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Iowa Hawkeyes 2018 Football Schedule and Analysis

Iowa Hawkeyes College Football

Iowa Hawkeyes College Football

After back-to-back seasons of going 8-5, could the Iowa Hawkeyes be due for a serious run at a Big Ten West Division crown? The 2018 season could throw Iowa a few advantages as long as Kirk Ferentz and his staff figure out how to replace some key players.

Iowa Hawkeyes QB Nate Stanley

A favorable home schedule in division play (Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska all come to Kinnick Stadium) and a cross-division schedule that skips Ohio State (although last year’s meeting went well) and both Michigan and Michigan State (but does include a road trip to Penn State) is more than manageable for Iowa. But getting to start the first month of the season at home means Iowa loads up on road trips in the second half.

Iowa Hawkeyes 2018 Schedule

Bye: Week 5

Week 1 – Sept. 1 vs. Northern Illinois (Iowa City, Iowa)

The season kicks off at home against a MAC program that could put up a bit of a fight. The last time Iowa lost a season opener at home? It was in 2013, against Northern Illinois. The good news for the Hawkeyes this time is Jordan Lynch won’t be playing QB for NIU.

College Football Rankings: NIU

Week 2 – Sept. 8 vs. Iowa State (Iowa City, Iowa)

In-state rival Iowa State comes to Kinnick Stadium in Week 2 after taking two of the last three meetings in Iowa City. But Iowa has won three in a row against the Cyclones after a 44-41 thriller last season. This could be another nail-biter.

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Week 3 – Sept. 15 vs. Northern Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa)

Iowa plays a second straight opponent from within the state, but this time it is a matchup with FCS Northern Iowa. Kirk Ferentz won’t take his opponent for granted after Northern Iowa pushed Iowa to the limit back in 2014 (Iowa held on for a 31-23 victory). Iowa should secure a win to take a winning record into Big Ten play.

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Week 4 – Sept. 22 vs. Wisconsin (Iowa City, Iowa)

The Big Ten opener for the Hawkeyes and Badgers should be a defensive slugfest, as last year’s meeting was. Iowa had absolutely no offense against Wisconsin last season, but if this turns into a night game, Wisconsin should be prepared for a battle. The stakes for the division will be high as well with an early jump on the division race. Both teams get a well-deserved bye week to recover from this one.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Wisconsin

Week 6 – Oct. 6 at Minnesota (Minneapolis)

After playing the entire first month of the season at home, the Hawkeyes returns from their bye week by rowing their way up to Minnesota to play the Gophers. Iowa took last season’s meeting and is riding a three-game winning streak and has won five of the last six games in the series. The Hawkeyes are 5-5 in Minnesota since 2000.

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Week 7 – Oct. 13 at Indiana (Bloomington, Ind.)

A second straight week on the road takes Iowa into the Big Ten East to play the Hoosiers. These two have not played since 2015 but Iowa has won six of the last seven meetings. That trend should be expected to continue.

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Week 8 – Oct. 20 vs. Maryland (Iowa City, Iowa)

The Hawkeyes return home for the first time in a month, this time to play Maryland. The Terrapins have won just one road game against a Big Ten West team since joining the conference (2017 at Minnesota). This will be the third meeting between the two programs, and if the previous two games are any indication, this one should go in the favor of the host Hawkeyes.

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Week 9 - Oct. 27 at Penn State (University Park, Pa.)

Iowa pushed Penn State to the limit last season and fell shy of an upset thanks to a last-second, game-winning touchdown pass thrown by the Nittany Lions' Trace McSorley. A trip to Beaver Stadium in late October does not appear to be a favorable draw this season. Iowa has lost two straight road games at Penn State in the series, each by double digits.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Penn State

Week 10 – Nov. 3 at Purdue (West Lafayette, Ind.)

A fourth road game in five weeks takes Iowa to Purdue to play a Boilermakers program that may be trending up. While the rebuild may still be a work in progress, Purdue is no longer an automatic win to rely on. Iowa should know. The Hawkeyes lost to the Boilermakers last season.

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Week 11 – Nov. 10 vs. Northwestern (Iowa City, Iowa)

Back home once again, Iowa prepares for what could be a pivotal matchup in the Big Ten West standings. Northwestern is always trouble, as the Wildcats have won two straight meetings in the series, each by a single touchdown. With the division race heating up, this could be a sneaky-good game on the schedule.

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Week 12 – Nov. 17 at Illinois (Champaign, Ill.)

The final road trip comes against an Illinois team that could very well be giving some new young players a chance to shine in what is expected to be another lost season. Iowa has won four straight and eight of the last nine meetings against the Illini. Chalk up a likely win for the Hawkeyes.

College Football Rankings: Illinois

Week 13 – Nov. 23 vs. Nebraska (Iowa City, Iowa)

The regular season wraps up on Black Friday against Nebraska. The Huskers could have their bowl eligibility on the line or they could be a surprise contender for the division crown. If all goes according to Iowa’s plan, the Hawkeyes could have their own shot at a division crown hanging in the balance. Whatever happens, this is the first taste of Scott Frost in the brewing Big Ten West rivalry.

Nebraska's college football logo

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.