Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, May 9, 2016
What can Iowa do for an encore to last year?s stunning success? The Hawkeyes raced to a school-record 12-0 start before losing their final two games of the season in falling in the Big Ten title tilt and the Rose Bowl. It will be difficult to top that this fall, but the schedule is built for success a season after having another favorable schedule.
Here is a breakdown of Iowa?s 2016 schedule.
Toughest non-conference game: vs. North Dakota State, Sept. 17. The battle for the Cy-Hawk trophy always is a humdinger. The proof: Kirk Ferentz is just 8-9 vs. the Cyclones. But let?s go with the next game as the toughest, a visit from FCS power North Dakota State. The Bison are better than many FBS squads, winning the last five FCS national championships. North Dakota State has toppled the likes of Kansas State, Minnesota, Iowa State and Kansas in recent years. Yes, QB Carson Wentz-the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft–is gone. Still, the Bison will be a tough out. You have been warned, Herky.
Toughest conference game: vs. Michigan, Nov 12. Let?s go with the visit from Michigan on Nov. 12. The game comes on the heels of a trip to Penn State the week before. Not ideal. Conversely, Michigan plays at home vs. Maryland the week before coming to Kinnick. Iowa hasn?t played the Wolverines since 2013, winning four of the last five including three in a row in Kinnick. Still, Jim Harbaugh has Michigan rolling. This will be a good measuring stick for the Hawkeyes, the likely Big Ten West favorite.
Who they don?t play: Iowa misses Ohio State, Michigan State, Maryland and Indiana. Not bad, as the Buckeyes and Spartans may be the two best teams in the Big Ten.
Easiest game: Miami (OH), Sept. 3. The opener should be a breeze. Chuck Martin is in just his third season in Oxford, going 5-19 in two years. The RedHawks haven?t had a winning record since 2010. Can you say ?cupcake?? Sure you can! Try it!
Toughest stretch: Iowa will be pushed by a three-game stretch that begins with a visit from Wisconsin on Oct. 22, is followed by a needed off week, picks up with a trip to Penn State and ends with a visit from Michigan. Iowa hasn?t played Penn State since 2012 and has lost the last two meetings after winning three in a row. The Hawkeyes are 3-5 in their last eight vs. Wisconsin but won last year in Madison to end a three-game slide vs. the Badgers. Iowa has won four of the last five vs. the Wolverines, including three in a row in Kinnick.
Best chance to be upset: at Minnesota, Oct. 8. Iowa should be favored when it visits the Gophers. But this is the battle for Floyd of Rosedale. Anything can happen in the battle for the prized pig. The Hawkeyes have won three of the last four but lost the last time they visited Minneapolis in 2014. In fact, Iowa is 1-3 in its last four trips to Dinkytown.
Best chance to pull an upset: at Penn State, Nov. 5. Iowa doesn?t figure to be an underdog too often in 2016. But, it could be when it travels to Penn State on Nov. 5. The Hawkeyes? bid for an upset will be enhanced by the fact they are off the week before, giving Iowa extra rest and prep time before taking on a Nittany Lion squad that faces a critical third season under James Franklin.
Must win: vs. Nebraska, Nov. 25. If the Hawkeyes want any shot at repeating as Big Ten West champs, they most likely will need to topple visiting Nebraska in the season finale on Nov. 25. This has been a bizarre series since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten, as Iowa has lost both meetings in Kinnick, but the Hawkeyes are 2-1 in Lincoln. Go figure.
Bye week: The timing is pretty good, as Iowa plays eight games before being off on Oct. 29. And the off week falls in the midst of the roughest stretch of the season, coming between a home game vs. Wisconsin and a trip to Penn State.
|Sat.||9/3TBA||vs. Miami (OH)||TBA|
|Sat.||9/10TBA||vs. Iowa State||TBA|
|Sat.||9/17TBA||vs. North Dakota State||TBA|
|Sat.||10/1TBA||vs. 23 Northwestern||TBA|
|Sat.||10/22TBA||vs. 21 Wisconsin||TBA|
|Sat.||11/5TBA||at Penn State||TBA|
|Sat.||11/128:00 PM ET||vs. 12 Michigan||8:00 PM ET|
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