First games are typically tougher to peg than games played later in a season. There isn’t any data to point to other than returning starters and the older I get the less value I place in that statistics, thanks to statisticians like Dave Bartoo of CFMatrix.
For Iowa, using anything from last year as a barometer for this year is a bit depressing.
Here are some bits of good news for Iowa; younger players are now a year older. Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis is going to be a better Iowa coordinator this year, according to Kirk Ferentz. The Hawks are four or five deep at tight end and plan to use a lot of them out of different locations on the offense. The offensive line seems to be fairly deep, even if a bit unproven between the tackles…those tackles might be the best tandem in the Big Ten…the Iowa defense, which allowed less than 23 points per game last year, will be better this year especially up front…Iowa seems to have great depth at runni…..wait…I am not going there.
Let me circle back to that defensive stat…22.92 points per game allowed last year by the Iowa defense. That’s a winning number. That’s good enough to be a heck of a lot better than 4-8, but of course the offense was the worst in the Kirk Ferentz era and I still don’t blame James Vandenberg for that.
Since we don’t have any data from this season to hang our hat on, let me go back to last year one last time and make some ‘guarantees’ for you before tossing out a prediction for this year’s Iowa-NIU game. I guarantee Iowa will be better in the following statistical category rankings this year than their total (list) from last year:
-Iowa ranked 101st in the nation last year with 123 rushing yards per game
-Iowa ranked 114th in the nation in total offense last year
-Iowa ranked 111th in the nation in scoring offense, scoring just over 19 per game
-On top of a horrible offense, Iowa was 104th in net punting
-Iowa ranked 112th in passing efficiency
-Iowa ranked 113th in sacks
-Iowa ranked 105th in tackles for loss
I am not going to say by how much Iowa eclipses these marks, but they will rank better in every single one of them this year than they did last year, or your money will be returned to you.
One number I will not guarantee is 17; that’s the point total for NIU in last year’s season opener against Iowa. It was their lowest point total of the regular season by 13, as they never scored less than 30 the rest of 2012.
We don’t exactly know what to expect from this Iowa offense. We think they’ll be no-huddle all the time, but how much will they mix up tempo? Will they speed it up or will it be mostly check with me? Who cares about that, will the offense have a clue this year? Will the defense provide a pass rush this year? Will special teams turn into a weapon again this year and not something that is just mostly cringe-worthy?
We just don’t know..which makes these season openers all the more exciting.
Having written all of this, you know that the following is a pure guess, or as educated a guess as I could muster up (yeah, I went there). Iowa 24, Northern Illinois 20.