Iowa Football: Hawkeyes Wire game-by-game staff predictions for 2023

The long, cold, harsh winter of no college football has finally ended and Week 1 is upon all of us. It is time to rejoice. There is hope for every team still and a full season ahead of rollercoaster ups and downs to endure.

But, if it was easy, would it really be that much fun? The unknown and drama is what makes it fun. The 2023 Iowa Hawkeyes college football season is fully stocked with the unknown and drama. Iowa’s unknown that everyone is waiting to get answered is how the new look offense is going to fair in 2023 with Cade McNamara at the helm and a full stable of pass catchers.

The drama, fun or not, can be tied to the offense. There is certain to be drama around Brian Ferentz’s job and his target of 25 points per game. It will rear its head at some point this season. Hawkeyes fans just have to hope it isn’t in a crucial moment.

Nonetheless, those questions are about to start getting answered. And with that, here are the 2023 game-by-game staff predictions from myself, Riley Donald, and fellow Hawkeyes Wire staff members, Josh Helmer and Jacob Keppen.

Week 1: Utah State at Iowa

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Riley’s prediction: Iowa 27, Utah State 7

Iowa’s offense is slow to start in this one due to the immense pressure on them to perform. They settle in and McNamara throws two touchdowns to start off his Iowa career. The Hawkeyes win without too much stress.

Record: 1-0

Josh’s prediction: Iowa 34, Utah State 10

A competent, dare I say explosive offense is back in Iowa City. McNamara demonstrates why he led Michigan to a Big Ten title in 2021 and how he’s going to upgrade this offense. Like Kids’ Day at Kinnick, big plays to Diante Vines and Seth Anderson ignite the Kinnick Stadium crowd en route to a comfortable season-opening triumph. With several new faces, the Hawkeye defense looks like the Hawkeye defense.

Record: 1-0

Jacob’s prediction: Iowa 20, Utah State 7

I’m going to assume Cade McNamara probably misses this one with his ongoing injury. It won’t be pretty, but Kaleb Johnson will add a touchdown and look good in the win.

Record: 1-0

Week 2: Iowa at Iowa State

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Riley’s prediction: Iowa 20, Iowa State 10

Iowa State could be in a rough way without their starting quarterback and running back. That said, this game never usually turns into a blowout, especially going on the road. Iowa pulls away late after the Cyclones stay close into the second half. Iowa’s defense gets a touchdown in this one.

Record: 2-0

Josh’s prediction: Iowa 27, Iowa State 13

Lost in the Hawkeye headlines was the fact that Iowa State had a lot in common with Iowa in 2022. The offense stunk and the defense was really good. The Cyclones snapped their six-game losing streak in the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series in an ugly 10-7 victory from Kinnick Stadium last season.

With Hunter Dekkers and Jirehl Brock removed from the equation, I could see the scenario where this game gets even more lopsided than this. But, given that it’s on the road and it’s a rivalry game, I’ll bank on an early inspired effort from the Cyclones before the better team pulls away.

Record: 2-0

Jacob’s prediction: Iowa 13, Iowa State 9

This one could be an absolutely messy one, with both schools apparently the only ones to have done anything wrong in regards to gambling. Iowa edges their rivals out in a pretty bad game to watch.

Record: 2-0

Week 3: Western Michigan at Iowa

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Riley’s prediction: Iowa 33, Western Michigan 10

Iowa doesn’t get caught up here. This one is in Kinnick and the Hawkeyes work out the kinks ahead of a monster matchup next week. A bit like the Nevada game last year, Iowa relies on size, speed, and talent.

Record: 3-0

Josh’s prediction: Iowa 38, Western Michigan 7

To put this Western Michigan team into perspective, they lost to Michigan State last year 35-13 in East Lansing. The Hawkeyes fire on all cylinders as Kaleb Johnson leads a big day on the ground and Iowa’s defense smothers the Broncos.

Record: 3-0

Jacob’s prediction: Iowa 27, Western Michigan 10

Hopefully Cade McNamara is either back or close to back for the Hawkeyes with Penn State looming. This won’t be a completely one-sided affair but one team is clearly better here.

Record: 3-0

Week 4: Iowa at Penn State

Syndication: HawkCentral
Syndication: HawkCentral

Riley’s prediction: Penn State 23, Iowa 13

Penn State is a tough enough matchup, let alone a “White Out” night game at Happy Valley. This is a defensive struggle that Iowa keeps close but falls short in.

