We’re back! College football is back! It’s all... back! And with the return of college football and your Iowa Hawkeyes returning to the field, The Pants is back with our weekly predictions.
The Hawks kick off their 2023 campaign with what should be a tune up contest. Iowa is paying more than $1.5M to Utah State to come to Kinnick and for that kind of money you expect to come away with a W.
Vegas agrees as the Hawkeyes opened up as 25-point favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The line moved up to 25.5 at one point but has since fallen back to 23.5 points for the Hawks. The over/under is set at 43.5 total points, implying a final score of 33.5-10.
Here at The Pants, we’re not far off! While we are a little bit more skeptical on the Iowa offense, we feel even better about the defense. On average, our staff is calling for a final score of 32-7. That puts us on the Hawks with the 23.5 points, but keeps us on the under for total points.
Here’s a look at our individual predictions for Saturday’s season opener.
I am notoriously optimistic about my Hawkeyes and the fact that I came in with the lowest projected win total of anyone on staff has me concerned. But no level of concern places this game in doubt for me. Iowa could play Marco Lainez at QB and I think they probably win by 2+ scores, simply by running the ball 50 times and letting the defense score a TD.
Utah State is a solid program, but the offseason turmoil has them in a tough spot. More difficult for them, their weakness on the OL is an utter nightmare with Iowa’s strengths on defense. I think we see at least one defensive score as the #BallHawks do lots of work and the #DoughBoyz earn their money. And then I can stop #UsingHashtags. Or whatever.
The QB uncertainty has me taking the points in this one, along with the historical trend of Iowa struggling to cover such big numbers. I think we see McNamara, but not a ton as Iowa opts for conservatism while still giving Brian some cushion out of the gate on his drive to 325.
Prediction: Iowa 34, Utah State 9
In the last 38 years there have been a handful of Week 1 opponents that had me generally concerned, Utah State is not going in that group. Quarterback questions aside I don’t see any reason that Iowa should struggle on either side of the ball. Our players are better than their players, this should be an easy win (which is the point of bringing in teams like Utah State).
In 2022 Utah State was in the bottom 30 on both sides of the ball (104th in Offense, 105th in defense) and they’re coming into this season without some of the better players from that team. I think it’s going to be a rough year in Logan.
I think we’ll see Cade, but not for long, and the focus will be on getting the Offensive line in rhythm to open holes for KJ2, Leshon, and Jaz, with the occasional mid-range pass to keep Matt Campbell from having much game film of the vertical passing revolution that will be unleashed in week 2 (I kid of course, but on the square). I’m not a betting man, but if I was I’d be taking the under here, as I don’t see Kirk running up the score and 25.5 is a lot to cover for a KF led team.
Prediction: Iowa 31, Utah State 9
Iowa’s had some up and down season openers with Brian Ferentz as OC - the Miami (OH) and Purdue games in 2019 and 2020 saw impressive yardage totals (only 20 points against Purdue though due to turnovers; 38 against Miami), but there were struggles with Wyoming, they didn’t exactly light the world on fire against Indiana in 2021 (303 yards of offense, plus two defensive scores turned that into a bit of a laugher), and last year’s monstrosity of an opener. Which, wow, we desperately need that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind memory wipe procedure done to cut that dumb crap out of our memories forever.
I think we see Iowa more in the mold of the Miami/Purdue games and they’re ready to go Week 1. They’ll want to make a statement after /waves hand ALL of the struggles last season. I want to see Iowa just throttle them from the opening kickoff. I think it happens. Utah State won’t be able to handle Iowa’s run game, Iowa’s defensive line might commit a crime against humanity on the Aggie offensive line, and Iowa wipes the floor with them. If Cade McNamara were fully healthy, I’d call for a bigger number.
Prediction: Iowa 35, Utah State 3
Season openers have been a mixed back throughout the Ferentz regime to the point where I’d have better luck choosing the cup without iocane powder in it. Going by the final score most appear to have been comfortable, easy wins, but experiencing them in real time tells a different tale. However, Utah State should be the perfect remedy for those season opener jitters.
The Aggies simply don’t match up well to what the Hawkeyes will field come Saturday. Brian and the offense will be hungry to make a statement, and start the 25 PPG quest on a high note. They’ll have the manpower and the motivation to do it, but more than that Brian doesn’t really have a choice. He needs these non-conference games to build up a buffer before the Big Ten schedule begins. As most of the other writers have said, if McNamara does play I don’t think it’ll be for long. If the Hawks go up by a few touchdowns expect to see Deacon Hill.
I don’t mean any of this to disparage Utah State. There is always the chance they give us a run for our money, and a sensible golf clap for them if they do. But I just get the feeling the coaches and team are out to prove something this year, and unfortunately the Aggies are in the way.
Prediction: Iowa 37, Utah State 10
Here’s a fun fact: Iowa has played only two football games against Utah State in its program history. The first came in 1957 when the Hawkeyes finished as the 6th ranked team in the AP Poll, the second came in 2002 when Iowa finished the season ranked #8. I’m not saying an early season win against Utah State guarantees Iowa a Top 10 finish, but I’m also not ruling anything out!
The Aggies have a solid program and have a legitimate shot to qualify for the sixth bowl game in seven seasons this year. However, it’s tough to see Utah State pulling the upset in this game. Iowa’s defensive front seven will have a significant advantage over the Utah State line, and the secondary will be licking their chops to capitalize on poor throws from turnover-prone QB Cooper Legas. The offensive side of the ball is more of a question mark for Iowa, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Cade McNamara’s health. However, Iowa should be able to run the ball effectively on the Aggies regardless of who is behind center, which will take some pressure off the passing game even if the Hawkeye aerial attack isn’t firing on all cylinders. Utah State may keep it close early, but expect Iowa to pull away for a comfortable lead as the game goes along.
Prediction: Iowa 27, Utah State 6
What do we want? POINTS
When do we want them? WHEN IOWA’S OFFENSE IS ON THE FIELD
By my count, Cade McNamara has had about 2 full weeks of 11 on 11 practice since he’s been on Iowa’s campus. Him getting reps is paramount to the success of this team but, to be frank, the success Iowa is going to have this season is not going to be defined by his statistics. Put differently, this season will find the most success possible by turning into the Kaleb Johnson Show a la Shonn Greene 2008. We’ve just skipped the QB controversy which accompanied that greatness.
Iowa establishes the run all day, McNamara makes a couple plays. Wide receivers continue getting frozen out but it doesn’t feel that way en route to a comfortable win where Iowa sits on the ball for the better part of the fourt quarter. It’ll only go over 43 if Iowa scores on defense.
Prediction: Iowa 31, Utah State 6
Not too worried about the outcome of this one, but pretty interested to see how we get there, and how we perceive the offense. I see a lot of 30+ scores here…I’d love to see that but I’m not sure. Gonna go safe and say…
Prediction: Iowa 24, Utah State 6
That being said, I’d love to see a pile on but I need evidence first before I can predict a 30+ score.
So that’s how we see things playing out in week one. How about you, Hawkeye fans? Let us know your predictions in the comments below!
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.