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Pat Harty: Stars align for 2014 resurgence

[ 0 ] May 16, 2013 |

The 2014 Iowa football team doesn’t play its first game for nearly 16 months and yet we already might know what its biggest strength could be — the schedule.

Any schedule that doesn’t include traditional conference powers Ohio State and Michigan should be enough to inspire hope.

Big Ten realignment has provided that hope by giving Iowa a 2014 schedule that reads almost exactly how you would like it to read on paper for a program that has lost 17 of its last 29 games.

In addition to avoiding Ohio State and Michigan in 2014, Iowa also doesn’t play Michigan State or Penn State and it faces Big Ten contenders Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa also gets to face Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium in 2014 and each of Iowa’s five road opponents — Pittsburgh, Purdue, Maryland, Minnesota and Illinois — finished with a losing record in 2012.

Maryland is one of two opponents from the newly-formed Big Ten East Division that Iowa will play in 2014, Indiana being the other. Nothing against those two teams, especially since Indiana defeated Iowa last season, but neither strikes fear. Indiana has shown signs of life under coach Kevin Wilson, most notably its 24-21 victory over Iowa last season, but the Hoosiers still have much room for improvement, especially on defense.

Maryland also leaves much to be desired in football as evidenced by its 4-8 record last season as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Iowa finished with the same record last season, so perhaps the Big Ten Conference was thinking that the Hawkeyes and Terrapins deserve each other.

The Big Ten will switch to a more regional format with Maryland and Rutgers set to join the conference in 2014.

And though a lot can happen between now and the 2014 season, I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Ohio State and Michigan still will be better than Maryland and Indiana in football.

The absence of a directional school from the state of Michigan is another encouraging thing about Iowa’s 2014 schedule. And I say that only half jokingly.

Northern Iowa and Ball State are Iowa’s first two opponents in 2014, and I don’t care about what almost happened against the Panthers in the 2009 season opener; Iowa should never lose to either team under any circumstance.

A home game against Iowa State in Week 3 will be followed by a road game at Pittsburgh a week later. That might be the toughest two-game stretch on the schedule with exception to the back-to-back games at home against Wisconsin and Nebraska in late November to conclude the regular season.

What’s unusual about the 2014 schedule besides how easy it looks on paper is that Iowa plays only two games in October and five in November. That’s because of bye weeks Oct. 4 and Oct. 25.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz needs all the help he can get while trying to rebuild the program for a third time.

The Big Ten Conference has done its part to help by creating a favorable 2014 schedule.

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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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