Miller: Prediction Iowa's 2007 FB Season

You have seen me mention this before; in my opinion, the college football season starts on Tuesday. That's the first day of the Big Ten Kickoff luncheon. It's the day that the coaches take the podium and field questions from a gathering of media members from around the nation. In advance of this event, HN Publisher Jon Miller shares his preseason, game by game predictions in this item...

You have seen me mention this before; in my opinion, the college football season starts on Tuesday.


That's the first day of the Big Ten Kickoff luncheon.


It's the day that the coaches take the podium and field questions from a gathering of media members from around the nation.


It takes place at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago, and if you ever wanted to see a who's who of college football and commentators, the hotel lounge around 5pm on Tuesday night might be the best and biggest chance you will ever get to see so many people connected to college football all in one place.


Last year, I took a quick look around the lounge before getting in my car and driving back to Iowa, and within a 10 yard out pattern I saw Barry Alvarez, Kirk Ferentz, Kirk Herbstreit, several ESPN and ESPN plus studio hosts, Bret Bielema and several other coaches that I just can't recall right now.


You share elevators with the likes of Glen Mason and Ron Zook; not by choice, just by the sheer volume of people connected to the game that descend on that event each and every year.  I was disappointed when Zook didn't drop down and do 20 pushups between floor stops on the elevator; I would have thought him to be the Lowden Swayne type, never wasting a second


Like anything in life, some of the luster wears off after things become more familiar. 


Still, when you see Ferentz and Alvarez having a friendly chat as regular Joe's without being bombarded by autograph seekers, its fun to be a fly on the wall for a bit.  No eavesdropping of course, just observing.


The Big Ten preseason predictions come out this week as well.


So in advance of that, here is how I see the 2007 Iowa football season breaking out, game by game.  As we get closer to the season, we will throw out Rob Howe and Brian Finley's predictions as well.


Hey, I am not going to be the lone man on the edge of the cliff.


Iowa-Northern Illinois:  The dangerous Garrett Wolfe is no longer there (he was drafted by the Chicago Bears), but neither is QB Phil Horvath.  Neither are a lot of Huskies that were on last year's team.  In fact, as of their final spring practice, just three seniors were listed as starters on NIU's depth chart.  They have just 10 on the entire team as they ended the spring semester.

            The combined loss of Horvath and Wolfe will be a huge challenge for NIU this year.  They have challenged in the MAC for the last few years, but they will take a big step back this year.  I think that Iowa comes out swinging and the defense wreaks havoc.   Jake Christensen's first two college wins will be against the same team.

Final Score:  Iowa 38, Northern Illinois 13


Syracuse at Iowa:  Last year's goal line stand, simply known as ‘The Stand' was not only one of the most memorable series of plays in Iowa history, it's also the title of a book by Stephen King, one of the best pieces of non-fiction an American writer has ever penned.  Take that, Oprah. 

            This game isn't in the Carrier Dome, and Syracuse is going to get a taste of what a home crowd can do for the opponent, just as Iowa did last year back east.  There won't be any overtime session in this game, as it will be all Hawkeyes from the outset.

Final Score:  Iowa 30, Syracuse 10


Iowa at Iowa State:  Dan McCarney got his team up for the Iowa game unlike any other.  If he would have only gotten them half has high for their season finale's in 2004 and 2005, McCarney would still have his job at Iowa State.  But it's the 'Mean Gene' Chizik era.  I don't think he is mean, I just like using that old World Wrestling Federation reference.

            After witnessing Iowa's 2005 loss in Ames first hand, and living in the Des Moines metro area and dealing with Iowa State fans after that one, I vowed to not pick Iowa to win a game in Ames again, until after they have done it again.  McCarney made that place a snake pit for Iowa.  The Iowa State fans will still bring their anti-Iowa animosity with them, but will that match what takes place in the locker room leading up to and just before the game?

