The Iowa football program is in good shape talent wise this season, but is their schedule conducive to making a run with their home/away game structure?
Each season Gary Barta, the Iowa Hawkeyes Athletic Director, puts together a twelve-game schedule for the Iowa football team. There are some consistencies like the nine-game conference schedule Iowa will play including six games against their Big Ten West counterparts and also the Cy-Hawk trophy game against the Cyclones.
His biggest task is finding two other non-conference games to schedule. Ideally, you want to find a team the first week of the season that allows Kirk Ferentz and his staff to work out a few of the kinks for the team while playing an easily winnable game. The other non-conference game is just a matter of finding the right team that is available, but with a slightly more defined lean towards an opponent that will look good at the end of the season for the Hawks if they are making a push for a big bowl game.
Unfortunately, outside of the non-conference games, Barta can’t really control the home and away schedule, and this year it’s less than optimal for the Iowa football team. On the plus side, at least Iowa doesn’t have a cross division matchup with three of the top four teams in the Big Ten East: Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State.
The Hawkeyes kick off the season with four straight home games (two of which have already been played), before embarking on two road games against Minnesota and Indiana. They have one game at home against lowly Maryland before heading on another two-game stretch of road games at Penn State and Purdue.
The Iowa football team rounds out their season with a trap game against Northwestern at Kinnick, an away game at Illinois in Springfield, and a Black Friday contest against the Scott Frost-led Cornhuskers.
Again, from an individual game aspect, Iowa has a good schedule, but playing four out of five games away can be tough. Especially when one of those games is at Penn State, which is always a tough place to play similar to Kinnick.
As expected, though, Kirk is treating it like business as usual:
At least in the second part of the season we’re not going to Japan. We’re playing in the Big Ten. The road trips aren’t that big a deal. They’re easy, and you go out there, you play and you get back out.
Compared to being at Maine where you’re on a bus for eight or nine hours, it’s not that big a deal. But it’s the way it shook out and the way they come at you. That’s the way it is.
He went on to make a jab at the SEC when asked about the unusualness of playing four straight home games to start the season:
It sounds like maybe they do in the southeast. I didn’t mention a conference, I just said a geographic area of the country.
Looking at the schedule, if Iowa can upset Wisconsin in a night game at Kinnick, there is a chance the only game they are not favored in for the rest of the season is at Penn State. We could be in the midst of another magical Iowa football season.