I saw your blog on the Big 10 on Deuce of Davenport, would be interested to get your read on Iowa. They played very well last season with several very close losses. Could they surprise this season? Decent QB, nice receiving corps and solid O-line. Great experience at LB and secondary. Tough schedule getting OSU, PSU and Wisconsin on the road but I am thinking they may be a nice ATS team this season. Any thoughts appreciated…

A Fan

The Iowa Hawkeyes had a successful and promising 2008 campaign and ended the season thumping South Carolina in the Outback Bowl 31-10. Fans should expect more of the same in 2009 as Kirk Ferentz is returning 14 starters (6 on offense and 8 on defense) led by seasoned QB Ricky Stanzi. The defense will be solid with a few exceptions at the line. There will be some concern about plugging up the middle. However, the linebackers are arguably the best in the conference next to Penn State’s and will wreak havoc for opposing offenses. Their secondary has 3 returning starters lead by Amari Spievey. The defensive line will have trouble against solid running teams, but will be able to prevent the deep ball. Karl Klug and Michael Daniels will have to step it up. The offense will miss Shonn Greene, but Jewel Hampton proved as a true freshman that he can run with the best of them. The senior line will provide huge holes for this 5’9 running back to get to the second level. I love Tony Moeaki and he has the potential to be one of the top TEs, but he is injury prone-so let’s hope he stays healthy. What worries me about Iowa is their QB situation. There is absolutely no depth at this position. If Stanzi goes down, this team will be toast. Also, there is still no true kick returner on special teams. Iowa must find one quick.

The irony of this team is they will be better than they were last year; however, this year’s schedule is much more difficult. Thus, The Matador is foreseeing a 9-3 regular season. They should win their first two games easily against Northern Iowa and Iowa State. Arizona will be a bit of a challenge, but the Pac 10 doesn’t fare well when they leave the comfort of their region (i.e., Oregon State getting torched by PSU in Happy Valley; Cal getting burned by Maryland in College Park; and, Stanford losing at Notre Dame). Iowa will have a tough time against PSU on the road as this is a revenge match for the Nittany Lions. The Lions will want to run this score up and Royster and Green will certainly expose Iowa’s weak line. Iowa will then get back to its winning streak against Arkansas State and Michigan. Iowa should beat Wisconsin; the Hawkeyes play terrible on the road, but should beat this weaker team. Unfortunately, Iowa’s next hurdle will be Michigan State — another road game. The Hawkeyes have had trouble at Spartan stadium this past decade. They cannot seem to win there. Iowa will quickly bounce back and beat Indiana and should squeak by Northwestern. Iowa will then visit the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe. Iowa has not played OSU in the past two seasons, but in the games played in ’05 and ’06, Iowa was crushed — outscored by a combined score of 69-23. Iowa will not fare well on this road test. Iowa will then conclude the season with a victory over Minnesota.

Now from a gambling perspective, Iowa will win at least 9 games this season (look for over/under at 8.0 and take the over). As for individual games, check back throughout the season. This is especially important because the entire offense rests on whether or not Stanzi stays healthy. I can tell you this much though, recently Iowa has not fared well ATS (2006; 2-10, 2007; 6-6, and 2008; 7-5). Additionally, Iowa has tremendous trouble winning on the road. They only beat one team in conference play last year on the road at Indiana.

Recap: Iowa wins 9 games.

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