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Harty: Expect Hawks to go 8-4

[ 11 ] June 12, 2011 |

As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, I’ve often dealt with the misery that comes with it by looking ahead to the college football season.

So with the Cubs essentially out of the pennant race, as if they were ever in it, let me explain why in mid-June I have the 2011 Iowa football team following a similar path as the 2010 Iowa squad that struggled down the stretch.

I have Iowa winning seven of its first eight games but still finishing the 2011 regular season just 8-4 overall.

But unlike last season when there was no real explanation for why Iowa collapsed at the end, the problems late in the 2011 season will have more to do with the schedule than anything else.

A 9-3 record also was considered, as were records of 7-5 and 6-6 for an Iowa team that returns the fewest number of starters in the Big Ten.

There is just too much uncertainty at key positions, including quarterback, defensive line, linebacker, safety and punter, to pick Iowa as a likely Big Ten contender.

But there is enough proven talent at key positions, including offensive tackle, center, running back, middle linebacker and kicker to assume that Iowa is above having a losing season.

The schedule also could be much worse, with Ohio State, Wisconsin and Illinois not on it, and with Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State all playing at Kinnick Stadium, although, Northwestern seems to have Iowa’s number on either side of the Mississippi River.

There are just two games on Iowa’s schedule — the Sept. 3 season opener against Tennessee Tech and the Sept. 24 payday to Louisiana-Monroe — where the outcome will be a foregone conclusion.

Nothing against those two teams, but it’ll be physically impossible for them to leave Kinnick Stadium with a victory.

Both teams can use it as bulletin board material if they’d like, but it still won’t matter.

As for the other 10 games on Iowa’s schedule, anything is possible.

We witnessed that last November when a hapless Minnesota squad that really had no business beating Iowa did so in stunning fashion.

You can call it a fluke or whatever you want, but it still showed that even a veteran Iowa squad was not above losing to one of the worst teams from a BCS conference on a bad day.

The regular-season finale at new Big Ten member Nebraska probably is the only game where Iowa is a clear underdog on paper.

Michigan State is picked by most to finish above Iowa in the new Legends Division, but the Spartans have to play at Kinnick Stadium where they were humiliated last season, losing 37-6.

We’ll know a lot more about Iowa and Michigan State by the time they square off in the 10th game on Nov. 12. But for now, it’s hard to pick a favorite.

It’s also hard to pick a favorite for games against Penn State, Northwestern and Michigan.

Iowa is to Penn State what Northwestern is to Iowa. But nothing lasts forever, with the possible exception to Joe Paterno’s reign as the Penn State coach.

So it wouldn’t surprise me if Penn State finally got the best of Iowa this season and if Iowa figured out how to defeat Northwestern again, even with the always-dangerous Dan Persa playing quarterback for the Wildcats.

What’s scary about Michigan besides trying to contain do-everything quarterback Denard Robinson is that the Wolverines came close to defeating Iowa in each of the past two seasons despite having a lousy defense and despite all the distractions within the program.

Michigan now has a new coach in Brady Hoke and a new philosophy that calls for being more physical than the old spread formation under previous coach Rick Rodriguez.

So at this stage, we have two foregone conclusions (Tennessee Tech, Louisiana-Monroe), one game where Iowa should be the underdog (Nebraska), and four toss-ups against Penn State, Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State.

That leaves road games against Iowa State, Minnesota and Purdue and home games against Pittsburgh and Indiana. Iowa should be favored to win all those games on paper, but don’t be surprised if there is a loss or two hiding among this bunch.

Picking Iowa to finish 8-4, including 4-0 against non-conference opponents, is hardly going out on a limb. It says more about how the schedule is laid out.

It’s a safe pick for an Iowa team that has as many questions as answers at this stage.

But that’s more than you can say about the Cubs.

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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