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Bowl eligibility? Game-by-game analysis and you vote

[ 0 ] June 4, 2013 |

Six victories. That’s all the state’s two most prominent college football teams need to be in the bowl-game mix.

It’s Iowa State’s magic number. It’s Iowa magic number.

It’s not a cinch for either team – college football magazines starting to hit the stands show that.

All but 20 of the 68 teams in automatic BCS qualifying conferences won at least six games last season, so no problem, right?

Fummmmble.

Preseason wagering windows will open soon. In the Register’s quest to be informative, we gathered early (extremely) unofficial betting lines from someone who feels each team will be only favored in three games apiece. While counting the days until camps open next month, we wonder just how Iowa and Iowa State will come up with a six-pack of wins.

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AUG. 31: vs. NORTHERN ILLINOIS

Estimated early line: Iowa by 5.5

Scouting report: Not only are the Huskies a trendy top 25 pick, they’ll be aiming for revenge when the season opens at Kinnick Stadium. Quarterback Jordan Lynch is back after throwing for 3,138 yards and 25 touchdowns during last year’s run to the Orange Bowl, which started after an 18-17 loss to Iowa.

Iowa wins if: Somebody seizes control of the starting quarterback job. Spring drills ended with Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard in a dead heat. None has ever taken a snap for the Hawkeyes. Northern Illinois will have seven new starters on defense, but this is no time to experiment with a quarterback rotation.

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SEPT. 7: vs. MISSOURI STATE

Estimated early line: No line (but Iowa would be favored

Scouting report: Come for the tailgating. Stay for the blowout. The Bears (and former Northern Iowa coach Terry Allen) averaged just 13 points and 99.3 rushing yards in 2012, while posting a 3-8 record. That adds up to a feel-good opportunity for the Hawkeyes, and the only sure win on an otherwise imposing schedule.

Iowa wins if: It doesn’t want to send fans into panic mode. In fact, winning might not be enough. The Hawkeyes will want to look good doing it. Remember, Northern Iowa beat Missouri State 38-13 just six months ago. Kansas State rolled to a 51-9 rout, including 35-0 in the fourth quarter.

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SEPT. 14: at IOWA STATE

Estimated early line: Iowa State +3.5

Scouting report: The Cyclones have already been through their quarterbacking carousel, and Sam Richardson appears to have a solid grip on the offense. He’ll also have plenty of options at running back and receiver. There is some good news for Iowa: Linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein are moving on to the NFL.

Iowa wins if: The game is only 58 minutes long. Iowa State won the previous two meetings in the closing moments, with Steele Jantz orchestrating a triple-overtime triumph in 2011 and Knott tipping and intercepting a pass to seal a victory in 2012. Iowa, meanwhile, is 3-7 in games decided by 6 points or less the past two years.

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SEPT. 21: vs. WESTERN MICHIGAN

Estimated early line: Iowa by 12

Scouting report: Oh, great, a directional school from Michigan. This didn’t really work out last year (a 32-31 loss to Central Michigan) or in 2007 (a 28-19 loss to these same Broncos) or in 2000 (a 27-21 loss to Western Michigan). With the Big Ten moving away from scheduling FCS opponents, Eastern Michigan is probably licking its chops.

Iowa wins if: Nothing is taken for granted. It wasn’t like Central Michigan was a world beater (finishing 7-6, and winning just once during a seven-week span). Western Michigan plays three Big Ten teams in the first four weeks this season (including Michigan State, Aug. 30 and Northwestern, Sept. 14).

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SEPT. 28: at MINNESOTA

Estimated early line: Minnesota by 1.5

Scouting report: With 10 returning starters on offense, the Gophers seem to be gaining momentum. A quarterback battle between Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner continues. They’ll have a solid running back duo in Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams, which should boost an offense ranked 94th nationally with 22.1 points per game.

Iowa wins if: It’s ahead at halftime. The Hawkeyes built a 24-0 lead last September and won 31-13. They were tied or losing at the break in each of their last three losses to Minnesota (2011, 2010 and 2006). Of course, Iowa is no longer an expected favorite in this series. Coach Jerry Kill has the Gophers expecting another bowl invite.

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OCT. 5: vs. MICHIGAN STATE

Estimated early line: Michigan State by 3

Scouting report: Just when it appeared the Spartans were emerging as a Big Ten power – winning a conference title in 2011 – the offense began to bog down. Defensively, Michigan State will rank among the nation’s best, led by linebacker Max Bullough and cornerback Darqueze Dennard. They will miss bread-and-butter running back Le’Veon Bell.

