B1G predictions, bowl projections and Iowa opponent capsules

Will Iowa win consecutive West Division titles?

Iowa Hawkeyes tight end George Kittle (46) catches a touchdown pass against Nebraska Cornhuskers safety Nate Gerry (25) in an NCAA football game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes tight end George Kittle (46) catches a touchdown pass against Nebraska Cornhuskers safety Nate Gerry (25) in an NCAA football game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — When predicting league standings and bowl match-ups, introductions are pretty much worthless.

You can write all you want about why you think this team will beat that one and blah, blah, blah. In the end, most people don’t want to read about reasons, they want to see the results.

But, I will say picking the Big Ten this year needs a little context. I can see a young and talented Ohio State team drop a game or two early, then gain steam to knock off Michigan State and Michigan to end the season. I think Michigan will have maybe the nation’s best defense, start 11-0 and then have their friends to the south knock them off. Michigan State will be tremendous — especially on defense again — but finally will experience losing as the hunted team, rather than winning it all as the hunter.

It’s almost impossible to pick Iowa to replicate its 12-0 regular season from last year, partly because the Hawkeyes had never done it before 2015 and mostly because going undefeated is so difficult. I think at least two losses are likely and if significant injuries take place, then count on a few more. But you can’t predict injuries until they happen, and I won’t in this case.

If Iowa stays healthy, I think the Hawkeyes win the West and then upset Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game. If that’s the case, then the two-loss Hawkeyes will head back to Pasadena and the Big Ten will go without a qualifier for the College Football Playoff. If Iowa only loses once and wins the Big Ten, then the playoff is a strong possibility.

This year could mark the first time two teams from the same league enter the College Football Playoff. If, say, an unbeaten Tennessee loses to a one-loss LSU in the SEC title game, there could be quite the discussion among the Volunteers, a one-loss Michigan or a two-loss league champion. But college football thrives on debates and it would in this situation.

So, after a long and borderline worthless introduction, here are my Big Ten predictions, my bowl projections and league capsules for the 2016 college football season:




Ohio State 10-2, 8-1 (losses to Oklahoma, Wisconsin)

Michigan 11-1, 8-1 (loss to Ohio State)

Michigan State 10-2, 7-2 (losses to Ohio State, Michigan)

Penn State 7-5, 5-4

Maryland 6-6, 3-6

Indiana 4-8, 1-8

Rutgers 3-9, 1-8


Iowa 10-2, 7-2 (losses to Wisconsin, Michigan)

Nebraska 9-3, 6-3 (losses to Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa)

Minnesota 9-3, 6-3 (losses to Penn State, Iowa, Nebraska)

Wisconsin 7-5, 5-4 (losses to LSU, Michigan State, Michigan, Northwestern, Minnesota)

Northwestern 7-5, 4-5

Illinois 3-9, 1-8

Purdue 3-9, 1-8



Peach (playoff) — 1. Clemson vs. 4. Tennessee

Fiesta (playoff) — 2. LSU vs. 3. Oklahoma

Rose — Iowa vs. UCLA

Sugar — Alabama vs. TCU

Orange — Florida State vs. Michigan

Cotton — Houston vs. Ohio State



Outback — Nebraska vs. Florida

Holiday — Michigan State vs. Utah

Foster Farms — Penn State vs. USC

Music City — Wisconsin vs. Arkansas

Pinstripe — Minnesota vs. Pittsburgh

Quick Lane — Northwestern vs. Boston College

Heart of Dallas — Maryland vs. Rice



Citrus — Miami vs. Ole Miss

TaxSlayer — Notre Dame vs. Georgia

Belk — Auburn vs. North Carolina

Birmingham — Kentucky vs. Cincinnati

Independence — N.C. State vs. Colorado (SEC replacement)

Texas — Texas A&M vs. Baylor

Liberty — Missouri vs. Kansas State

Alamo — Stanford vs. Oklahoma State

Russell — Louisville vs. Texas

Cactus — Washington State vs. West Virginia

Armed Forces — Navy vs. Texas Tech

Sun — Washington vs. Virginia Tech

Las Vegas — Oregon vs. San Diego State



Military — Georgia Tech vs. Temple

St. Petersburg — Due vs. South Florida

Miami Beach — UConn vs. Southern Miss

Bahamas — Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech

Boca Raton — Memphis vs. Bowling Green

New Mexico — Western Kentucky vs. New Mexico

Poinsettia — BYU vs. Air Force

Potato — Toledo vs. Nevada

Hawaii — Marshall vs. Boise State

Arizona — Utah State vs. Idaho

New Orleans — Middle Tennessee State vs. Appalachian State

Camellia — Ohio vs. Arkansas State

Cure — Tulsa vs. Troy

Dollar General — Western Michigan vs. Georgia Southern



Miami (Ohio)