            If ISU can get anything resembling solid play from their offensive line this year, they are going to surprise some people.  If you remember, last year's ISU offense had Iowa on its heels in the first half.   Then inexplicably, they seemingly went away from the spread offense that helped them take an early and impressive lead.  I don't think we will see those same mistakes from the new ISU regime.  The matchup between the Iowa defensive front 7 and the ISU offensive line is the key to this game.  I want to see Iowa put pressure on the QB this year, something they didn't do much of last year. I think they will get that done with a healthy Ken Iwebema, Mitch King and company.        

Final Score: Iowa 21, Iowa State 20



Iowa at Wisconsin:  This one is going to be tough.  It has been tough in Madison since Barry Alvarez took over, and Bret Bielema has things going in the same direction.  10 starters return on the offensive side of the ball and the one guy that wasn't a starter last year, QB Donovan, started the Iowa game and beat the Hawkeyes.  Iowa's defenders are still having nightmares about super TE Travis Beckham, and his near 1,000 yards receiving from one year ago.  Not all of those yards came in the Iowa game, but it seemed like it.

            Iowa has to control the line of scrimmage as well as keep an eye on Beckham.  And in the Land of Cheese, I think that is going to be a tall task, especially under the lights and spotlight of a prime time ABC telecast.        

Final Score: Wisconsin 31, Iowa 14


Indiana at Iowa:   In his two games against Iowa, Indiana receiver James Hardy has caught 20 passes for 311 yards.  He is the man to watch in this game.  Kellen Lewis was a redshirt freshman quarterback last year, and Iowa didn't get any pressure on him.  Iwebema and King were severely hampered with injuries at that time, and Alex Kanellis was not 100 percent, but Lewis stood in the pocket and was 18-25 on the day.  That was one of the best performances I can remember an Iowa opposing QB having during Norm Parker's reign as Defensive Coordinator. 

            His defenses are set up to force teams to put together long and mistake free scoring drives.  For about the final two and a half quarters, that is what Lewis did.  Iowa will need to rattle his cage in this game at Kinnick, and put some pressure on him.  Thigpen is a big time home run threat out of the backfield as well as on kickoff returns.  That special teams area is one where Iowa needs some drastic improvement from one year ago.

Final Score:  Iowa 27, Indiana 21


Iowa at Penn State:  The first half of Iowa's schedule is pretty darn salty.  Just two home games in their first six contests, with the roadies being at Ames, Madison and Happy Valley.  Penn State won their bowl game against an SEC team last year, and that league was real good.  PSU's losses last year came to ranked teams that played in January bowls.  They were on the cusp of their second straight phenomenal season, yet they still had a great year.

            Their offense has a lot of weapons.   Former players will tell you that there are few stadiums that are as loud and formidable as the one nestled in the back country of State College, Pennsylvania.  Iowa has won its last three games at Penn State; two of them have been in overtime and then the 6 to 4 contest in 2004.  Kirk Ferentz has an impressive winning streak against Joe Paterno, but I think that one comes to an end. 

Final Score:  Penn State 31, Iowa 17


Illinois at Iowa:  'The Juice' has a big time arm as a quarterback.  It's just that he didn't complete even 40 percent of his passes last year as a true freshman.  Illini coach Ron Zook probably should have redshirted Williams, but Zook played so many true and redshirt freshmen last year, signaling a change in direction and thinking in the Land of Lincoln.  He will play a lot of true freshmen again this year, too.  So Illinois is still going to be a young team, and Iowa's trip to Champaign in 2008 should be a challenge. 

            But I don't expect that this year.  This year's Illinois team will be a bit like last year's team; if you don't watch out, the dog could bite you.  But if you take care of the little things, you will beat this Illini team.  I think Iowa does that at home, and Illinois does a good job of beating itself, too.

