The Big Ten family has grown to 14 with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers. The newbies will be on display for the first time today when the Big Ten Football Media Days kick off in Chicago.
I wonder what Woody Hayes would think about a Big Ten football game in Piscataway, N.J.? The late Ohio State coaching legend would find that about as likely as Iowa reaching double figures in the victory column. During the last 17 seasons of Woody’s autocratic reign in Columbus, the Hawkeyes never had a winning season and put together a 49-120-5 record.
Ten wins? It once took the Hawkeyes five seasons (1971-75) to total 10 wins. But Iowa has a chance to win at least 10 games this season for the fifth time under coach Kirk Ferentz.
Let me rephrase that. Iowa will win at least 10 games.
A school-record 12 wins is possible. That would be eight more than the Hawkeyes won during Frank Lauterbur’s stormy three-year reign that ended in 1973. And it would provide perfect symmetry: four wins in 2012, eight in 2013 and 12 in 2014.
This season’s Hawkeye schedule does deserve a tepid seal of approval when you see that Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State aren’t there. But you can only play the schedule given to you. And this schedule is generous and dangerous at the same time. Which sums up the 16th edition of Ferentz football at Iowa.
This team will be anchored by top-notch offensive and defensive lines. Quarterback and running back are on the uptick. There’s depth at tight end, and wide receivers have promise. But the linebackers are new, with the secondary and kicking game as areas of concern.
It’s clear that this team will have to outscore opponents, at least in the early portion of the schedule, while the defense finds its way. How will the Hawkeyes do? Here we go.
Aug. 30 — Northern Iowa: The Panthers have the best running back in the state in David Johnson, but Iowa’s line play will rule … 1-0.
Sept. 6 — Ball State: This is a dangerous Mid-American Conference team coming off a bowl game (see Northern Illinois in 2013). But Iowa is superior at too many positions … 2-0.
Sept. 13 — Iowa State: This will be a high-scoring game with two good offensive lines leading the way. But the Hawkeyes score more … 3-0.
Sept. 20 — at Pittsburgh: Iowa lost 21-20 on its last visit to the Steel City in 2008, and needed an epic rally to top the Panthers 31-27 in 2011 at Kinnick Stadium. The first road game of the season, at Heinz Field, will be a bump in the road … 3-1.
Sept. 27 — at Purdue: Is it just me, or does Iowa always seem to open Big Ten play on the road? This is the fourth time in six years. The Boilermakers will be better, but not good enough … 4-1.
Oct 11 — Indiana: This will be a big test for Iowa’s linebackers and secondary against the pass-happy Hoosiers. But Indiana’s defense can’t keep up with Iowa, which is coming off a bye week … 5-1.
Oct. 18 — at Maryland: Iowa will inflict its will with a smash-mouth brand of football the Terps never saw in the ACC … 6-1.
Nov. 1 — Northwestern: The Wildcats’ offense has been a thorn in Iowa’s side for years. Northwestern’s passing game springs the upset … 6-2.
Nov. 8 — at Minnesota: Iowa makes its fourth trip to Gopherland in the last five years. The Hawkeyes controlled the line of scrimmage last season. Look for a repeat performance … 7-2.
Nov. 15 — at Illinois: Are the Illini still in the Big Ten? This will be the first meeting since 2008. Illinois football is not a hot-ticket item these days … 8-2.
Nov. 22 — Wisconsin: This could be the game that decides who represents the West in the title game. The Badgers’ other league road games are at Northwestern, Rutgers and Purdue. Running back Melvin Gordon is good, but Iowa prevails … 9-2.
Nov. 28 — Nebraska: Iowa won last year in Lincoln 38-17, and only an inept offense keep it from winning at Kinnick in 2012 in the Wind Bowl, 13-7 … 10-2.
Dec. 6 — Ohio State in Indianapolis (Big Ten Championship): Braxton Miller’s legs will be the difference again. The Hawkeyes head to a bowl game with a loss … 10-3.
Rick Brown, a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year, covers Hawkeye football and basketball for the Register. On Twitter: @ByRickBrown.