Yesterday I broke down what the Iowa Hawkeyes are facing in their first four games of football. Today I turn my sights to October. The Hawkeyes have one of their toughest stretches of games in recent memory in October that that is WITH a bye week!
BIG Rematch with Michigan
October starts with a bang as the Michigan Wolverines come to Kinnick Stadium for a rematch of the Big Ten Championship. For Iowa’s sake, and the sake of viewership, we hope this is not a repeat of that game. When these teams met in Indianapolis last December, the Wolverines were dominant. The reigning conference champs will look different without defensive stalwarts Aidan Hutchinson, David Ojabo and Daxton Hill. Michigan has 25 sacks gone from last year’s roster which should be a relief for Iowa.
The real matchup is between Michigan’s offense and the vaunted Hawkeye defense. The Wolverines have speed and a solid line. Blake Corum is the type of running back who has given good Iowa defenses some fits in the past. The quarterback competition in Ann Arbor promises to produce a sharp signal caller as well, whether it is still Cade McNamara’s job or not.
We still do not know when this game will kick off. If the football gods grant us a night game under the lights at Kinnick, memories of the 2016 game-winner from Keith Duncan will be dancing in the heads of the Hawkeye faithful. With both teams expected to come in undefeated, a primetime game is very possible. If that comes to pass, give me the Hawkeyes in another thriller.
Avoid the letdown
After getting up for a monstrous game against Michigan, win or lose Iowa has a chance to be tripped up by Illinois. Bret Bielema is yet to fully bring the Illini back into contention after a 5-7 year, but you can see the foundation being built. His team was topsy turvy in ’21, beating Penn State and Minnesota while losing to Rutgers. The offense cannot be much worse than it was, though that bar is pretty low. Illinois’ 20.2 PPG ranked 116th out of 130 teams and actually may have been uglier than that ranking. The Hawkeyes should cruise through this one based on the scoring potential of their defense alone.
Iowa at Ohio State
The Hawkeyes are getting a bye week at the perfect time heading into the toughest game of the season. Bye weeks have not always been a friend to Kirk Ferentz though. His teams are 3-9 on the road coming out of the bye in their last 12 attempts.
The Buckeyes will be much closer to what we’ve come accustomed to this season. C.J. Stroud had some growing pains against Oregon and Michigan last season, but looking at the big picture he showed a lot of promise. Stroud was accurate, if not deadly accurate as the season wore on. He capped his season by completing more than 80-percent of his passes for north of 500 yards against a good Utah team in the Rose Bowl. He lost some great weapons and still has a lot to work with in what will be one of the best offenses in the country.
Defensively the Buckeyes needed a facelift. Coach Ryan Day enlisted the services of former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator to Jim Knowles to give them just that. The problems last season were not all scheme related. There was turnover in talent. The new identity will rely largely on the play of corners Cameron Brown and Denzel Burke, as well as a cast of linebackers led by Tommy Eichenberg. This still might be a middling Big Ten defense but it will be vastly better than the 2021 version.
Iowa routed Ohio State in its last meeting 55-24, but that game was played in Iowa City. The last time the Hawkeyes beat the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe was in November of 1991. Iowa has not won consecutive games over Ohio State since 1959-60. The closest it has come since was a tie in 1988 after winning 29-27 on the road in 1987. The Buckeyes will hand the Hawkeyes a loss in this game.
Homecoming Against Northwestern
A homecoming game against Northwestern might stir up some bad memories for Iowa fans. The last time the Hawkeyes welcomed the Wildcats on homecoming weekend, the visitors made themselves quite at home. Northwestern won that 2016 game 38-31, spoiling a Hawkeye team with high hopes for the year.
So what to make of the Wildcats this season. Your guess may be as good as mine. They have gone from bad to good to terrible over the last three season. After playing in the Big Ten Championship, the team rolled over to a 3-7 record in 2021. As bad as Illinois’ offense was, this one was worse. Naturally, we should expect the Wildcats to be really good this season, right? Instead we will stay logical and take Iowa to handle its business and finish October 8-1.
Check back in tomorrow as I predict the remaining games on the schedule, including a matchup with Wisconsin which will determine the West Division.
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