Here’s my look at Iowa’s remaining six football games from the view of a Confidence Points rating…the higher the percentage the more likely I feel a win is. These are just my takes which will not likely earn you any greenbacks in Vegas, so take them for what they are:
at PURDUE 60 PERCENT: The Boilermakers are bad…really bad. They are the worst team in the Big Ten and they are being outscored and dominated at an alarming clip. The Boilermakers got rid of Danny Hope one year ago and are hoping for some signs of…hope…before this year ends. I…hope…that is not against Iowa and Jake Rudock already has two road wins under his belt in hostile locations. Purdue will not be a hostile location.
MICHIGAN 50 PERCENT: Based on what I have seen from that team thus far and the challenges they have, I think it’s a coin flip game in Iowa City. QB Devin Gardner is a turnover machine and they just have a softness to them. The defense has taken a step back since last year and Brady Hoke is still one of those guys who is easy to dislike. He came into the league saying ‘This is MICHIGAN’, reviving that smug arrogance the rest of us grew to hate. In year three, I have to ask; THIS is Michigan? The Wolverines are now where near where I thought they would be this year and the way things are going, 2014 is going to be a year of reckoning for the Hoke era.
NORTHWESTERN 45 PERCENT: A few weeks back I would have had this down in the 30’s but the Cats were thoroughly dominated by Wisconsin this past weekend and the Badgers may have shown the rest of the league how to play these Cats. Michigan State can play that way against them as can Iowa and Nebraska. Minnesota might be able to do that as well. Pound the rock at them on the ground and bring aggressive stunts and blitzes on defense to keep their dink and dunk offense from getting into rhythm. They are also banged up right now and will be in Kinnick in 12 days.
WISCONSIN 40 PERCENT: Before the year began I had Iowa beating the Badgers and losing to Northwestern as I felt better about the Hawkeyes stylistic matchup with Wisconsin. I also wondered how things would look after the coaching change. So far, so good for these Badgers. They had Ohio State on the ropes a few weeks back and probably should have won at Arizona State; they were certainly the Sun Devil’s equals. They don’t have the defense that Michigan State does and I think this game will come down to a field goal but I’d give the edge to the Badgers right now.
at NEBRASKA 25 PERCENT: These Huskers aren’t great. In fact, none of the Husker teams during their time in the Big Ten have been great. They’ve been OK and good enough against Iowa and this year’s team is the same. They are better than the Hawkeyes and the environment in Memorial Stadium will be tough to overcome. Perhaps Iowa will find its offensive mojo by then and their best chance would be for bad weather and the game come down to a toughness contest; I don’t think they Huskers are long in that department. Even then, they have more playmakers and we saw that game last year, 13-7 in Kinnick. It’s frustrating that Iowa has had three marginal to bad teams the past three years in this series because the Huskers aren’t as good as their fans want to think they are. Then again, that’s something we could say about them every year.
at OHIO STATE FIVE PERCENT: I’m not looking forward to this game at all. Ohio State attempts more big passing plays downfield than any other team in the league and this is where Iowa has not been god this year. I think they can hang against Ohio State’s running game and barring poor tackling should keep them to under 150 yards on the ground. But I fear bombs away from Braxton Miller and even their average receiving corps may get behind Iowa’s defense often. If this game were played 100 times, Iowa would maybe win it just five times and even then it would be because of some flukes.
I picked Iowa 6-6 before the year but had them 5-1 at the break with their only loss against Iowa State. I had Iowa splitting with Northwestern and Wisconsin but then losing the rest, including at Purdue. That game is far more winnable than I thought it was going to be and Rudock’s poise to this point gives me more confidence now. If Iowa is going to get to 7-5 I see it as a combination of beating Northwestern, Purdue and Michigan. 8-4 is still out there, with those three games needing to be wins along with the Wisconsin game. That said, I think the chances of that happening are very low.
I’d say the most likely record I see is 5-7, with 6-6 after that and then I’d go 4-8 before I’d pick 7-5. The good news is after the Ohio State game, Iowa’s next four games are winnable contests.