Iowa wins if: There’s not many highlights. This will be Michigan State’s Big Ten opener and the offense will likely need more time to find its rhythm, even with Andrew Maxwell returning as the starting quarterback. He’s completing a modest 52.9 percent of his career passes, and the Spartans aren’t known for game-breaking plays.

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OCT. 19: at OHIO STATE

Estimated early line: Ohio State by 21

Scouting report: NCAA sanctions no longer block the Buckeyes path toward a possible national title. That will also boost quarterback Braxton Miller’s bid to win the Heisman Trophy. The defense features just four seniors, but the underclassmen aren’t too shabby. So, Ohio State is the prohibitive favorite to win the Big Ten.

Iowa wins if: Urban Meyer gives his players too many days off after facing Wisconsin and Northwestern. Those games (Sept. 28 and Oct. 5) will be among the most anticipated this season, making the Hawkeyes a potential afterthought. Iowa is 1-12 against Ohio State since 1992, with the last win at the Horseshoe coming in 1991.

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OCT. 26: vs. NORTHWESTERN

Estimated early line: Northwestern by 3

Scouting report: The skill positions are set, but Northwestern will have to retool an offensive line that is missing three starters and was slowed by injuries this spring. Pass defense has been a problem, allowing 250.5 yards a game, but the front seven should be stout. Venric Mark is a slippery punt returner.

Iowa wins if: The tables are turned. Remember when the Wildcats would play the role of spoiler? Well, Northwestern is now the team coming off a 10-win season – not to mention its first bowl victory in 64 years. Iowa, meanwhile, will have to be accustomed to being an underdog, trying to earn a little payback for past heartaches.

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NOV. 2: vs. WISCONSIN

Estimated early line: Wisconsin by 1.5

Scouting report: New coach. Same brass-knuckles approach. Gary Andersen replaces former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, but the Badgers will maintain a brutal, Rose-Bowl-or-bust philosophy. They averaged 236.4 rushing yards per game in 2012 (ranking them 13th nationally) while holding opponents to 128.9 on the ground. Wisconsin ball carriers averaged 5.2 per attempt.

Iowa wins if: If Wisconsin turns the ball over. Grind-it-out teams own the clock and control the tempo. Iowa will need a little help to keep this score close, and that could come in the form of Badgers mistakes. The Badgers lost just six fumbles last season, an average of once every 105.8 carries.

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NOV. 9: at PURDUE Estimated early line: Purdue by 7

Scouting report: The Hawkeyes will face another first-year coach when they visit West Lafayette. Darrell Hazell, a former Ohio State assistant, inherits a program that went to bowls the past two seasons. They’ll play Nebraska, Michigan State and the Buckeyes in the weeks leading up to Iowa. That’s a tough run for a program striving for consistent success.

Iowa wins if: The Boilermakers are as shaky as we think they are. At first glance, this seems to be the Hawkeyes’ best chance for a road victory. Last year’s meeting in Iowa City was decided on a 46-yard field goal as time expired, after the Hawkeyes rallied to tie it. Expect another tight finish.

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NOV. 23: vs. MICHIGAN

Estimated early line: Michigan by 12

Scouting report: The departure of Denard Robinson might be a blessing. The jitterbug quarterback drove defenses nuts, but his skills as a passer left something to be desired. Devin Gardner takes over and is more comfortable in a pro-style offense. The Wolverines scored 29.9 points last season and that should increase in 2013.

Iowa wins if: The Hawkeye defense is reaching its peak. People tend to overlook the fact all three starting linebackers return, and that will be huge when Michigan visits. Even as Iowa slogged through a four-win season in 2012, the defense allowed a respectable 22.9 points per game. That may good enough to stay competitive.

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NOV. 29: at NEBRASKA Estimated early line: Nebraska by 18

Scouting report: Taylor Martinez enters his fourth season as the Cornhuskers’ starting quarterback. Passing accuracy has been a past problem, but the parts seem to be in place for a productive offense. It’s the defense that could be scary, in a bad way. Wisconsin scored 70 against them. Ohio State went for 63.

Iowa wins if: A Nebraska defense with just three returning starters continues to be shredded. So far, this hasn’t been much of a rivalry. It was supposed to be an annual Midwest melee, but Iowa rarely lands a punch. The Hawkeyes have scored just 7 points in each of the previous two clashes.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 15 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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