            Final Score:  Iowa 42, Illinois 17


Iowa at Purdue:  Every time that I have said that a Purdue team is ready to take the next step, they fall back.  Two years ago I picked them to win the Big Ten, as they avoided playing Michigan and Ohio State.  They laid an egg, in part due to Coach Joe Tiller's cutting some corners on the discipline front.  They have righted that ship now, and they are going to be an experienced ball club this year.  So here is the kiss of death for Purdue; I think they are going to take another step forward.

            Ross-Ade has not been kind to Iowa over the last 10 years, and even though they won their last game there, I think the road continues to be unkind for Iowa this year in the Big Ten.

            Final Score:  Purdue 31, Iowa 20


Michigan State at Iowa:  I am sure that I have written this before; Michigan State has top-four Big Ten talent year in and year out.  It's just that whoever coaches the club has a hard time getting them to play up to their abilities.  One coach that did, Nick Saban, left for LSU. 

            Getting this team at home this year is a good thing, because I am not sure just what kind of team they are going to field.  If they get some disciplined play, they could be a challenge. They have a very tough slate in advance of their game against Iowa.  Their dobbers could be down, and there are enough players on this team from recent MSU teams that know how to fold up the tent and go home after some mid to late season adversity.  Nobody does that better than Michigan State.

            Final Score:  Iowa 35, Michigan State 14


Iowa at Northwestern:  Northwestern beat Iowa about as badly as anyone did in 2006.  Though the final score read 21-7, it was much worse than that, statistically.  Sutton is back, QB C.J. Bacher is back and he tore Iowa apart last year.

            For me, this game is going to be a bit of a litmus test for Iowa, in the 'second half' of the Kirk Ferentz era.  Don't read into that line with regards to any timetable for Ferentz leaving Iowa.  What I am saying is that after last season, Ferentz admitted that there were some things that he and his staff needed to change, needed to get back to doing, things that made Iowa successful during the first part of the Ferentz era. 

            And how Iowa does against a Northwestern program they should always beat, will be a good indicator of how that process is going.  Iowa will be late into their season, Jake Christensen will be seasoned, and this is a game that Iowa has to win if it's the kind of program we all think it is.

            Final Score:  Iowa 42, Northwestern 24


Minnesota at Iowa:   The Gophers will have a new coach, anew QB and a Minnesota defense that still has holes in it might be too much for the Golden Gophers to overcome.  Especially after Iowa was embarrassed last year.  This is Part Two of the 'Ferentz Era II' revenge tour...I don't know if Kirk has been more embarrassed after a loss as he was last year at Minnesota.  Embarrassed might not be the right word, and it might not be fair for me to put words in his mouth to begin with.  But that loss didn't sit well with the good captain, and we saw the results in the Alamo Bowl.  I think the Hawkeyes, and their fans, whoop it up and bring the pig back home.  There's nothing like a run for some bacon on your home field.

            Final Score:  Iowa 51, Minnesota 17


Western Michigan at Iowa:  Western Michigan will bring balance and focus into this game.  There are no more games to worry about after this one.  No looking ahead.  Well, Western Michigan could be playing in the MAC title game, so that might not be totally true.  But for Iowa, trip to a Florida bowl could be on the line with this game.

            And this is the type of game that Ferentz will point to as a continuance of the mind set the team began the year with; stay focused, take nothing for granted and execute. 

            I think the Hawks win this one and get to 9-3.  If they don't get an invite to the Cap One or Outback Bowls, the Champps Bowl in Orlando is a possible destination, as it picks before the Alamo Bowl this year.

            Final Score:  Iowa 41, Western Michigan 13


Record:  9-3 (5-3 in the Big Ten, which I think will be a tie for 3rd or 4th)

Offensive Points Per Game:  Based on my score predictions, its 31.5

BCS Teams from the Big Ten:  Michigan and Wisconsin

Cap One Bowl:  Penn State

Outback Bowl:  Ohio State

Iowa's Bowl Destination:  Since they were in the Alamo last year, I'll say the Champps Bowl in Orlando. 

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