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Harty: How will the 2012 Hawks do?

[ 13 ] July 17, 2012 |

The Iowa football team has produced average results over the past two seasons and signs point to more of the same this fall.

It’s hard to picture Iowa winning most of its games in 2012. But on the other hand, it’s hard to picture Iowa losing most of its games.

The schedule, which starts with the Sept. 1 season opener against Northern Illinois at Soldier Field in Chicago, could be worse. But Iowa also could be better on paper. The changes on the coaching staff should provide a boost, but probably not enough to compensate for a lack of talent and experience.

I went through Iowa’s 2012 schedule several times and came up with a record either at .500 or slightly above.

Here’s what I stuck with:

Sept. 1: Iowa 27, Northern Illinois 17. These teams already have done the Soldier Field thing once in the 2007 season opener, but the most lasting memory from Iowa’s 16-3 victory was probably the overwhelming heat.

Iowa behind senior quarterback James Vandenberg should be better on offense than it was five years ago, which isn’t saying much. The Hawkeyes also will catch a break on defense as Northern Illinois moves on without star quarterback Chandler Harnish, who used up his eligibility last season. The Huskies were one of the best offensive units in the country last season, averaging 38.3 points and 476 total yards per game.

Life after Harnish figures to have some rough spots, especially in the season opener. So look for Iowa to capitalize on that while winning its 11th consecutive season opener under coach Kirk Ferentz.

Sept. 8: Iowa 24, Iowa State 21. This pick is based solely on Iowa having home-field advantage. The Hawkeyes probably have a slight edge in overall talent, but not enough to win this game under any circumstance, or in other words, in Ames.

Sept. 15: Iowa 34, Northern Iowa 17. Neither team appears as good on paper as they were in 2009 when Iowa blocked back-to-back field-goal attempts in the final seconds to escape with a 17-16 victory at Kinnick Stadium. That game was the ultimate scare for Iowa fans, but also probably a fluke in some regard.

Whatever the case, the Iowa players now have reason to never take this game lightly. Combine that awareness with Iowa’s edge in talent and that should produce a 15th victory in 16 games against the Panthers.

Sept. 22: Iowa 42, Central Michigan 21. Somebody has to be the worst team in the West Division of the Mid-American Conference and many prognosticators believe the Chippewas will be that team under third-year coach and former Michigan State quarterback Dan Enos.

Enos’ first two seasons produced a total of six victories. The Chippewas won at least six games in each of the previous five seasons.

Sept. 29: Iowa 28, Minnesota 21. Once was a major upset. Twice was a disturbing pattern. But how would fans describe losing to the Gophers for a third consecutive time besides it being inexcusable? The previous two losses to Minnesota were bizarre because Iowa’s 2010 team, which featured several future NFL players on both sides of the ball, had no business losing and because last season former Hawkeye Marcus Coker shredded the Gophers for 252 rushing yards.

It seems unlikely the bizarre would happen for a third time in a row, especially with this game being played at Kinnick Stadium instead of at TCF-Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, where the previous two games were played.

Oct. 13: Michigan State 24, Iowa 13. It’s hard to come up with any scenario that has Iowa winning this game based on how poorly Vandenberg played on the road last season, based on how the Spartans whipped Iowa last season 37-21 at Kinnick Stadium and based on Michigan State’s rock-solid defense.

The Spartans will have a new starting quarterback with Kirk Cousins having moved on to the NFL, but their rushing attack should be strong enough to help with that transition.

Oct. 20: Iowa 20, Penn State: 17. Part of me wishes this game wouldn’t be played in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, but that’s for a different column. This game will be played at Kinnick Stadium and that should give Iowa a slight edge.

Oct. 27: Northwestern 31, Iowa 23. Dan Persa isn’t around to torch Iowa defenders anymore, but his replacement at quarterback has the same dual-threat capabilities. Converted receiver Kain Colter is arguably a better athlete than Persa and also is the kind of slippery quarterback that causes Iowa fits on defense. Colter started three games at quarterback last season when Persa was injured and showed signs of being a playmaker.

Home-field advantage hasn’t mattered much in this rivalry in recent games. But you’d rather have it than not have it, and Northwestern has it for this game.

Nov. 3: Iowa 35, Indiana 24. Iowa fans will be stoked for the start of the basketball season, but not nearly as much as Indiana fans will be at this stage. The only way I can see Iowa losing this game is if Indiana dual-threat quarterback Tre Roberson plays over his head or if the Hawkeyes self-destruct on the road.

Nov. 10: Purdue 24, Iowa 23. Purdue is getting better under fourth-year head Danny Hope and Iowa has at least one game during the regular season when it inexplicably struggles. Those two facts will meet head on during this game to produce a sobering result at Kinnick Stadium.

Nov. 17: Michigan 38, Iowa 20. Nobody will ever replace Ohio State as the opponent Michigan wants most to defeat. However, defeating Iowa should be a priority for Michigan because the Wolverines are coming off three consecutive losses to the Hawkeyes. The motivation to end that streak, coupled with Michigan having home-field advantage and all-Big Ten quarterback Denard Robinson should be too much for Iowa to overcome this time.

Nov. 23: Nebraska 21, Iowa 17. Iowa fans probably have two wishes for this game; one being a victory and the other being that it’s not as boring as last year’s game in Lincoln, Neb. It’s unlikely that both wishes will come true.

Overall: 7-5; Big Ten: 3-5.

Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or pharty@press-citizen.com.

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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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