• Travis Thornburgh

2019 Football Preview: Game-By-Game

If you have read through my preview series, you probably gathered that I think this Iowa team could be a special one. Iowa has the talent to compete with (and beat) anyone in the Big Ten this year and are a legitimate contender in the Big Ten West. The key to this year will be, can Iowa stay healthy, can they catch a few breaks, and can the young talent adapt to Big Ten football. Now, without further ado, how I see this season going down From the Corner of Kinnick:

6:30 P.M. August 31 - vs. Miami (OH)

This game should give Iowa a great opportunity to get to game speed following fall camp. The Redhawks come to Iowa City returning only 9 starters, 5 on offense and 4 on defense, and have to replace contributors at key positions from a team that went 6-6 last year. They lose their starting quarterback and running back on offense and lose two lineman and two linebackers on the defensive side. The defensive secondary and receiving corps will be the strong suit of this Miami (OH) team.

I look for Iowa to put this one away early and cruise to a week one victory without having to use many tricks from their playbook. I don't expect Iowa to embarrass the Redhawks and blow them off the field, but this should be a comfortable victory where we see the backups.

Outcome: Iowa Wins Comfortably

Record to Date: 1-0 (0-0)

11:00 A.M. September 7 - vs. Rutgers

Week 2 should bring more of the same for Iowa. Rutgers was hapless last year, slogging through a 1-11 campaign a year ago. The Scarlet Knights will travel to Iowa City with 8 offensive starters and 5 defensive starters returning from last year's team. The run game should be the strength of this team, as they return key contributors from a solid 2018 offensive line and running back Isaiah Pacheco. If Rutgers has any chance to keep this game close, their quarterback play will need to be better than it was a year ago.

Iowa should roll to a 2-0 record. Rutgers should be better this year, but they aren't there yet. This game should be decided early and I don't expect Iowa to get very creative with playcalling in this game.

Outcome: Iowa Wins Comfortably

Record to Date: 2-0 (1-0)

3:00 P.M. September 14 - @ Iowa State

The 2019 edition of the Cy-Hawk game could be one for the ages. The 2019 season brings high hopes for the Iowa State, as the Cyclones return 8 starters on both sides of the ball, and with that comes expectations of competing for a Big 12 title. Despite returning so many starters, questions loom for the Cyclones as well. The departure of WR Hakeem Butler and RB David Montgomery leave two large holes in the ISU offense. Iowa State also will have to find a way to replace DE DeAndre Payne and DB Brian Peavy, who were leaders on a stout defense a year ago.

Iowa will have their work cut out for them in this one, but I think there are a few things that work in Iowa's favor. Iowa State will get progressively more dangerous as the year goes on and I expect them to be in the discussion when it comes to the Big 12 championship, but I don't think they will be to that level by Week 3. The Cyclones open the season in Ames against Northern Iowa then will have a bye week. That doesn't give them a ton of game action to try and replace Montgomery and Butler on offense. Couple that with the fact that Iowa should be very vanilla in play calling the first two weeks of the year and I think Iowa State will be disadvantaged by having a bye so early in the season. I think Iowa comes away with the Cy-Hawk victory in 2019. This game should be a close affair, but I don't think it will be the low scoring game we had a season ago. I expect Iowa to be in the 17-24 point ballpark when the dust settles and walk out of Ames undefeated.

Outcome: Iowa Wins a Close Game

Record to Date: 3-0 (1-0)

TBD September 28 - vs. Middle Tennessee State

This game doesn't scare me as we head into the season nearly as much as it did when Iowa scheduled the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State. Iowa catches a break, as MTSU loses a ton of personnel from a team that went 8-6, and finished as the runner-up in Conference USA after losing in the conference title game. Among losses for this team is quarterback Brent Stockstill, who spent four seasons as the signal caller and was a main cog in the offense a year ago.

I expect Middle Tennessee State to stick around early in this one, but for the Hawks to secure the victory early in the second half. This game could also serve as a good measuring stick for Iowa, as Middle Tennessee State opens the season at Michigan.

Outcome: Iowa Wins Comfortably

Record to Date: 4-0 (1-0)

11:00 A.M. October 5 - @ Michigan

This game will be a huge test for Iowa and could go a long way toward determining the trajectory of the rest of the season. Michigan enters the season with 13 starters returning, 8 on offense and 5 on defense. The Wolverines will be looking for answers along the defensive line, at linebacker, and in the running backs room, where they suffered heavy losses following the 2018 campaign. Michigan will also be welcoming a new offensive coordinator in 2019 and will likely be sporting an up-tempo, no-huddle spread attack. Despite the change in offense, quarterback Shea Patterson is unlikely to miss a stride, as he ran a similar system during his time at Ole Miss.

