The Iowa Hawkeyes are off a dream season, in which they finished the regular season a perfect 12-0.
They would go on to lose 13-16 in the final seconds to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. Ultimately keeping them out of the 4-team playoff.
There were plenty of Iowa skeptics throughout the year, as they played a very easy schedule. They had a chance to prove their doubters wrong in the Rose Bowl against Stanford. Instead they got embarrassed 45-16, trailing 35-0 at the half.
Either way it put the Hawkeyes back in the national spotlight. Iowa finished the year ranked inside the Top 10 and will likely open 2016 in the Top 25.
Kirk Ferentz is back for his 18th year at head coach. He will welcome back 13 starters, including 8 on the defensive side of the ball. The Hawkeyes are in a good spot to defend their West title and get back to the Big Ten Championship Game.
Big Ten (West)
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|9/17||North Dakota State|
|11/5||@ Penn State|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
*We take the win chance by using the college football win percentage chart for each point spread.
Those that criticized the Hawkeyes for their easy schedule in 2015 are going to be saying a lot of the same things. However, this year’s slate is a bit tougher.
The non-conference portion of the schedule is very favorable. All three come at home and they will be favored big in each one. The biggest challenge will be in-state rival Iowa State, who went 3-9 last season.
Last year Iowa avoided having to play Ohio State, Michigan St, Michigan and Penn St out of the East. This year they draw both Penn State and Michigan, though they do get the Wolverines at home.
Iowa also gets it’s biggest games within the division at home. They host Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
If the Hawkeyes can take care of business at home, they will have a shot at running the table. They figure to be favored at Rutgers, Minnesota, Purdue and Illinois. That leaves just a road game at Penn State where they would need to pull off the upset.
Iowa will bring back just 5 starters on offense, but should put up similar, if not better numbers. The key is they have an experienced signal caller in C.J. Beathard. When healthy he’s a threat with both his arm and his legs. He had a stellar 17-5 TD-INT ration and rushed for 237 yards and 6 TDs.
Beathard will welcome back his favorite target in senior Matt Vanderberg. However, he does lose deep threat Tevaun Smith and talented tight end Henry Krieger-Coble. Senior tight end George Kittle is capable of producing at high level. The hope is sophomore receivers Jay Scheel and Jerminic Smith will produce.
Iowa does lose leading rusher Jordan Canzeri, but they used more of a committee approach. LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley both return and combined for 1,142 yards and 15 TDs.
The key to the offense will be the offensive line. Iowa loses two studs in Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh, but have always been strong up front under Ferentz. With 3 starters back and two more with starting experience, this unit will be a strength again.
If the offense can produce at a similar level to last year, Iowa is in good shape. That’s because the defense is going to be difficult to score on. The Hawkeyes get three starters back on the front four and do a great job of developing players.
Iowa gets two more starters back at linebacker, including star middle linebacker Josey Jewell. As a sophomore Jewell led the team with 126 tackles. He also had 3 sacks and 4 interceptions.
The Hawkeyes secondary got a big lift when stud corner Desmond King decided not to go pro. King had 8 interceptions (tied school record) and won the Jim Thorpe Award. He’s joined by fellow returning starters Greg Mabin (CB) and Miles Taylor (SS).
Regular Season Win Total
Big Ten West Odds
Big Ten Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
*Odds updated live on our college football odds page
The Hawkeyes come into this season as the favorites to win the West and have the 3rd best odds to win the Big Ten. While they are getting the respect from the oddsmakers, I don’t feel like this is a public team. Mainly cause of how bad they looked against Stanford in the bowl and the schedule critics.
If Beathard can stay healthy and the defense plays up to it’s potential, this team is going to be very tough to beat. The big question is how they handle going from being the hunter to the hunted.
I also have some concerns with them being as fortunate in close games. Iowa snuck out a lot of wins last year that they could have easily lost.
I’m tempering my expectations for 2016, but I do think this is the team to beat in the West. They are also a major sleeper team to make the playoffs.
I have Iowa going 6-3 in the Big Ten and 9-3 overall. I have them losing at home to Michigan, at Penn State and then one other game along the way.
Big Ten (West)
Big Ten Record
Win Total Prediction