IOWA CITY– Media day for Iowa football is coming up on Friday, Aug. 7 so it’s time to talk Iowa Hawkeye football.
In the next two weeks I’ll take a look at Iowa’s schedule and try to figure out who will be favored.
This week I’ll look at the first six games including home games with UNI, Arizona, Arkansas State and Michigan. Iowa State and Penn State are on the road.
Sept. 5, Northern Iowa: This game might be a little closer than the Hawks want, although Iowa should win.
Panther head coach Mark Farley and his staff do a great job of finding players that fit into his system.
In 2007 UNI finished 12-3 and were ranked fourth in the nation.
Last year the Panthers also had a 12-3 record and were beaten out of the playoffs by FCS champion Richmond 21-20.
Quarterback Pat Grace is back after throwing for 2,041 yards and rushing for 618. At 6-2, 245 Pat is a load with a great arm. Nine starters are back on offense that averaged 29.2 points per game, scored 32 touchdowns on the ground and 18 through the air.
James Ruffin, the 2008 Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, returns at defensive end. James checks in at 6-4, 267. He will give Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga a good challenge.
The Hawkeyes will be favored, but don’t be surprised if the Panthers play Iowa tough.
Sept. 12 at Iowa State: The Clones have a new coach, new offense, new defense and are playing at home…watch out Iowa.
New head coach Paul Rhoads grew up in Iowa and coached under Dan McCarney at ISU for five years, so he knows how big this game is.
State will run a spread offense this year and Norm Parker and crew have seen this system many times before. I’ve always liked Austen Arnaud, junior QB for the Clones.
At 6-3, 222 he has a strong arm, passing for 2,792 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2008.
ISU’s top rusher Alex Robinson returns. The 5-9, 184-pound junior rushed for 703 yards and scored six touchdowns.
The ISU defense needs work, giving up 452 yards and 35.8 points per game last fall. The Clones have seven players back that started on D last year.
Last year Iowa won on a big 81-yard punt return by Andy Brodell at Kinnick.
The Hawks should be favored, but it could go down to another big play making the difference.
Sept. 19, Arizona: Mike Stoops, former All Big Ten defensive back for the Hawkeyes, brings his Arizona Wildcats to Kinnick for a 2:30 kickoff.
This is Mike’s fifth year and his first winning season was last year when the Cats went 8-5.
Arizona will be starting a new quarterback but have both running backs returning. Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin combined for 1,678 yards last year.
The Wildcats averaged 36.6 points per game last year on offense, but the defense could be the key to their success.
The front four return along with one linebacker and two in the secondary.
This should be a great match-up and Iowa should be favored at home.
Sept. 26 at Penn State: I’m sure Joe Pa and company remember Daniel Murray’s last second field goal at Kinnick that knocked off the Nittany Lions 24-23 last season.
Penn State did go 11-2, 7-1 in the Big Ten and won the title.
They might have a tough time repeating, losing seven starters on offense – including all three wideouts – and seven starters on defense.
All Big Ten QB Daryll Clark returns. The 6-2, 233-pound senior passed for 2,592 yards and 19 touchdowns.
The Lions' top running back Evan Royster is also returning this year. Evan rushed for 1,236 yards and scored 12 times.
The defense needs to replace all four defensive backs but Sean Lee, all Big Ten linebacker in 2007, is back after sitting out last year with a knee injury.
The Hawkeyes have played well against Joe’s teams, winning seven out of the last eight games.
The Lions should be favored in a night game at State College but don’t be surprised if the Hawks squeak another one out…are you listening Daniel?
Oct. 3, Arkansas State: When I first heard the Hawkeyes were hosting the Red Wolves I thought this would be a good game to get the second and third team players some clock.
Then I started looking at Arkansas State and they got my attention.
The Red Wolves finished 6-6 last year and return most of their offensive weapons that set a school record for total offense (4,786 yards).
Senior QB Corey Leonard returns after throwing for 2,347 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also rushed for 516 yards.
The Red Wolves top rusher is back with Reggie Arnold running for 1,074 yards and scoring seven times.
Eight starters are back on a defense that gave up 24 points per game last year.
Iowa will still be favored and the defense could be challenged.
Oct. 10, Michigan: Back in 1967 Ray Nagel was head coach for the Iowa Hawkeyes and his quarterback was Ed Podolak. I was 13 years old and already a big Hawkeye fan.
That was also the last time the big bad Wolverines had a losing record. Their head coach was Bump Elliot, who would later become a very successful athletic director at the University of Iowa.
Rich Rodriguez is in his second year at Michigan and he has seven starters back on offense, five on defense.
The key will be finding a quarterback to run the spread attack.
Junior Nick Sheridan has experience but freshman Tate Forcier is listed No. 1 coming out of spring ball.
Penn State, Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State all scored over 40 points against the Wolverines, which makes me wish the Hawks had them on their schedule last year.
Iowa should be favored at Kinnick but it’s a 7 p.m. start and Kirk Ferentz and I don’t get off on that starting time.
That’s a look at the first six games. Iowa should be favored in five of those.
Next week I’ll talk about home games with Indiana, Northwestern and Minnesota as well as road trips to Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State.