Of all the games on Iowa's schedule this year, I think this is one of the most intriguing. Michigan comes into the year with many thinking that if Jim Harbaugh is going to take the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff, this is the year. Michigan will be talented and I expect their offense to be potent. In my mind, there are two keys to this game that will turn the tide, the no-huddle offense and how Michigan's defense looks. Iowa has historically struggled with high-pace, no-huddle offenses and Michigan could really test Iowa's depth and stamina along the defensive line. I expect Michigan's defense to be really good again this year, as I firmly believe that the Wolverines don't rebuild, they just reload.

With all those factors considered, I still think Iowa keeps this game close. I think this Iowa team has the talent to compete with anyone in the Big Ten, and it only helps that Kirk Ferentz is living rent-free in Harbaugh's head after their 2016 matchup. I think Iowa drops a close game in Ann Arbor, but instilling confidence that this season can still be special.

Outcome: Iowa Loses a Close Game

Record to Date: 4-1 (1-1)

TBD October 12 - vs. Penn State

Penn State will be a new look team when they travel to Iowa City in mid-October. Coming off a 9-4 campaign, the Nittany Lions will be looking to replace 5 starters on each side of the ball, including starting quarterback Trace McSorley. Penn State will be extremely young at a number of key positions including quarterback, where they only return 7 collegiate pass attempts. 2019 may be a step back year for the Nittany Lions, and I look for Iowa to exploit Penn State's youth at key positions.

After close losses to Penn State in the previous two meetings, I look for Iowa to reverse the script on the Nittany Lions in 2019. Iowa is talented and experience enough at defensive back to take advantage of Penn State's inexperience at quarterback and wide receiver. I also think that by this point in the season, Iowa will have developed depth along the defensive line and could give Penn State's young running backs fits. I look for Iowa to exploit Penn State's youth and win this game by two scores.

Outcome: Iowa Wins by Two Scores

Record to Date: 5-1 (2-1)

11:00 A.M. October 19 - vs. Purdue

Purdue is always one of the wild card's on Iowa's schedule, and with the Boilermakers locking down head coach Jeff Brohm this offseason, that seems like it will be the case for the foreseeable future. Purdue loses a ton off of the team that went 6-7 a year ago, but return two major pieces that make this team extremely dangerous in WR Rondale Moore and QB Elijah Sindelar. The Boilers also return basically the entire defensive unit from last season. Purdue looks to be solid this year, and if they can get some production from some of the other young wide receivers the Boilermakers could be dangerous.

I look for Iowa to exercise some demons from the last-minute heartbreaker against the Boilermakers a year ago. I think by this point in the season, the Iowa offense will be rolling and the defense will have developed into the unit Iowa fans are accustomed to under Kirk Ferentz. I don't think Iowa has the firepower to blowout the Boilermakers, but Iowa should win this one comfortably and not give Rondale Moore the chance to win the game late.

Outcome: Iowa Wins Comfortably

Record to Date: 6-1 (3-1)

11:00 A.M. October 26 - @ Northwestern

Northwestern scares me. They always have and probably always will, or at least they will as long as Pat Fitzgerald is coaching the Wildcats. 2019 is no different. The Wildcats will have hurdles to clear in replacing 5 starters on offense, including quarterback Clayton Thorson and 3 starting offensive lineman, off a team that won the Big Ten West in 2018. According to many familiar with the Northwestern program, the heir apparent to signal calling duties, Redshirt Sophomore Hunter Johnson is likely to hit the ground in stride and could prove to be a better quarterback than Thorson. Much like last season, the Northwestern defense should be solid and will likely carry this team early in the year until the offense gets pointed in the right direction.

Each and every year, the Northwestern game is the single scariest for me on the schedule. I don't know if its because Pat Fitzgerald broke his leg against Iowa as a player, if the Wildcats circle this game each year, or if Iowa just doesn't defend the offensive scheme well, but it seems like every year one of the Wildcats best games is against Iowa. I expect this year to be much the same. I think Iowa is competitive in this game and will have every chance to take this game, but it always seems like Northwestern has an answer in Iowa's best seasons. I think Iowa drops a close one as they head into the bye week.

Outcome: Iowa Loses a Close Game

Record to Date: 6-2 (3-2)

TBD November 9 - @ Wisconsin

This year's battle for the Heartland Trophy is intriguing. For the better part of a decade, Wisconsin has been the perennial favorite to win the West and has frequently delivered on those expectations. This year is expected to be a step back year for the Badgers. Wisconsin will be tasked with replacing 4 offensive lineman as well as their starting quarterback in Alex Hornibrook. Couple those losses with losing significant contributors at linebacker and safety and Wisconsin is looking at one of the more significant offseason rebuilds of the Paul Chryst era.

I really like Iowa in this matchup. They are experienced in many of the places that Wisconsin isn't, although that won't mean as much in November when those starters have nearly a full season under their belts. I also think the bye week will come at the perfect time for Iowa, as they will be a little more rested than the Badgers who will be coming off a game in Columbus, Ohio and will be playing in their sixth consecutive contest. I expect this game to be the typical black and blue battle for Albert the Bull, with the Hawks emerging victorious in a close one.

