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As the reigning Big Ten West champion, any conversation about who will be in the mix from the West to get to Indianapolis has to include Iowa.
The Hawkeyes return a number of key players that helped Iowa start off 6-0 last season and then finish with four consecutive wins to end the 2021 regular season en route to a 10-win campaign and a trip to the Big Ten championship game.
Iowa brings back the nation’s leading tackler in linebacker Jack Campbell and he’s joined by a pair of talented linebackers in Seth Benson and Jestin Jacobs. Pro Football Focus just tabbed Campbell and Jacobs as two of its top-10 linebackers in their early 2023 NFL draft outlook.
On the back end of the defense, the Hawkeyes bring back the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year in cornerback Riley Moss. Jermari Harris was listed atop the spring depth chart opposite Moss, but look for Cooper DeJean and Terry Roberts to also make contributions at corner.
Iowa can feel comfortable about its options at safety, too. Kaevon Merriweather and Quinn Schulte were listed as the spring starters there with Sebastian Castro and Jaxon Rexroth the other two safeties listed on the Hawkeyes’ two-deep.
Up front defensively, Yahya Black, Joe Evans, Logan Lee, Lukas Van Ness, Noah Shannon and John Waggoner gives Iowa a group it’s excited about.
Flipping to the offensive side of the football, there’s optimism that the Hawkeyes’ offensive line will take a collective stride forward despite the loss of first-round 2022 NFL draft pick Tyler Linderbaum at center.
How the center position plays out will be one of the keys to watch there, but Iowa has guards Justin Britt and Connor Colby and tackles Nick DeJong, Jack Plumb and Mason Richman all returning with prior starting experience.
Iowa returns its top receptions and receiving yardage leader in tight end Sam LaPorta to go along with wide receivers Arland Bruce IV, Keagan Johnson, Nico Ragaini and Jackson Ritter.
The lion’s share of attention with Iowa will be on how the quarterback situation shakes out. If Spencer Petras remains the starter, what’s his ceiling in 2022? He’s been busy working to improve this offseason with quarterback trainer Tony Racioppi. Joe Labas and Alex Padilla will look to give him a run for his money at earning the starting gig throughout fall camp, but the wide belief is that it’s still Petras’ job to lose.
With all of that said, there’s some wide-ranging opinions on exactly how good Iowa will be in 2022. At least one writer is willing to serve up some game-by-game predictions for the Hawkeyes. 247Sports’ Nick Kosko took a crack at predicting results for Iowa’s 2022 season and he has the Hawkeyes finishing 8-4.
Take a look below at his score predictions and some of his thoughts.
South Dakota State, Sept. 3
Erin Bormett / Argus Leader / USA TODAY Network
Score prediction: Iowa wins, 42-17
Overall record: 1-0
The Hawkeyes will open the season with a bang. Granted, South Dakota State is not a world-beater in terms of Iowa’s opponents, but the Hawkeyes should be able to to get the offense rolling here. – Kosko, 247Sports.
Iowa should wind up winning this game comfortably and by multiple scores, but don’t sleep on South Dakota State surprising the Hawkeyes a bit early. Plus, it’s week one, and working out some rust is to be expected.
Iowa State, Sept. 10
Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK
Score prediction: Iowa wins, 27-20
Overall record: 2-0
It’ll be similar to last year’s game, not wildly high scoring. There’ll be no Breece Hall to defend this time around, so Iowa can breathe a little better once the Cyclones’ offense takes the field. – Kosko, 247Sports.
Iowa has dominated this series of late, winning each of the past six in the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series. That’s troublesome for Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell who just can’t seem to crack the Hawkeyes’ code.
With this being an early-season game inside Kinnick Stadium and the Cyclones breaking in a new quarterback, replacing Hall and replacing tight end Charlie Kolar, Iowa winning close is the safe bet.
Nevada, Sept. 17
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Score prediction: Iowa wins, 35-3
Overall record: 3-0
Let’s say Spencer Petras starts again at quarterback, and based on projections it looks that way for now. This will be one of the best, if not the best, games statistically for Petras. – Kosko, 247Sports.
Let’s hope Petras’ best game of the season, or at least the most memorable game of the season, doesn’t come against Nevada. Sure, make it one of Petras’ best statistical days, but there’s better competition down the line. So, save the best for last.
Kosko is right, though. It does set up for Iowa to win comfortably and cruise into Big Ten play feeling good about themselves. If this game took place a season ago with Nevada quarterback Carson Strong taking part in it, then it might be a completely different story.
at Rutgers, Sept. 24
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Score prediction: Iowa wins, 31-17
Overall record: 4-0 (1-0)
It was a close call the last time Iowa visited Piscataway in 2016, but it was a blowout in 2019 when Rutgers came to Kinnick Stadium. We’ll go with the former on this one. – Kosko, 247Sports.
Kosko likes this game to be close for a half. Really, any result that has Iowa leaving Piscataway 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the Big Ten is just fine.
Michigan, Oct. 1
Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
Score prediction: Michigan wins, 28-20
Overall record: 4-1 (1-1)
Going to Kinnick Stadium provides its own challenges. The score looks closer than the game should be. Iowa is definitely going to have its own struggles on offense throughout the year, at least in the passing game. Right there, the Wolverines should be able to exploit the Hawkeyes. It’s tempting to pick Kirk Ferentz’s crew at home, but we’re sticking with Jim Harbaugh and company here en route to another fantastic regular season. – Kosko, 247Sports.
There will obviously be added motivation here for the Hawkeyes after Michigan captured last season’s Big Ten championship over Iowa with a convincing 42-3 drubbing.