Record: 3-1

Josh’s prediction: Iowa 24, Penn State 20

In primetime on CBS, Iowa shows the nation that it’s a legitimate threat in the conference race. McNamara makes enough key throws along the way to tight end Luke Lachey and others to help the Hawkeyes escape Happy Valley with a statement win. Defensively, it’s a pair of Drew Allar mistakes to Cooper DeJean and Xavier Nwankpa that tilt the scales Iowa’s direction.

Record: 4-0

Jacob’s prediction: Penn State 20, Iowa 13

This will be some pure Big Ten football. Two teams with good defenses just duking it out. I think there will be some big “welcome to the Big Ten” moments for Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar, but they ultimately get the job done at home.

Record: 3-1

Week 5: Michigan State at Iowa

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Riley’s prediction: Iowa 21, Michigan State 14

Michigan State could be in for another rough year. They seem to have regressed a bit and Iowa gets back on track with a very “Big Ten” feeling win. They play defense and grind this one out at home. Kaleb Johnson runs hard in this one and proves that Iowa can lean on him.

Record: 4-1

Josh’s prediction: Iowa 27, Michigan State 17

Coming off the big road win, Iowa sputters offensively to start and surrenders an early scoring drive to Michigan State starting quarterback Noah Kim. The Hawkeyes buckle down, lean on the run game and pull away to improve to 2-0 in Big Ten play.

Record: 5-0

Jacob’s prediction: Iowa 21, Michigan State 14

I think Riley pretty much broke this game down to a T.

Record: 4-1

Week 6: Purdue at Iowa

Noe Padilla/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK
Noe Padilla/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Riley’s prediction: Iowa 28, Purdue 13

Purdue is going to be better on defense, but their offense likely sees a regression. That isn’t a recipe for success against Iowa’s defense. Purdue struggles to get anything going against Iowa’s defense. I sense one pick-six in this matchup for the Hawkeyes.

Record: 5-1

Josh’s prediction: Iowa 34, Purdue 20

Iowa avoids the look-ahead factor and takes care of business in Iowa City. College GameDay readies for Madison, Wis.

Record: 6-0

Jacob’s prediction: Iowa 21, Purdue 17

Another close game but Purdue’s defense will give up a late touchdown in the loss.

Record: 5-1

Week 7: Iowa at Wisconsin

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Riley’s prediction: Wisconsin 23, Iowa 20

Wisconsin is Iowa’s biggest hurdle for the Big Ten West. Unfortunately, this game is at Camp Randall, an always hard place to play. This thing comes down to the final possession. Iowa falls just short but all hope is not lost.

Record: 5-2

Josh’s prediction: Wisconsin 27, Iowa 24

In a battle of unbeaten, top-10 squads, Wisconsin’s Tanner Mordecai leads a late go-ahead, scoring drive that ends with Chimere Dike’s second touchdown reception to send Camp Randall into a frenzy.

Record: 6-1

Jacob’s prediction: Wisconsin 26, Iowa 20

I agree with Riley’s projection here. Wisconsin is always a tough team to play, Camp Randall one of the toughest places to play. They are the Hawkeyes’ top competition in the West and they get it done.

Record: 5-2

Week 8: Minnesota at Iowa

(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

Riley’s prediction: Iowa 24, Minnesota 14

Minnesota is tasked with one of the most daunting schedules in the Big Ten this year. A road trip to Iowa included. Iowa shut down their offense last year and I suspect the same this season in a bounce-back game for the Hawkeyes.

Record: 6-2

Josh’s prediction: Iowa 27, Minnesota 20

Minnesota missed its best chance last season to snap what is now an eight-game losing streak to the Hawkeyes. The Gophers have lost 10 of 11 versus Iowa, but, hey, who’s counting? P.J. Fleck and Minnesota give Iowa everything it wants, but a late Athan Kaliakmanis interception finds its way into Quinn Schulte’s arms to preserve a key bounce back triumph.

Record: 7-1

Jacob’s prediction: Minnesota 20, Iowa 17

I know, P.J Fleck doesn’t beat Iowa. Exactly. Just like Nebraska finally getting the better of the Hawks, the loss is bound to happen. This is a good pick for a frustrating conference loss, especially if the Minnesota offense does look better with new starting quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis.

Record: 5-3

Week 9: BYE

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa gets a late-season bye, which could prove to be very beneficial down the home stretch. Should the Hawkeyes be in contention for the Big Ten West, don’t forget how crucial this timing could prove to be.

Week 10: Iowa vs. Northwestern (at Wrigley Field)

Syndication: HawkCentral
Syndication: HawkCentral

Riley’s prediction: Iowa 38, Northwestern 7

This one gets ugly. Out of the bye, Iowa is rested and will play in front of a Chicago crowd that is likely going to feel like a home game for the Hawkeyes. Cade McNamara has his biggest game of the year. Northwestern is reeling and the Hawkeyes don’t blink.

