By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Now less than four weeks from the start of the Iowa football team’s much-anticipated 2021 season, it’s time to peer into my magic crystal ball and predict the outcome of the 12 regular-season games.
Hopefully, Iowa will get to play all 12 games, and fans will get to attend all 12 games, despite the Covid-19 global pandemic making a comeback with the Delta variant.
There is a lot to like about this Iowa team, including its veteran secondary led by its veteran defensive coordinator, its All-America center, its All-Big Ten running back, its 24-year old Big Ten Punter of the Year, and its schedule.
Anytime you avoid playing Ohio State is a plus, and to play Penn State, and a vastly improved Indiana team at home, is also a plus.
It also used to be a plus to not play Michigan, but that isn’t necessarily the case anymore as Jim Harbaugh has failed so far to restore his alma mater to elite status.
Iowa’s toughest game on paper is arguably its annual showdown against Iowa State in week two in Ames. That says something about Iowa State, but also about Iowa’s schedule, and that it looks manageable, at least on paper.
Barring a Covid nightmare, or a rash of key injuries, it’s hard to see this Iowa team winning fewer than eight games in Kirk Ferentz’s 23rd season as head coach.
Depth is always a concern for Iowa, and with the Delta variant spreading, and with about 30 percent of the Iowa players not fully vaccinated as of late July, Iowa could be vulnerable.
But here’s what my crystal ball says as of now about Iowa’s regular season:
Iowa 28, Indiana 27: Caleb Shudak starts his sixth-year senior season off in spectacular fashion by making a game-winning 54-yard field goal as time expires. He then signs an endorsement deal with AARP afterwards.
Iowa State 24, Iowa 21: Cyclone fans celebrate their first win over Iowa under Matt Campbell, and since 2014, by storming the field at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames and pleading and begging on their knees for membership to the Big Ten Conference, and for Campbell to stay in Ames.
Iowa 35, Kent State 19: The Golden Flashes scored 27 offensive touchdowns in just 50 offensive drives last season, a 54.0 percent touchdown rate that led the nation. However, their Covid-19-shortened season only consisted of four games and Phil Parker wasn’t one of the opposing defensive coordinators.
Iowa 34, Colorado State 17: First-year Colorado State coach Steve Addazio, who was the head coach at Boston College from 2013-19, has nightmare on the night before kickoff in which three of his toes have to be amputated due to frostbite from coaching against Iowa in the 2017 Pinstripe Bowl.
Iowa 31, Maryland 27: Looking for a home-field advantage, Maryland head coach Mike Locksley invites Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon to stand on the Maryland sideline so Turgeon can bitch, moan and whine to the officials from start to finish like he does in basketball.
Iowa 28, Penn State 24: James Franklin blames this loss at Kinnick Stadium on every roommate he’s ever had.
Iowa 33, Purdue 24: David Bell plays the second half at Kinnick Stadium with a mask covering his eyes, nose and mouth, and still has seven receptions and scores two of his three touchdowns in the loss.
Wisconsin 20, Iowa 17: Paul Chryst motivates his players before kickoff, and during halftime, by having them watch C-Span rather than hear one of his pep talks. And it works brilliantly.
Northwestern 16, Iowa 13: With his team trailing 13-3 at halftime, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald reminds his players while eating acorns and carp scales, and clutching a Dala horse, that they have Iowa just where they want them at home.
Iowa 34, Minnesota 23: The Hawkeyes prevail without calling a single timeout during this game at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa 30, Illinois 17: In the moments after this loss at Kinnick Stadium, former Iowa defensive lineman Bret Bielema shows his loyalty and commitment to the Illinois football program by having a tattoo of Red Grange carved into his stomach.
Iowa 23, Nebraska 17: With the wind howling and temperatures well below freezing on Black Friday, Scott Frost blames Nebraska’s seventh loss in a row to Iowa on the sounds from the wind deflecting off the empty seats in the upper decks of Memorial Stadium in what was announced as yet another sellout in Lincoln.
So there you have it, my crystal has Iowa finishing 9-3 overall and 7-2 in the Big Ten. The loss to Wisconsin could prove costly if both teams tie for the Big Ten West Division. My crystal ball only works in predicting Iowa’s regular-season game, so its uncertain how the Badgers will finish.
I almost picked Iowa to beat Wisconsin for the second year in a row, and probably would have if the game were being played at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa defeated Wisconsin 28-7 in the 2020 regular-season finale, but it fairness to the Badgers, they were decimated by Covid-19 issues.
Iowa 2021 schedule
Date, opponent, starting time, network
TBA – To be announced
TBD – To be determined
Sept. 4, vs. Indiana, 2:30, Big Ten Network
Sept. 11, at Iowa State, 3:30, ABC
Sept. 18, vs. Kent State, 2:30, Big Ten Network
Sept. 25, vs. Colorado State, TBA, TBA
Oct. 1, at Maryland, 7 p.m., FS1
Oct. 9, vs. Penn State, TBA, TBD
Oct. 16, vs. Purdue, 2:30, TBD
Oct. 30, at Wisconsin, 11 a.m., TBD
Nov. 6, at Northwestern, TBA, TBD
Nov. 13, vs. Minnesota, TBA, TBD
Nov. 20, vs. Illinois, TBA, TBD
Nov. 26, at Nebraska, 12:30 p.m., Big Ten Network