After two consecutive seasons ending with a record of 8-5, has Iowa hit a wall in the win department? Or can the Hawkeyes manage to pick up a few more victories to give Wisconsin a serious run for the Big Ten West crown? This year’s Iowa team appears to have an even balance of positive factors and legitimate question marks, which makes them an interesting, if not difficult, team to forecast in the Big Ten this season.
Having an experienced starting quarterback in Nate Stanley and a reliable target in tight end Noah Fant is a pretty good combo to have on your side, but having to replace so many players on defense could lead to some frustrating moments for Iowa this season. However, a division schedule that brings some of the critical games to Kinnick Stadium and a crossover schedule that skips out on Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State (but sends Iowa out to Happy Valley to play Penn State) is about as favorable a rotation one can ask for in the Big Ten West.
Athlon Sports writers offer their thoughts on what to expect from the Hawkeyes in 2018 from a win-loss perspective.
Iowa Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Iowa should be the biggest threat to Wisconsin in the Big Ten’s West Division. Of course, there’s a significant gap between these two teams, but the Hawkeyes have a favorable path to 9-3. Quarterback Nate Stanley should push for All-Big Ten honors, and there’s a good foundation in place up front. The defensive line is also among the best in the Big Ten. Iowa’s biggest concerns rest at linebacker -- a place this program usually reloads -- and with the skill positions on offense. Can the Hawkeyes develop more playmakers at receiver and restock the backfield without missing a beat? The guess here is the Hawkeyes lose once where we don’t expect (at Minnesota or Indiana) but still finish second in the Big Ten West behind Wisconsin.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Iowa catches a huge break by playing only one (Penn State) of the big four from the Big Ten East. That -- and the fact that the Hawkeyes are pretty good -- will allow this team to make Wisconsin sweat in the West Division race. The two non-conference games to start the season will both be very difficult, but give the advantage to the home-standing Hawkeyes. The biggest game, if this team plans on contending for a division title, is Wisconsin's visit to Iowa City on Sept. 22. Win that and things start to get very interesting.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
It's wild to think that this is Kirk Ferentz' (above, right) 20th season but it should be a fitting campaign that lives up to what he's done recently: seven or eight wins with a surprise home upset and many Hawkeyes wondering if the team could have done more. The loss of linebacker Josey Jewell on defense can't be understated and while running back Akum Wadley's departure is a big one, quarterback Nate Stanley is more than capable of handling more of the load offensively. I'd be worried about the depth behind him at QB and in the secondary though.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
I have a tough time suggesting Iowa is in position to push Wisconsin for the Big Ten West title, especially since I have the Badgers managing to get out of Kinnick Stadium with a key division win early in the season. If Iowa has to play catch up with Wisconsin, it’s going to be a tough path to the Big Ten Championship Game. But the Hawkeyes will remain in the hunt thanks to that home schedule bringing both Northwestern and Nebraska to Iowa City. Those could be pivotal games as Iowa looks to end the season on a high note. It just won’t end in Indianapolis.