Hawkeyes breaking in new quarterback and re-tooled defense against tough Big Ten-only schedule
A unique 2020 season is drawing closer and Iowa is hoping to get out to a good start. If things start off well for Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes, a chance to return to the Big Ten Championship Game at the end of the modified season could be on the line in the final weeks of the season. But getting through the first eight games may be nothing compared to what awaits Iowa in the final two.
Iowa has increased its win total each of the past two seasons, going from eight wins in 2016 and '17 to nine wins in '18 and 10 wins last season. Odds are pretty good the win total will go down this season with the Big Ten playing a 10-game conference-only schedule this fall. And Iowa draws two of the top Big Ten contenders in crossover matchups against the Big Ten East. Getting through the Big Ten West slate is no easy task either.
[Editor's note: This article was published before the Big Ten announced on Aug. 11 that it was postponing all fall sports, including football, with the intent of playing in the spring.]
Iowa Football Game-By-Game Predictions for 2020
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The Hawkeyes enter 2020 a step behind Minnesota and Wisconsin in the Big Ten West, but coach Kirk Ferentz’s team could close that gap if quarterback Spencer Petras quickly settles into the starting role. The sophomore completed six passes in limited action last fall and inherits a strong supporting cast that includes running back Tyler Goodson and one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps. Iowa’s defense is usually among the best in the conference, and while this group is solid again, question marks remain along a rebuilt defensive line. The schedule makers didn’t do the Hawkeyes many favors. Ohio State and Penn State are tough draws in crossover play, and Ferentz’s squad hits the road for a key matchup at Minnesota.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Iowa has been one of the more consistent teams in the entire country throughout Kirk Ferentz's tenure, but the Hawkeyes are a bit of a mystery entering this season. There's plenty of talent at the skill positions and the offensive line should remain solid but it will be a new, unproven quarterback leading the attack. On the other side of the ball, more than half of the starters need to be replaced on a defense that was top five in the Big Ten in all four major categories. On top of that, there has been plenty of attention focused on the program this offseason so it's fair to wonder if everyone will be on the same page at least at the start. Combine this with a schedule that features road games against Ohio State and Penn State in addition to the usual Big Ten West foes, and Iowa could struggle.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
Aside from a road trip to Minnesota, Iowa's revised Big Ten schedule seems pretty manageable through the first two months of the season. Iowa is also given a bye week before making a trip to Penn State, and another bye week before heading into the final two games of the season at home against Wisconsin and on the road against Ohio State. Any Big Ten schedule with four of the top contenders in the conference (Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota) makes for a tough hill to climb for Iowa. Winning half of those games may be difficult. This could turn into a .500 season for the Hawkeyes if they slip up against some improving teams in division play.