Iowa, Iowa, Iowa, Iowa, Iowa.
2016 record: 8-5 [6-3 Big Ten West]. After Iowa’s miracle 2015 run, the only possible outcome of doling out $texas to Kirk Ferentz was 8-5 with a loss to North Dakota State and a win over then-undefeated Michigan.
Head Coach: Kirk Ferentz, Coach for Life (19th year, 135-92).
Last Bowl Appearance: 2017 Outback Bowl (20-3 loss vs. Florida). All recordings were immediately destroyed.
Key losses: As our friends over at Go Iowa Awesome recently lamented, the wide receiver corps is extremely thin. Top passing target Matt VandeBerg reinjured his foot and missed spring ball. Jerminic Smith, pegged as the No. 1 in VandeBerg's absence, left the program in a mutual parting of ways just last week. Last year’s top receiver, Riley McCarron, graduated and signed a UDFA deal with the Texans. It’s a mess. Oh, and QB C.J. Beathard, TE George Kittle, DT Jaleel Johnson, and CB Desmond King leave gigantic holes in the depth chart. It certainly smells like a rebuild.
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis retired and two offensive position coaches were relieved of their duties. Kirk Ferentz’s son, Brian, takes over Davis’ coordinator duties. So, the ultra-conservative power run-loving Coach For Life appointed his son to revive a dormant offense with limited skill personnel. Nope, that won’t cause any issues if things go poorly. Trust us.
Key returners/additions: RB Akrum Wadley returned for his senior season and will need to be otherworldly to make up for the inexperience at every other skill position on Iowa’s offense. Iowa returns a bunch of offensive linemen, so the Ferentz clan will almost certainly lean on the running game. ILB Josey Jewell also passed up the NFL Draft and will anchor a Hawkeye linebacker unit returning all three starters. Both safeties return, as well.
Lingering questions: You can say this about most Iowa teams, but where are the points coming from, especially when the other team clamps down on the running game? Wadley is great and the offensive line should be steady, but Iowa has a brand new quarterback with receivers that will frighten absolutely nobody (especially if VandeBerg can’t get healthy). Ready for a bunch of 16-13 games?
Fear Level: Sure, it’s at Kinnick, which kills dream seasons in a flurry of field goals, punts, and more punts. Otherwise, this is a rather inexperienced team that’ll be playing its fourth game of the year. Penn State and Iowa proved to be in vastly different classes in 2016, and the Hawkeyes lost much more in the offseason.