The final stretch of the Iowa Hawkeyes football schedule includes huge matchups for the Big Ten West Division. My series predicting the Hawkeyes season game-by-game concludes with the month of November. If you missed Part I and Part II follow the links and get caught up.
The Hawkeyes will see a couple former teammates when the team faces Purdue on the road on Nov. 5. Tyrone Tracy and Charlie Jones were two big defectors from the program this offseason. Tracy is a big addition for quarterback Aidan O’Connell. The All-Big Ten quarterback needs a new No. 1 target after losing David Bell to the draft. Purdue has beaten Iowa twice in a row and is coming off nine wins and a bowl victory. Iowa’s defense will have been put to the test at this point but the Boilermakers are yet another strong offense. You have to go back to 1980 to see Purdue string more than two wins together against Iowa. It will get that elusive third-straight win over the Hawkeyes this season.
Best in the West
If Iowa is going to repeat as division champion and return to Indianapolis it will need to get through Wisconsin. Even after a loss to Purdue, this season’s Black Out Game is effectively for the division if all goes as it should. The Badgers have fallen short of expectations since making the conference title game in 2019. Coach Paul Chryst will get things in order starting this fall. His recent recruiting classes are considered among the best the program has seen.
The spotlight in this game will be on Braelon Allen. Good Wisconsin teams always feature a workhorse running back and Allen fits that bill. In 2021 he rushed for 1,268 yards at a 6.8-yard clip. This was despite facing a heavy dose of eight-man fronts. The Badgers will work its upper-classmen in the backfield as well but the sophomore will set the table for the entire offense. The defense has depth but is missing the proven talent it had last year. Allen will make Iowa’s defense work but too many missed opportunities from Graham Mertz will cost the Badgers in the end.
Iowa at Minnesota
The Big Ten West is often overlooked because it does not stack up to the East with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State and Michigan State. Make no mistake, the West has its share of good teams. Minnesota is the biggest X-factor in the equation this season. The Gophers have won their last five bowl games and come off a 9-4 season. Last fall they were able to hang with Ohio State in the season opener before beating Wisconsin, Purdue and Colorado.
Minnesota was also a team that completely disappeared against a lowly Illinois team and Bowling Green. The offense, which was largely effective, scored all of 16 points in those games combined. Coach P.J. Fleck has not been able to figure the Iowa Hawkeyes out at all. The Gophers have lost seven in a row against the Hawkeyes. This team should have a good run game but without the ability to stretch the field Iowa’s defense will key in and slow it down. Chalk up another Hawkeyes win over the Gophers.
The annual heroes game always caps regular season for Iowa and Nebraska. For the last seven seasons the Hawkeyes finished their regular season with the W. Since joining the conference, Nebraska has been treated like a punching bag. The current face on the bag, Scott Frost, is yet to deliver to Lincoln what he showed at UCF. He is 15-29 with the Huskers and has not cracked a bowl game. Prior to hiring Frost in 2018, the Huskers had missed out on a bowl game just once in ten years.
Now it is not quite as bad as it sounds. Frost has fallen on some bad luck you could say. His Huskers have only lost by more than a score in less than a third of their games under him. We are not here to give a consolation prize for a good effort though. They say “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” Nebraska has been “close” in its last four attempts against Iowa and it still counts as four losses. This one will end the same way.
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