The pair should be two, if not the two, top receivers at Purdue this year, and are expecting to play a big role in what’s become an exciting brand of football under Jeff Brohm.

But exciting doesn’t always equal results (How many Sweet 16’s has Fran been to?) And the Hawkeyes have plenty of talent at skill positions to do more than just keep-up.

Can Purdue match Iowa’s strength across the offensive and defensive line? How do they plan to overwhelm what could be the nation’s best linebacking core? Quick answer: they can’t, and they won’t.

Prediction: Tracy is good, but he’s no David Bell. Hawkeyes 24 // Boilermakers 16

November 12: Wisconsin // Home

The Badgers don’t scare me like they used to.

Montee Ball isn’t taking handoffs, and Russell Wilson isn’t creating ‘Let’s Ride’ videos in Madison.

Instead, Graham Mertz is attempting to convince us he’s a P5 starting quarterback (newsflash: he’s not)

Don’t take my word for it? Fine. Just see what his own head coach is saying in camp:

That’s an alarming quote from a HC speaking on an upperclassmen QB who’s had two full seasons of play under their belt.

The Hawkeyes are going to swarm Mertz, causing multiple interceptions in what will be one of the larger lopsided games between the two in recent history.

Prediction: Hawkeyes 42 // Badgers 10

November 19: Minnesota // Away

Those new Gopher helmets are shiny, but they aren’t dark enough to block the glare that’s staring Minnesota straight in the face: Iowa has beaten them in the past 6 meetings and is 4–0 against PJ Fleck.

Expect the Gophers to do their usual routine with Fleck; they’ll drop an early season defeat to some school like Bowling Green (hello Jerry Kill and New Mexico State!) but will reenergize their base through a handful of consecutive gritty conference wins, only to lose when it matters most.

Tanner Morgan is still behind center and should have plenty of opportunity behind what was one of the best offensive lines in 2021. But it’s still P.J. Fleck. And they’re still Minnesota.

Prediction: The pig stays. Hawkeyes 33 // Gophers 26

November 25: Nebraska // Home

I’m once again asking you to stop overrating Nebraska, because it seems like we have to do this dance every year.

Do you realize how ridiculous you can come across when advocating for a bottom-feeder to suddenly make a massive jump? Because, let’s call it what it is: Nebraska is a bottom-feeder in the Big Ten.

Yet here we are again! Preseason top-25 rankings, conference championship predictions, and the return-to-glory. Stop me if you’ve heard this all before.

I’m not even going to mention players, stats, or previous games - because what’s the point? We know this game has only 1 of 2 potentials:

1) Iowa blows out Nebraska

2) Iowa beats Nebraska

Prediction: Thankfully for everyone except Nebraska and Nokia, the 90’s ended a long time ago. Hawkeyes 21 // Nebraska 7

12-0. West Champions.

Why stop there?