Howe: Game-By-Game Predictions for Iowa Football ’20

September 23, 2020

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Let’s all proceed like everything is normal. Sound good? Good.

We all know better in 2020, however. The world is turning upside down with the COVID-19 pandemic. Expect the unexpected.

That unpredictability makes projecting outcomes in sports like throwing darts while wearing a blindfold. That’s certainly the case with the on-again Big Ten Football season that begins the weekend of Oct. 24.

Some student-athletes who opted out are trying to opt back in. The coronavirus continues swirling around. The conference’s protocols are very stringent and interruptions seem likely. The picture is clearly cloudy.

Be that as it may, we’re obligated to predict how Iowa Football will fare this fall. And as mentioned in the opening paragraph, we’ll proceed assuming normal knowing that it won’t be.

So, without further ado, here we go:

GAME 1

At Purdue, Oct. 24

Early Outlook: The moment of truth arrives. We’ll receive our first look at what we have here. How much will home field be worth? Will super wideout and return man Rondale Moore have opted back in for the Boilermakers? Has the coronavirus compromised either team? How crisp will be the play with limited preparation time? Can Purdue coach Jeff Brohm continue finding ways to expose the Hawkeye defense? Stay tuned for the answers.

PREDICTION: IOWA 27, Purdue 24

GAME 2

Northwestern, Oct. 31

Early Outlook: Happy Halloween! A Northwestern program that created nightmares for the Hawkeyes through the years presents a scary matchup. The Wildcats feature an experienced quarterback in Indiana grad transfer Peyton Ramsey, shoring up a position that experienced disastrous results in 2019. Coach Pat Fitzgerald usually produces a stingy defense and a disciplined outfit on both sides of the ball. Linebacker Paddy Fisher is one of the best in the Big Ten.

PREDICTION: IOWA 17, Northwestern 13

GAME 3

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Michigan State, Nov. 7

Early Outlook: Of Iowa’s first three games, I feel most confident about it winning this one. The Spartans are led by a first-year head coach in Mel Tucker and are breaking in a new starting quarterback, quite possibly West Des Moines Valley graduate Rocky Lombardi. MSU received good news when disruptive defensive end Jacub Panasiuk opted back in for the season last week. The visitors will rely heavily on limiting opponent scoring with a shaky offense of their own.

PREDICTION: IOWA 24, Michigan State 10

GAME 4

At Minnesota, Nov. 14

Early Outlook: The Hawkeyes begin a tough two-week stretch that could very well define their season. If the Golden Gophers knock off visiting Michigan in the opener, they likely come into this game at 3-0 in what could be a battle of unbeaten West Division rivals. Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck would love nothing more than to exact revenge on Iowa after it knocked off his unbeaten Top 10 team last November. Veteran quarterback Tanner Morgan gives him a shot.

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PREDICTION: Minnesota 24, IOWA 23

GAME 5

At Penn State, Nov. 21

Early Outlook: The Nittany Lions have won six in a row in this series but the last three games have been decided by an average of 4.3 points. Iowa benefits here by not having 100,000 fans screaming in its face for three hours, which should neutralize PSU’s home-field advantage. Iowa might also miss all-world linebacker Micah Parsons, who still was an opt-out this week. The Lions boast plenty of offensive firepower in quarterback Sean Clifford, receiver Jahan Dotson, tight end Pat Freiermuth and running back Journey Brown.

PREDICTION: Penn State 28, IOWA 24

GAME 6

Nebraska, Nov. 28

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Early Outlook: The Hawkeyes have captured five in a row against Nebraska but the last two meetings each have been decided by a late field goal. The Huskers feature a dangerous threats at quarterback in Adrian Martinez and Rondale Moore light in the versatile Wan’Dale Robinson. The offensive line in Lincoln is improving and that could help talented running back Dedrick Mills establish himself. The Huskers’ fate this season comes down being better on defense. Don’t be surprised if this game gets moved to its traditional Black Friday slot.

PREDICTION: IOWA 30, Nebraska 24

GAME 7

At Illinois, Dec. 5

Early Outlook: Illinois played competitively with the Hawkeyes last season, falling 19-10, after being blown out by an average of 40 points in their previous three meetings. Iowa has won six in a row and 11 of 12 in this series. The Illini features an experienced quarterback in Brandon Peters and one of the league’s top pass-catching threats in Josh Imatorbhebhe. The offensive line might be one of the more underrated units in the league heading into ’20. The defense performed better with head coach Lovie Smith taking over last fall and another step forward on that side of the ball could make Illinois dangerous.

PREDICTION: IOWA 23, Illinois 17

GAME 8

Wisconsin, Dec. 12

Early Outlook: Wisconsin is the 800-pound gorilla riding on the Hawkeyes’ back. The Badgers own a four-game win streak in the series and have claimed seven of the last eight meetings. The road to the West Division title goes through Madison and Iowa knows that. While the rival to the north consistently trots out high-level talent, its coaches have held a distinct edge against the Hawkeye staff during the last decade. Iowa needs a better plan against the Badgers, who make it look lost and discombobulated far too often. If these teams reach their potential through the first seven weeks, a championship could very well be on the line in this one.

PREDICTION: Wisconsin 17, IOWA 16

Iowa and the rest of the Big Ten programs expect to play a ninth game. The conference is looking to match up teams by how they finished in their respective divisions. If the Hawkeyes end up at 5-3 as I have predicted, it would likely have them in third place, which could mean a matchup with Michigan in Week 9.

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