Iowa finished with eight wins and a bowl victory last season, but it’s hard to say Kirk Ferentz was happy with how things went. The Hawkeyes dismantled Ohio State and Nebraska, but also looked inept at times against inferior competition, namely a late home loss to Purdue. With starters gone on both sides of the ball, it’s going to be difficult for this team to improve its win total. The spring odds at 5Dimes Sportsbook projected the Hawkeyes to finish third in the West, tied with Purdue and behind Nebraska and Wisconsin.
The only way for Iowa to gain some consistency is if Nate Stanley can make another jump after leading the offense to 28.3 points per Game behind his 26 TDs and only 6 INTs last season. He may be the lone bright spot in the offense along with top wide out Nick Easley (51 receptions) and top tight end Noah Fant (11 TDs). The problem is that a lot of other guys are gone including NFL talent on the line and stud Akrum Wadley at running back. Iowa should have the talent up front, but it probably won’t be as good as a year ago and the same goes at running back where guys like Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin will fight for time. If Stanley wasn’t returning, this offense could take a major step back, but with the quarterback still there, this group should have enough to stay competent and possibly improve on consistency.
It’ll be an equally difficult task on the defensive side after giving up less than 20 points per Game. All three top linebackers are gone as is corner Josh Jackson, a second round NFL Draft pick. Replacing those linebackers will be almost impossible to replicate with three new guys. Nick Niemann and Amani Jones are set as starters, but Aaron Mends was lost to a knee injury in the spring, which added to the issue. The good news is that Iowa usually has a top defensive line and that’s the case again with all of the top guys back at end. Safety should also be set with Amani Hooker being one of the better options in the Conference and a guy that should control the back end.
Iowa usually has the bodies to fill in defensively, but this season it has to fill in at almost every level on the team. The Hawkeyes need to win their three non-Conference Games with the battle for Iowa standing out per usual and this time it’s at home. The Schedule is favorable enough to surpass last year’s Four Big Ten wins, but due to the loss of talent, it won’t be easy. OUtside of the trip to Penn State, all of Iowa’s road Games are winnable and getting teams like Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska at home also helps a ton.
In a different year, the Hawkeyes would be headed for 10 wins due to Schedule, but with so many players gone, it’s hard to see this group stealing Wisconsin’s spot in the West. Eight wins in the regular season are definitely on the table because of Stanley, but with a new running back, offensive line and set of linebackers, the over will be a hard thing to bet on, although not impossible due to Schedule.
2018 Iowa Hawkeyes Football Schedule
Sept. 1 vs. Northern Illinois
Sept. 8 vs. Iowa State
Sept. 15 vs. Northern Iowa
Sept. 22 vs. Wisconsin
Oct. 6 at Minnesota
Oct. 13 at Indiana
Oct. 20 vs. Maryland
Oct. 27 at Penn State
Nov. 3 at Purdue
Nov. 10 vs. Northwestern
Nov. 17 at Illinois
Nov. 24 vs. Nebraska