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The Pants Predicts: Iowa Hawkeyes vs South Dakota State

The Pants are on the Hawks in week 1!

Syndication: The Des Moines Register
The Jackrabbits are headed back to the state of Iowa.
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Hawkeyes are back and kickoff is now just a day away! With less than 24 hours until Iowa opens the season against South Dakota State, it’s time for The Pants to weigh in with their views on how this week’s matchup plays out.

As a reminder, here’s what we (and you!) thought about this one before the season began.

Preseason Staff Prediction: Iowa Win, Unanimous

Preseason Fan Prediction: Iowa Win, 97% of the vote

Preseason BizarroMath Prediction: N/A (FCS opponents are not compatible and a win is assumed)

So, has anything changed since we put those predictions in a little over a week ago? For the staff.... no. We’re all still on the Hawkeyes. As of this writing, there is no line from DraftKings Sportsbook because Saturday’s matchup features an FCS opponent. Check back Saturday morning for an update in our How to Watch story.

As for the staff, we’ve got Iowa winning by nearly 16 points. On average, we’re predicting a final score of Iowa 32, South Dakota State 16. That average, however, comes with a lot of dispersion. Fully half of the staff has Iowa scoring more than 30 points in this one, despite the overwhelming negativity surrounding the Hawkeye offense. That negativity has pushed 30% of the staff to call for three or fewer touchdowns from Iowa. The one constant: the Iowa defense is expected to be solid.

Here’s a look at each of our individual predictions for tomorrow’s matchup.


Season openers always make me nervous. Season openers against high quality FCS opponents make me want to pull my hair out (there is literally no upside and real risk involved). That’s what we have with South Dakota State. Adding insult to injury, the Hawkeyes are apparently a walking MASH unit on the offensive side of the ball where we all were already holding our collective noses.

So yeah, I’m nervous on this one. The loss to NDSU and near miss against UNI are engrained in my memory and with South Dakota State eying an FCS national title, this one will likely have me chugging Dramamine until things are secure. And I think that won’t be until late. I see the offense struggling to get much going through the air despite Brian doing his best to try and show off that they in fact can complete a forward pass and maybe even one more than 20 yards downfield. I like this stable of backs, but with an injury at left tackle and new faces elsewhere I worry it may take a bit to get things going. But alas, Phil Parker is still here and this defense will bend all day without breaking.

Prediction: Iowa 20, SDSU 16


In 2016, I unleashed upon North Dakota State fans on Twitter a torrent of condescension so smug as to make a Michigan fan blush. Lesson learned.

I’ve already published my game-by-game predictions for this season, including for SDSU. Things can and will change over the course of the season, but nothing has changed yet for the Hawkeyes. I’m not an X’s and O’s guy (I was a band nerd, people). I let the math be my guide. And the data point I find most alarming is the relative performances of SDSU and Iowa against their one shared opponent in 2021: Colorado State. The Jackrabbits beat CSU 42-23 on the road. Iowa won 24-14 at home in a game that rated 8.7 on the Pucker Scale.

JPinIC’s trepidation is well-warranted. We just saw a similar script unfold on the Emerald Isle at the expense of our Nebraska brethren. This is not the time to flex. The Hawks just need to score at least one more point than their opponent. Win the damn game. I said in the BHGP slack: “It’ll be annoying close for annoying long.” I stand by it, but I also expect the Hawks to pull away in the 4th quarter, giving me leave to drain my beer and warm up the victory horn as the clock winds down. On my schedule for approximately 2:00pm Central Daylight Time: Concert F.

Prediction: Iowa 34, SDSU 20


Am I worried that Iowa will likely only have two scholarship wide receivers available for Saturday? VERY. Do I expect only one of those two to play? Yes. Can Iowa overcome this? Absolutely.

This game actually sits well for Iowa in that it is strength-on-strength and weakness-on-weakness. South Dakota State has a dynamic run game and their quarterback will be running as often as he passes. They have a preseason AA left tackle and high level player at left guard. Stopping the run also happens to be Iowa’s strong suit on defense and I expect their left tackle and guard to be facing Lukas Van Ness and Logan Lee for much of the game. I think that is advantage Iowa. Their top returning target in the pass game is an NFL project at tight end, but once again that matches up well for Iowa with Jestin Jacobs being an ideal defender in those situations.

Defensively for SDSU they have some issues in the secondary and that should ease the burden a little for Iowa’s passing attack. I expect 8 man boxes for most of the game and think Luke Lachey could play an active role getting matched up with much smaller linebackers. It is a 7-10 point game going into the 4th quarter before Iowa adds the final nail.

Prediction: Iowa 33, SDSU 17

Bartt Pierce

There is a great deal of excitement regarding this Iowa football season. Ticket sales have been exceptional and the Hawkeyes return some excellent talent. Iowa has a much tougher schedule than last year. Returning to Indy will be very difficult as I’m worried the worm will turn when it comes to Iowa State, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Throw in Michigan and Ohio State, that’s some tough sledding. I feel like there will be some regression when it comes to Iowa’s special teams and defensive takeaways. That will put more pressure on Brian Ferentz, Spencer Petras, and Iowa’s offense. Tyler Linderbaum was one of my favorite Hawkeyes ever. Even with his loss I expect our offensive line to be improved. I like our running backs as they are more north/south runners than Tyler Goodson. TGood was a great back for us, but the different running style of our backs suits our offensive philosophy. It will be important / fascinating to watch how our banged up wide receiver room develops. If the Hawks can get production from an Alec Wick, Brody Brecht, or a Jacob Bostick. I’m a bit old-school when it comes to football; I love smash-mouth 3 yards and a cloud of dust. For this game I am getting the vibe of needing to block two UNI field goals to beat the Panthers or the loss to NDSU. I’m going to go with the Hawks escaping with a win.

