The Hawkeyes' path to a potential Big Ten West title is not an easy one
Coming off a nine-win season, the Iowa Hawkeyes are looking to get back to the Big Ten Championship Game for the second time and first time since taking an undefeated record to Indianapolis in 2015. In a year in which the Big Ten West Division appears to be up for grabs, Iowa benefits by having some of the best stability on the roster, but concerns about the schedule should loom large in Iowa City.
With Nathan Stanley at quarterback and a running game by committee, the Hawkeyes should have an offense that can be dependable. If Iowa can fill big shoes at the tight end positions, then there should be some familiar looks from Iowa's offense. A defense anchored by rising star A.J. Epenesa certainly helps as well.
At the end of the year, however, will Iowa be playing for a Big Ten title? Here is where our panel predicts Iowa finishing the 2019 season.
Iowa Football Game-By-Game Predictions for 2019
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
On paper, I think Iowa is probably the best team in the Big Ten West Division. However, the schedule doesn’t leave much room for error. The Hawkeyes get their top competition in the West (Nebraska and Wisconsin), rival Iowa State and a crossover matchup versus Michigan on the road this fall. Additionally, coach Kirk Ferentz has a home contest against Penn State – a potential top 10-15 team – and a road trip to defending West champion Northwestern. Iowa should have a steady offense behind quarterback Nate Stanley and two All-America candidates along the line in Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs. The Hawkeyes are strong up front on defense as well, with A.J. Epenesa expected to contend for All-America honors in his first full year as the starter. Iowa doesn’t have a glaring weakness, but this team needs more consistency out of the running game and must find a target (or two) at tight end. Don’t be surprised if the Black Friday matchup against Nebraska decides the Big Ten West Division title.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
In a shocking development, I'm predicting an 8–4 regular season for Iowa — a program that has won seven or eight games in the regular season in five of the last six years. The Hawkeyes have the good fortune of playing Rutgers, the worst team in the Big Ten East, but also play both Michigan and Penn State. I'm calling for a split against those two, with a loss in Ann Arbor and a win at home over Penn State. The West Division title could come down to the season-finale at Nebraska. I'm taking the Cornhuskers.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
Iowa may be the most well-rounded team in the wide-open Big Ten West Division this fall but the schedule does the Hawkeyes absolutely no favors. Crossover games at Michigan and home against Penn State in back-to-back weeks is a tough draw, and key division games against Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Nebraska will all be played on the road. That all makes for a tough road to travel, almost literally, to make a push for eight or nine wins. But count on Iowa playing a key role in how the division plays out.