Most of what’s below is self explanatory, with the following exceptions:
*The points for/against and yards for/against numbers don’t include bowl games.
*Football Power Index (FPI) is an ESPN metric.
*Phil Steele is a college football analyst best known for his annual preview magazine.
*The coaching records are as an FBS head coach only. NFL records of Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Illinois’ Lovie Smith, for example, are not included.
2018: 9-4, 5-4 Big Ten. Best win: Probably 13-3 over rival Iowa St. The Cyclones turned out to be quite good. 27-22 over Mississippi St. in the Outback Bowl wasn’t bad, either. Worst loss: 28-17 at home to Wisconsin.
Starters back: 10 (six offense, four defense).
By the numbers: Points for/against, 405/231; yards for/against, 4875/3817. FPI: #23 in the country, #1 in Big Ten West. Phil Steele: #18 in the country, #1 in B10 West.
Schedule: (70th-toughest in FBS by opponents’ 2018 W-L) Aug. 31, Miami (Ohio); Sept. 7, Rutgers; Sept. 14, at Iowa St.; Sept. 29, Middle Tennessee; Oct. 5, at Michigan; Oct. 12, Penn St.; Oct. 19, Purdue; Oct. 26, at Northwestern; Nov. 9, at Wisconsin; Nov. 16, Minnesota; Nov. 23, Illinois; Nov. 29, at Nebraska.
Coach: Kirk Ferentz, 21st year (152-101).
Fun Fact: Ferentz is the longest-tenured head coach in FBS.
Quotable: Ferentz doesn’t do quotable.
Outlook: The Wisconsin loss notwithstanding, Iowa was 6-1 and ranked 18th headed to Happy Valley last Oct. 27. QB Nate Stanley, who had thrown for five TDs just two weeks before, appeared to have contracted sudden Steve Blass Syndrome. He completed just 19 of 50 throws, and Iowa still hung around to the end of a 30-24 loss that started a three-game losing streak.
The West Division looks like a multi-lane sprint, and it’s tempting to pick the most experienced coach and QB (assuming Stanley’s Steve Blass thing was just a phase). But the Hawkeyes are O-line oriented, and only two OL starters return. They’re as tight end-oriented as any offense this side of Bill O’Brien, and they sent two TEs to the NFL. Last year’s defense was one of Ferentz’ best, but only four starters are back. The five arguably biggest games on the schedule - Iowa State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska - are all on the road.
Don’t see enough here to overcome all that.
Prediction: 8-4, 6-3.