By Don Lund
I think it’s about time to talk some football.
After one of the hottest summers I can remember, I’m really looking forward to the cool October Saturday afternoons at Kinnick.
Media day is Monday, Aug. 6, so the next five weeks I’ll break down the schedule, talk about the offense, defense and special teams.
First off, the schedule, and Iowa has a good one.
The first game is away but the next four are at home and then comes a bye.
If the young Hawkeyes can grow up fast it could be a fun year.
Wisconsin, Ohio State and Illinois are still off the schedule unless Iowa meets the Badgers in the Big Ten championship game.
Sept. 1 at Chicago vs. Northern Illinois Huskies: When I said the first game was away that was true. I went to the Northern Illinois game at Soldier Field in Chicago in 2007 and it felt like an Iowa home game.
The stadium holds about 65,000 and I believe there were at least 45,000 Hawkeye fans there. That should be the same set-up this year except I won’t be going.
Iowa won the game, 16-3, and were led by quarterback Jake Christensen. The Hawks finished 6-6, 4-4 in the Big Ten. They qualified for a bowl game but didn’t go.
Last fall, Northern Illinois finished 11-3 including a bowl win. They also lost to Wisconsin, 49-7. The Huskies have only three starters back on offense, an offensive lineman and two wide receivers.
Martel Moore returns at wideout. He had 47 catches, 747 yards and seven touchdown catches.
The defense has nine returning starters back but they allowed 30.3 points and 415.2 yards per game.
Iowa’s new look offense should score some points and the young defense should be able to handle the Huskies.
Look for the Hawkeyes to be favored by double digits.
Sept. 8 hosting the Iowa State Cyclones: The ‘Clones knocked off the Hawks last fall, 44-41, in overtime and were led by quarterback Steele Jantz. He was replaced by Jared Barnett after Iowa State lost four in a row. They are both back and they are both very mobile.
The Cyclones finished 6-7, 3-6 in the Big 12. They have six starters back on an offense that averaged 22.7 points per game. James White returns at running back. He had 743 yards rushing and scored eight times. The defense gave up an average of 29.4 point per game and has five starters back.
The ‘Clones have two good linebackers returning, with seniors Jake Knott and A.J. Klein leading the way.
The Hawkeyes’ front four will be tested, but I think the Iowa offense will get some big scores.
Iowa should be favored at Kinnick but not by a lot.
Sept. 15 against Northern Iowa Panthers- The Panthers finished 10-3 last year and were knocked out of the playoffs by Montana, the school my niece Kym graduated from.
UNI has to replace four starters on offense including quarterback Tirrell Rennie and three offensive lineman.
The Panthers averaged 26.1 points per game last fall and averaged 4.5 yards per carry on the ground.
Tirrell led the way with 885 yards rushing, scoring nine times. He also passed for 1,802 yards and 14 touchdowns.
On defense, they have five starters back, only one on the defensive line.
UNI gave up an average of 19 points a game.
In 2009, the Hawkeyes did something no college football team has ever done. They blocked two field goals on two consecutive plays in the final seven seconds of the game. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have beat the Panthers 17-16. Iowa won their first nine games that year and finished 11-2 including a bowl win.
UNI has to break in a new quarterback, replace some really good talent on defense and the Hawkeyes won’t be overlooking the Panthers.
The Hawkeyes should be favored by at least 10 points.
Sept. 22 against Central Michigan Chippewas: Central Michigan finished 3-9 last year including a 45-7 loss at Michigan State.
The Chippewas return seven starters on offense, including quarterback Ryan Radcliff. Ryan passed for 3,286 yards and 25 touchdowns and the offense averaged 22.6 points per game.
The defense also has seven starters back and gave up 33.3 points per game.
The Iowa secondary should be its strength and they will be tested.
The Hawkeye offense will score some points and Iowa will be favored by at least 10.
Sept. 29 against the Minnesota Gophers: Iowa’s 22-21 loss to Minnesota last year was the toughest of the year, for me anyway. The Iowa State loss was tough, but at least the ‘Clones won six games, including knocking off Oklahoma State, 37-31, in overtime when the Cowboys were ranked in the top five.
The Gophers won only three games last year and Iowa missed two field goals, plus Marcus Coker ran for 252 yards and scored twice.
Minnesota has five starters back on offense including quarterback MarQueis Gray. The 6-4, 245 pound senior passed for 1,495 yards and eight touchdowns. He also threw eight interceptions and completed only 50% of his passes.
Gray also led the team in rushing with 966 yards and six scores. The offense averaged 18.4 points per game.
The defense also has five starters back and gave up an average of 31.7 points per game.
The game is at Kinnick and Iowa will be favored and motivated to get the pig back.
Oct. 6: Bye
Oct. 13 at Michigan State Spartans: The Spartans handled the Hawkeyes, 37-21, last year at Kinnick after leading 31-7 at half.
Kirk Cousins threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns but he is in the NFL and State has to find a new quarterback. They have only four starters back on an offense that averaged 31 points per game.
The defense, which gave up an average of 18.4 points, has eight returning starters including all three linebackers.
The Hawkeyes have played the Spartans tough until last season.
With Iowa going on the road, Michigan State will be favored.
I have Iowa favored in five of the first six games. If they can start 5-1, they could finish strong.
Next week I’ll look at the last six games in which Iowa should be favored in at least three.