Prediction: Hawks 21, SDSU 20


I hate that SDSU is the first opponent of the season, the ghost of FCS Opponents Past loom too large for me to overlook them anymore. And Iowa isn’t exactly Alabama when it comes to dominant season openers. For every 2021 Indiana there’s a 2009 UNI. For every 2018 Northern Illinois there’s a 2012 Northern Illinois (best not to bring up 2013 Northern Illinois). As JP mentioned, the risk/reward ratio doesn’t do much to justify scheduling FCS powers, especially in your season opener.

Like pretty much everyone else here I won’t be shocked if Iowa was up (or down) by one score going into the fourth quarter. There are always growing pains in the first game that take some time to work out, but the good news is that they usually get worked out in time. Despite questions surrounding the receivers and injuries at the offensive line, I think Iowa leans on their physicality and a more physical running game than in years past to wear the Jacks down. It may not look nice in person, but winning is all that matters.

Prediction: Iowa 27, SDSU 17


This is very Iowa, scheduling a game with an FCS team that’s actually good and there’s a chance for a loss. Echoing everyone above - high risk game, nothing to gain from a game like this, etc. Then it comes at a time when Iowa’s wide receiver room is in total disarray, with transfers out over the last 9 months then a slew of injuries. So right away - bad start.

This will not be a fun game to watch. It’s going to be a rock fight right away. Iowa will have to go the ground and pound route, so it’s going to be a lot of running into 8- and 9-man boxes. It’s likely a replay of the Colorado State game from a year ago. In the end, Iowa gets it done with their defense and the ground game that eventually breaks South Dakota State.

Prediction: Iowa 27, SDSU 10


I am weirdly comforted that this game is happening in Iowa’s season opener rather than in week 2 or 3. Sure, the Hawkeyes have been prone to first game jitters against inferior opponents in years past, but Iowa has only lost two season openers since 2001, and the returning players should be extra motivated to wipe out the bad taste left in their mouth by the end of last year’s campaign.

South Dakota State is a legitimately talented team featuring several athletes who could absolutely play at the Big Ten level. This factor, plus Iowa’s dearth of scholarship wide receivers and youth at some key positions, could be enough to keep the game close longer than some Hawkeye fans expect. However, Iowa’s running game should eventually wear down the Jackrabbit defense and, while I’m expecting an extremely conservative, tight end-heavy game script, Iowa should be able to make enough plays through the air to put the game away before the 4th quarter.

Prediction: Iowa 30, South Dakota State 13

John Kuster

I’m surprised Iowa steps into this game unranked.

This team returns the most starters in the Big Ten and features NFL-caliber talent across all levels of the field. It’s no secret this team had a disappointing finish to what was a successful ‘21 campaign. but there’s no better way to wash out a bad aftertaste than an FCS home game. I’m expecting Brian Ferentz and co. to step into the season with a chip on their shoulder, and an added urgency to showcase a revamped and more explosive offense.

It’ll be a ‘next-man-up’ mentality for the WR group, and someone unexpected is going to shine.

Prediction: Iowa 42, South Dakota State 6


IDK MAN. There are so many question marks about this team, particularly on offense, and that’s before they were down at wideout. Ultimately, I think the defense comes through again to make sure Iowa takes the win, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if things got ugly.

Prediction: Iowa 20, SDSU 17


I count myself amongst the most pessimistic of 2022 predictors but am offering this olive branch to the optimists: If Iowa’s gonna be good, they’re gonna look good warts (lack of receivers) and all tomorrow. Iowa should be able to generate a pass rush, snag an interception or two (or three), build a lead, and sit on it like past encounters with FCS opponents.

Dare I say the restrictions surrounding Iowa’s skill corps generates some rare Game 1 creativity from the offense with tight ends galore plenty of misdirection. A remade running game behind downhill runners and some BEEF up front leads to over 5 yards/carry and a 30 point win which feels like 50, as SDSU’s only touchdown comes in garbage time with Iowa’s 3s on the field.

And if this doesn’t happen...buckle up.

Prediction: Iowa 38, South Dakota State 10


I waited to send in my prediction for this game until after the Purdue vs Penn. St game. I’m coming clean here Hawkeye fans, I was getting petty mad watching Charlie Jones go for 153 yards on 12 catches. I had walked myself into some form of mental cave that had been buried somewhere deep in the depths of my football subconscious. On its walls were horrifying images of a struggling offense, injured wide receivers and many lost rivalry trophies as a result. The fear of becoming Nebraska overwhelmed my entire being. But I was saved by one thought...

Iowa finds a way.

While sure, there are plenty of teams out there who have much sexier offenses than the Hawkeyes, I’ll take the W’s over sexy offense every day.

This game has had my attention all offseason. SDSU is an incredibly talented team and the notion of inviting top FCS programs to Kinnick has never seemed like a good idea. Unless the defense absolutely dominates this game, I don’t see a way in which it doesn’t end up being close. I’m banking on Iowa leaning on WilliamsBros Inc. and am excited to see it, but the game is going to have limited possessions due to all the running and short passing plays. The Hawks are going to score a fourth quarter touchdown to hold on, just be prepared for the first 3 quarters to test your nerve.

Prediction: Iowa 27, South Dakota State 17

So there you have it. It’s set in stone, Iowa is winning by more than two touchdowns. Bet your life on it. Or, well, maybe bet like a Nebraska fan’s life on it. Or just no lives. Bet small amounts on it because we really have no clue.

What about you? What’s your prediction for Iowa’s season opener?

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.