Outcome: Iowa wins a close game

Record to Date: 7-2 (4-2)

TBD November 16 - vs. Minnesota

The second battle for a livestock themed trophy will bring the Golden Gophers of Minnesota to Iowa City. Minnesota will be looking to rebound from a 2018 campaign that saw them go 7-6. Minnesota has a tough hill to climb as they look to replace 2 offensive lineman and recently got the news that veteran quarterback Zack Annexstad is out indefinitely after suffering a non-contact injury in his leg. Minnesota will likely ask their veteran stable of running backs to carry the load for the offense this year, which should play into Iowa's hands, particularly in November, when the defense is often playing its best ball. Minnesota will be solid at linebacker, but will be looking to add to their pass rush from a year ago.

Minnesota is a hard team to project. They have a number of players that appear to be solid on their own, but they just can't seem to put it all together. I think Iowa can take advantage of that. Iowa's defense should be stifling by this point in the season, and that could be magnified if Minnesota has not found an answer at quarterback. I don't expect a blowout, but I expect Kinnick to be rocking and Iowa to win comfortably.

Outcome: Iowa Wins Comfortably

Record to Date: 8-2 (5-2)

TBD November 23 - vs. Illinois

The Fighting Illinis return many of the starters from a season that saw them go 4-8, but I'm not sure if that's a good thing. The offense was solid at times a year ago, but couldn't find any consistency. The quarterback position seems to be in flux with the departure of A.J. Bush from a year ago, but the future seems to be bright as the Illini welcome 5-star quarterback Isaiah Williams to Champaign. I think Williams is likely to be the starter by this point in the season, and could give Iowa some problems if the weather is good. Williams is an elite runner from the quarterback position and a solid passer. Illinois also returns 10 starters from a defense that struggled to stop the run and was really the Achilles heel of this team a year ago.

I don't really think this game is the home run, slam dunk win that many Iowa fans think it will be. I don't think this Illinois team will be the same team that Iowa completely dismantled a year ago in Champaign-Urbana. However, I don't think Illinois is there yet. I think they hang around with the Hawks, maybe even keeping it close through the first half, but fade during the latter part of the game and Iowa puts it away early in the 2nd half.

Outcome: Iowa wins Comfortably

Record to Date: 9-2 (6-2)

1:30 P.M. November 29 - @ Nebraska

Oh Nebraska, what is there to say about the Cornhuskers? Apparently a lot, as the Scott Frost and Nebraska hype train is already screaming down the tracks. Unfortunately for Iowa, I think some of that hype is justified. Adrian Martinez is going to be a problem for year to come. Scott Frost has done a nice job of getting talent to Lincoln and has assembled a pretty solid core group of starters that should compete with most anyone in the Big Ten. However, this team is extremely young and many of the problems that they had last year are difficult to fix for young teams. Costly turnovers and untimely penalties helped the Huskers get off to an abysmal 0-6 start in 2018.

Scott Frost will have some challenges as he heads into his second at the helm of the Huskers. At the top of that list will be replacing starting running back Devine Ozigbo and finding a workhorse in the backfield to supplement and lighten the load of young Adrian Martinez. Nebraska will also be looking to get more consistent production from their defensive line, who disappeared at times last year, as well as help at the safety position.

The hype for Nebraska is real, and somewhat warranted. Their starters are talented and could be problematic in the Big Ten for years to come, but they haven't built the talented depth behind the starters. I think Iowa is the deeper team in this matchup and should be able to impose their will on a younger, less experienced Nebraska team. I expect this game to be a tight one, potentially coming down to a late game stand by the Iowa defense, but I expect the Hawks to emerge victorious.

Outcome: Iowa Wins a Close Game

Record to Date: 10-2 (7-2)

I think Iowa to finishes the season at 10-2, which should put them solidly in contention for the Big Ten West and a trip to Indianapolis in December. I do think its worth noting, this year has one of the widest variances in possible outcomes of any of the Iowa teams I can remember. This team could easily go 12-0 and I don't think I would be surprised. At the same time, if the ball doesn't bounce their way, they have a real chance to finish with 6 or 7 wins. Iowa State and Wisconsin are my biggest concerns when it comes to games that I projected wins.

I hope you enjoyed this game-by-game preview for the 2019 Iowa Football Season. We are less than two weeks from the rafters of Kinnick ringing with Back in Black and 70,000 of our closest friends waving to those youngsters across the street. The 2019 Hawkeyes should be one of the better editions of the Kirk Ferentz Era, and I look forward to the twist and turns of an unforgettable season. If you enjoyed this preview, share it with a friend or share it on social media.

As always, On Iowa! and Go Hawks!

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About Travis

A lifelong Hawkeye fan and a 2017 graduate of the University of Iowa in Civil Engineering, Travis now calls Des Moines, Iowa home and continues to passionately follow University of Iowa athletics

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