Picking the Iowa football team to finish 7-5 at this stage under Kirk Ferentz is sort of like saying it’ll be hot in July or loud at a Motorhead concert.
It’s hardly going out on a limb, but it’s how I feel about the 2015 Iowa football team. The quarterback has changed with C.J. Beathard now the starter and Jake Rudock now headed to Michigan. But the results I don’t see changing much from last season when Iowa also finished the regular season at 7-5.
I could be talked into predicting 6-6 easier than 8-4 because Iowa is the epitome of average, its 19-19 record over the past three seasons a testimony to that.
I went with 7-5 mostly because of Iowa’s 2015 schedule, which doesn’t include Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State or a team from the always-scary Mid-American Conference.
What you see today could change, though, with the 2015 season still four months away. I still could be talked into 6-6.
Sept. 5, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa 30, Illinois State 23: This game in addition to being dangerous is a no-win situation for Iowa. Lose to a Football Championship Subdivision team and the sky is falling. Win and nobody cares unless it’s by a wide margin. But even a lopsided victory wouldn’t impress everybody because a team from a power five conference is supposed to defeat a team from the Missouri Valley Conference in convincing fashion.
As for the dangerous part, Illinois State is coming off a season in which it lost to North Dakota State 29-27 in the FCS title game in January. The Redbirds finished 13-2 last season and are led by dual-threat quarterback Tre Roberson, a transfer from Indiana. He was the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year last season and a first-team all-conference selection, passing for over 3,000 yards.
Iowa would catch a break if the suspension of Illinois State star running back Marshaun Coprich causes him to miss the season opener. He was suspended indefinitely on Monday after his recent arrest on drug charges.
The Redbirds also will have former Iowa linebacker Reggie Spearman playing defense. He started the first seven games for Iowa last season as a sophomore and appeared in 11 games overall. Spearman lost his starting position in the second half of the season, which probably fueled his decision to transfer. His presence will add to an already emotional team environment.
Sept. 12, Ames, Iowa State 24, Iowa 23: Can you really blame me for picking the Cyclones, especially at home? Just think about the facts. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has a 7-9 record against Iowa State. Combine that with Hayden Fry losing to Iowa State in his last game in 1998 and Iowa has lost 10 of its last 17 games to the Cyclones.
It usually doesn’t even matter how bad Iowa State ultimately proves to be. The Cyclones only finished 2-10 last season, but one of the victories came against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium by a score of 20-17.
Sept. 19, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa 17: Pittsburgh 16: I went back and forth with this pick before reluctantly choosing Iowa, mostly because of home-field advantage – what little there still is at Kinnick Stadium – and because I’m still not convinced that Pittsburgh is very good.
Beathard will lead a fourth-quarter drive that ends with Marshall Koehn making a 44-yard game-winning field goal as time expires.
Sept. 26, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa 38, North Texas 21: This game isn’t as scary as the Illinois State game, but never assume victory when former Hawkeye Dan McCarney is coaching against his alma mater in his home town. Iowa seems to bring out the best in McCarney’s ability to bring out the best in his players.
Oct. 3, Madison, Wis., Wisconsin 29, Iowa 17: The good news is that Melvin Gordon has moved on to the NFL after deciding to skip his senior season. The bad news is that Corey Clement now becomes the featured running back for the Badgers. Clement combined to rush for 1,490 yards over the last two seasons as Gordon’s backup, averaging an impressive 7.0 yards per carry.
The game also will be played at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, which certainly won’t help Iowa’s cause.
Oct. 10, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa 27, Illinois 21: My focus heading into this game will be on the attendance if Iowa’s record is 3-2, including another loss to the Cyclones. There could be plenty of empty seats at Kinnick Stadium because Illinois hardly is a dream matchup.
But Illinois is hardly a pushover, either. It made a bowl game last season, which is about all you can say about Iowa. If this game were a bowl game, it’d be called the Average Bowl.
Oct. 17, Evanston, Ill., Northwestern 27, Iowa 24: This rivalry is harder to predict than perhaps any other for the Hawkeyes. That’s why I’m picking Northwestern to avenge last season’s 48-7 beat-down against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald supposedly has an intense desire to defeat Iowa, probably even more so after last season’s humiliation.
Oct. 31, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa 33, Maryland 27: This pick is based on the assumption that enough fans will show up to create a home-field advantage for the Hawkeyes. Maryland is a slightly above average team while playing at home and a below average team while playing on the road.
Nov. 7, Bloomington, Ind., Iowa 34, Indiana 31: Winning on the road in the Big Ten is never easy, but it’s more likely to happen at Indiana, where Iowa has won two of its last three games. Kevin Wilson has made Indiana formidable on offense, but his defense still leaves much to be desired. The Hoosiers also have to replace all-Big Ten running back Tevin Coleman, who shredded Iowa last season.
Nov. 14, Kinnick Stadium, Minnesota 20, Iowa 17: The Gophers are a notch above Iowa at this stage and good enough to escape from Kinnick Stadium with a methodical victory.
Nov. 21, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa 27, Purdue 14: Assuming Beathard still is healthy, Iowa should be a notch above the Boilermakers, especially at home.
Nov. 27, Lincoln, Neb., Nebraska 28, Iowa 21: A chance to win eight games will elude the Hawkeyes on the road. The outcome will hang in the balance until Iowa finds yet another way to lose to the Cornhuskers. I’m guessing it’ll be another breakdown on special teams in the fourth quarter.