Record: 7-2

Josh’s prediction: Iowa 42, Northwestern 10

It’s back-to-back bye weeks for Iowa. McNamara hits Ohio State transfer wide receiver Kaleb Brown for a pair of touchdowns and the offense cruises to one of its best outings of the entire season.

Record: 8-1

Jacob’s prediction: Iowa 31, Northwestern 7

Northwestern is going to be very bad this year. They were already very bad last year, but I think by midseason their spirit will be completely broken.

Record: 6-3

Week 11: Rutgers at Iowa

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Riley’s prediction: Iowa 30, Rutgers 10

Iowa keeps things going with a mini-offensive surge two weeks in a row. Rutgers is in the gauntlet of the Big Ten East and a road trip to Kinnick isn’t any easier. Iowa is just a better team and shows it.

Record: 8-2

Josh’s prediction: Iowa 34, Rutgers 13

Gavin Wimsatt has a rough day inside Kinnick. Meanwhile, McNamara and the offense piece together another nice offensive performance post-bye week.

Record: 9-1

Jacob’s prediction: Iowa 100, Rutgers 0

Come on now… it’s Rutgers.

Record: 7-3

Week 12: Illinois at Iowa

Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Riley’s prediction: Iowa 17, Illinois 14

This game is going to be defensive, hard-hitting, and old-school Big Ten football. Illinois slows down Iowa’s offense but they score just enough. This is a nailbiter that Iowa gets revenge on for 2022’s loss.

Record: 9-2

Josh’s prediction: Iowa 30, Illinois 27

In what everyone expects to be a lower-scoring affair, the two offenses instead go make plays. One of these games has to get a little weird, right? I like the Luke Altmyer pickup to pair with one of the Big Ten’s top wide receivers in Isaiah Williams. But, Iowa finds a way to escape the upset special at home.

Record: 10-1

Jacob’s prediction: Iowa 14, Illinois 10

Illinois lost a lot of talent on the defense, but head coach Bret Bielema is just like Phil Parker. He’s great at replenishing with new waves of athletes bought into his philosophy. This one’s going to be annoyingly close, and probably not pretty.

Record: 8-3

Week 13: Iowa at Nebraska

Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK
Bryon Houlgrave/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

Riley’s prediction: Iowa 23, Nebraska 17

In another revenge game, Iowa goes to Nebraska and closes out the regular season on a four-game win streak. This one is massive for the Hawkeyes with the Big Ten West hanging in the balance and they handle their business.

Record: 10-2

Josh’s prediction: Iowa 30, Nebraska 27 (OT)

With its West hopes, league title hopes and College Football Playoff hopes still intact but no longer in control-your-own-destiny mode, Iowa heads to Lincoln, Neb., to face an up-and-down Nebraska team. Elsewhere, Wisconsin is also a one-loss squad with one final road trip remaining.

Cue up the dramatics. McNamara engineers a game-tying drive in the final minutes to send the game into overtime where Drew Stevens boots through the game-winning field goal after a Husker miss. What a Black Friday.

After Iowa takes care of its business, Minnesota delivers the Hawkeyes an early Christmas present by spoiling the Badgers’ season in an upset that sends Iowa to Indy.

Record: 11-1

Jacob’s prediction: Iowa 27, Nebraska 21

Nebraska’s such a weird team to try and pin down. I don’t think Matt Rhule’s first season here will be nearly as bad as say his debuts at Temple or Baylor. He isn’t inheriting the same level of mess. That being said, it’s not like he’s taking over a great team either. I think this is Iowa’s biggest coin flip of the year, and because I don’t care about being called a homer, I’m giving this one to the Hawks.

Record: 9-3

Final record predictions

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Riley’s record prediction: 10-2

Iowa gets to double-digit wins once again. The Hawkeyes get some help from fellow Big Ten West members and make their return trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship.

Josh’s record prediction: 11-1

The stars align from Iowa’s transfer portal makeover and the Hawkeyes deliver a storybook regular season. A valiant Big Ten championship game effort versus Michigan falls just short, but the consolation prize is a trip to the Capital One Orange Bowl versus Clemson.

Jacob’s record prediction: 9-3

Iowa finishes just one win away from double-digits, but it’s a hard-fought nine victories. If you look at every scoreline, minus the Rutgers game, of course, they are almost all coin flips. That’s how I see this team. They are going to be in some close contests, some dog fights. They can beat anyone on this schedule, but they could also realistically drop some of these close ones as well.

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire