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The Optimist’s Guide to the 2023 Iowa Hawkeyes

Check your negativity at the door.

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Okay, Hawkeye fans, listen up. It’s the middle of August and the start of the 2023 football season is only a few days away. This is the time of year we start to see tangible glimpses of the sport we all love stirring from its long off season slumber. Iowa vs. Utah State is so close we can taste it.

And I don’t want to hear any nitpicking here.

I don’t want to hear any bellyaching about Brian Ferentz and his contract; no whinging about the offensive line. I don’t want to hear any doomsaying about possible injuries that could derail the season. Hell, I don’t even want to hear complaints about the parking situation around Kinnick.

We’re here today to let out the optimist buried deep down inside every one of us. It’s okay, this is a safe space.

I understand we as Hawkeye fans get a little superstitious when good things start to happen. We’re all just waiting for the other shoe to drop, for Ricky Stanzi to run the naked bootleg or LJ Scott to reach across the goal line. We fear getting our hopes too high lest we tempt fate. But nuts to that I say. We’ve lived under that shadow for too long, it’s time to come into the light. The 2023 Iowa Hawkeyes have what it takes to win the Big Ten West division. The pieces are all there, and if they can put the puzzle together they’ll punch their ticket to Indianapolis.

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK


When word came in late 2022 that the former Michigan quarterback would enter the transfer portal, buzz immediately circulated Iowa City could be his possible landing spot. The regular season had ended just weeks earlier with an unexpected loss to Nebraska and things felt grim. The offense was...itself and uncharacteristic miscues haunted the defense. Sure Iowa was headed to a bowl game but by that point most of us were thinking we’d have one more game before then. It was gloomy in Hawkeyedom but McNamara’s commitment added juice to a program that needed new talent and a fanbase that needed hope.

It’s been said a million times before so I’ll say it a million and one: Cade McNamara is an instant upgrade at the most important position in the game. All things being equal to last year’s team, just having him under center gives Iowa’s offense more potency. His pocket presence and adaptability are light years ahead of what we had last year. The ability to feel the pressure, adjust accordingly, and still look for plays downfield are breaths of fresh air, as is his knowledge of when to tuck it and run. During the Kids Day scrimmage Cade connected to receivers at every level, and not just to his RB and TE safety blankets.

After a soft tissue scare the scrimmage I’ll take Kirk Ferentz’s comments at face value that it’s not anything to worry too much about. This is the Optimist’s Guide, after all, no negative waves allowed here. Be like David Eickholt.


Since 2014, the Big Ten’s divisional split has been mocked as hopelessly imbalanced. While the cream of the conference’s crop resides in the East, the West division is annually a lawless den of anarchy where anyone could come out on top. For Iowa’s championship odds, being in the West certainly doesn’t hurt and in 2023 the Hawks get a mostly lucky break from schedule makers.

This fall, Iowa dodges both Michigan and Ohio State, the clear #1 and arguably #2 team in the league, while hosting Michigan State and Rutgers in Kinnick Stadium. The downside: they must travel to Happy Valley to take on the other arguable #2 team, Penn State. We’ve seen Iowa cast some magic on the road before - I can still hear the thump of Adrian Clayborn’s blocked punt in 2009 - but the rest of the schedule is manageable. Not easy, mind you, but manageable.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin is the copy/paste media favorite to win the West but replacing a head coach, both coordinators, and entire offensive philosophy is no small undertaking. I’m interested to see how the air raid works out in Madison but I’m not going to blindly crown the Badgers without seeing it shake out. Illinois and Minnesota both had their moments in the sun last year, but Iowa gets both at home in addition to Purdue. Outside Penn State and Wisconsin the biggest road tests will be at Iowa State and Nebraska. This is a favorable schedule for Iowa to return to Indianapolis. While there’s always the risk of a slip up, Iowa has every possibility of double digit wins.

Aren’t you forgetting something?

What’s that? No that’s pretty much it.

Oh right! Them.

What do you want me to say? How many times does the defense need to prove they’re elite? Just with the offense, departing talent has been replenished by transfer portal pickups and home grown talent, and the veterans can pick up any slack. I could spend my last few sentences here coming up with as many superlatives as possible to hype up Phil Parker’s squad but you already know what you’re getting. With a defense like this the Hawks will have a fighting chance against any opponent.


In two weeks we finally get our beloved Iowa football back and this season and it cannot come soon enough. Don’t wast these last few days of the off season in dread. Embrace the optimism and believe in the great things Iowa can accomplish in 2023.