It should be one of the best home environments of the entire season for Iowa. If the Hawkeyes start quickly, this will be a completely different story from last year’s Big Ten championship game. Leaning Michigan in a close win, but can definitely see the scenario where Iowa opens the nation’s eyes with a tight home victory, too.
at Illinois, Oct. 8
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK
Score prediction: Iowa wins, 34-20
Overall record: 5-1 (2-1)
Kirk Ferentz’s squad has bigger aspirations, such as getting back to the Big Ten Championship Game. At this point, the Hawkeyes are on pace to win 10 games going into the bye week. – Kosko, 247Sports.
This game is sandwiched between a home revenge date versus Michigan and what could be a massive road tilt at Ohio State if the Hawkeyes beat the Wolverines at Kinnick.
Chase Brown is a talented running back for the Illini that topped 1,000 rushing yards last season. Will it be Syracuse transfer Tommy DeVito or Artur Sitkowski under center for Illinois? Either way, Iowa should take care of business on the road to set up a battle of ranked teams in Columbus, Ohio.
at Ohio State, Oct. 22
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Score prediction: Ohio State wins, 28-14
Overall record: 5-2 (2-2)
This is banking on the Iowa defense being stellar once again and holding arguably the best trio in college football to just 28 points. This game might be one of those where people think “upset alert,” but will ultimately get frustrated at the lack of offensive production from the Hawkeyes. – Kosko, 247Sports.
Easily the most difficult date on Iowa’s 2022 schedule. Ohio State is considered the preseason Big Ten favorite by most and a contender to capture the national championship.
Kosko is right. Simply put, this is a game Iowa can’t win without great quarterback play. If the Hawkeyes hold the Buckeyes to 28 points, then they’re going to have a legitimate chance to win at Ohio State for the first time since 1991.
Northwestern, Oct. 29
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
Score prediction: Iowa wins, 24-7
Overall record: 6-2 (3-2)
This seems like a game where linebacker Jack Campbell is going to go off for the Iowa defense. In fact, why don’t we make this the Campbell and Riley Moss game? – Kosko, 247Sports.
Making any game the Jack Campbell and Riley Moss game isn’t a bad bet. If Iowa has indeed sustained a pair of losses to Michigan and Ohio State, then Northwestern at Kinnick should provide a nice get-right opportunity ahead of a key date at the Purdue Boilermakers.
at Purdue, Nov. 5
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Score prediction: Iowa wins, 27-21
Overall record: 7-2 (4-2)
Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell is one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten and is due for a monster season. However, he’ll have some trouble against the Hawkeyes defense, and Ferentz’s squad is going to play ball control here and keep O’Connell from beating them. – Kosko, 247Sports.
Iowa found out all too well that O’Connell is one of the Big Ten’s best last season. Purdue handed the Hawkeyes their first loss of 2021 behind a pair of O’Connell touchdown passes and 375 passing yards.
Meanwhile, Petras was intercepted four times and sacked four times as he completed 17-of-32 passes for 195 yards. If there’s a date that Petras would have circled not named Michigan, then it’s this date at Purdue.
Wisconsin, Nov. 12
MARK HOFFMAN/MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL / USA TODAY NETWORK
Score prediction: Iowa wins, 20-17
Overall record: 8-2 (5-2)
So here’s the major Wisconsin slip-up. The Badgers have to have one clunker in here somewhere (in fact a lot of teams are due for a slip-up in college football). – Kosko, 247Sports.
A perfect time for the Badgers to slip up. Star running back Braelon Allen and Wisconsin handed the Hawkeyes a second straight loss last season as he rushed for 104 yards.
This game might boil down to which quarterback is better between Graham Mertz and Spencer Petras. The pair combined to complete just 20-of-41 passes for 197 yards in last season’s matchup. With what figures to be at stake in the West in this game, no Hawkeye fan will care what the stat lines look like if Iowa sends the Badgers packing with a defeat.
at Minnesota, Nov. 19
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK
Score prediction: Minnesota wins, 35-24
Overall record: 8-3 (5-3)
The offense will be too much for Petras and company to overcome as Tanner Morgan and Mohamed Ibrahim should fair well at home against the Hawkeyes. Of course a bowl game is already locked up for the Hawkeyes, but a return to the Big Ten Championship Game starts slipping away. – Kosko, 247Sports.
In his three career starts versus Iowa, Tanner Morgan has completed 55-of-99 passes for a 55.5% completion mark and been sacked 12 times. He’s thrown three touchdown passes and was intercepted twice in 2020. The Golden Gophers are also 0-3 in those games and haven’t scored more than 22 points in any of them.
Having Mohamed Ibrahim back healthy is obviously huge, but the series history doesn’t indicate that Morgan and Minnesota are putting up 35 points on Iowa.
Nebraska, Nov. 25
AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz
Score prediction: Nebraska wins, 24-21
Overall record: 8-4 (5-4)
Yes, we’re picking an upset here. The upset over the Hawkeyes on the road will be the defining game of the 2022 season for Scott Frost. There’s gotta be one in there somewhere, and why not the final regular-season game of the upcoming fall? – Kosko, 247Sports.
Nebraska is pretty much impossible to know a lot about entering 2022 outside of the fact that Scott Frost is on the hot seat and the Huskers lost eight one-score games in 2021. There’s so many transfers, including quarterback Casey Thompson from Texas that will be Nebraska’s likely starting quarterback.
Hey, Kosko might be right on the money. After coughing up the lead last season to drop a seventh straight to the Hawkeyes, I’m not picking Nebraska to beat Iowa until proven otherwise.
Follow Josh on Twitter: @JoshOnREF
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