The last couple seasons have not been up to standard for the Iowa Hawkeyes, and not at the level they were accustomed to with head coach Kirk Ferentz in charge. He set the bar high by winning Big Ten championships in 2002 and 2004, and then also having a 10-win season in 2003 and an 11-win season in 2009. Those seasons included two Orange Bowl appearances, winning the one in 2009.
The Hawkeyes have since struggled, including a 4-8 regular season in 2012, and a 7-6 campaign last year that resulted in a disappointing loss to Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
That wide range of results is an embodiment of this season where five wins is possible, as is nine. The cause of this is the various levels of performance by Iowa under Ferentz, but also an extremely weak schedule void of Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State. The toughest games on the schedule will be contests against Nebraska in Lincoln and Wisconsin in Madison, and even then an argument could be made that the Hawkeyes could walk away with a victory in one of those matchups.
So what would a successful season look like for the Hawkeyes?
The video above depics my thoughts in short, but wins against Illinois State and Iowa State are critical. The season can't be considered a positive one for Iowa without beating the FCS opponent on the schedule and defeating their archrival Cyclones, a team they have fallen to in three of the last four years.
The Hawkeyes will assuredly be underdogs against Wisconsin and Nebraska, and likely Pittsburgh. The game against Pat Narduzzi and the Panthers is at home so some will be surprised by that being considered a difficult tilt for Iowa, but Pittsburgh has more talent than many are aware of, including wideout Tyler Boyd who could be an all-american.
There's two games on the schedule that I find the most interesting. The showdown against Minnestoa inside Kinnick Stadium at night will likely have a lot on the line. The Gophers had a strong season a year ago, and are a squad the Hawkeyes need to defeat to be at the top of the second tier behind the Huskers and Badgers. The other is the game later on in the year in Bloomington against Indiana. That's a stadium that can often lull opponents to sleep, and they return an impressive quarterback in Nate Sudfeld, and their offense is always potent under Kevin Wilson's direction. That would be the trap game on the slate for Kirk Ferentz's group.