Game: Sept. 3 at Kinnick Stadium

2015 Record: 3-9, 2-6 MAC

Coach: Chuck Martin (5-19, 79-26 overall)

Series record: Iowa leads 3-0

Last meeting: Iowa won 21-3, Aug. 30, 2003

Returning starters: 16 (10 offense, 6 defense, 0 specialists)

Key returnees: QB Billy Bahl (1,409 yards, 8 TDs), TE Ryan Smith (21 catches, 251 yards, 5 TDs), DL J.T. Jones (10 sacks)

Notable: Coach Chuck Martin guided Grand Valley (Mich.) State to four Division II national titles from 2002-2006.



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Iowa State

Game: Sept. 10 at Kinnick Stadium

2015 Record: 3-9, 2-7 Big 12

Coach: Matt Campbell (0-0, 35-15 overall)

Series record: Iowa leads 41-22

Last meeting: Iowa won 31-17, Sept. 12, 2015

Returning starters: 15 (5 offense, 8 defense, 2 specialists)

Key returnees: WR Allen Lazard (56 catches, 808 yards, 6 TDs), RB Mike Warren (1,339 yards, 5 TDs), DL Demond Tucker (13 TFLs, 6.0 sacks), S Kamari Cotton-Moya (40 tackles, missed last 6 games)

Notable: The road team has won the last four Cy-Hawk series games. Iowa State’s four most recent wins (2007, 2011, 2012, 2014) came by a combined 11 points.


North Dakota State

Game: Sept. 17 at Kinnick Stadium

2015 Record: 13-2, 7-1 MVFC

Coach: Chris Klieman (28-3, 31-10 overall)

Series record: Iowa leads 2-0

Last meeting: Iowa won 59-0, Sept. 20, 1947

Returning starters: 15 (6 offense, 8 defense, 1 specialist)

Key returnees: RB King Frazier (1,158 yards, 8 TDs), G Zack Johnson (All-American), DE Greg Menard (10 sacks, 14.5 TFLs), S Tre Dempsey (52 tackles, 3 INTs, 9 PBUs)

Notable: Iowa deputy athletics director Gene Taylor was the Bison AD for 13 years and scheduled this game in his previous role.



Game: Sept. 24 at Piscataway, N.J.

2015 Record: 4-8, 1-7 B1G East

Coach: Chris Ash (0-0, 0-0 overall)

Series record: First meeting

Last meeting: Have not played


Returning starters: 14 (7 offense, 7 defense, 0 specialists)

Key returnees: WR Janarion Grant (1,583 all-purpose yards, 3 KO returns for TDs), RB Robert Martin (763 yards, 6 TDs), OL Chris Muller (HM All-Big Ten), DL Quanzell Lambert (43 tackles, 7.5 TFLs)

Notable: Defensive coordinator Jay Niemann is the father of Iowa linebackers Ben Niemann and Nick Niemann. Offensive line coach A.J. Blazek played at Iowa under Kirk Ferentz.



Game: Oct. 1 at Kinnick Stadium

2015 Record: 10-3, 6-2 B1G West

Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (70-56, 70-56 overall)

Series record: Iowa leads 50-24-3

Last meeting: Iowa won 40-10, Oct. 17, 2015

Returning starters: 16 (7 offense, 7 defense, 2 specialists)

Key returnees: RB Justin Jackson (1,418 yards, 5 TDs), DL Tyler Lancaster (13.5 TFLs, 2 FRs), LB Anthony Walker (120 tackles, 20.5 TFLs), CB Matthew Harris (4 INTs)

Notable: Iowa has won three straight in the series, including the last two by a combined 88-17. Northwestern held a 6-2 advantage in the previous eight games, dating to 2005.



Game: Oct. 8 at Minneapolis

2015 Record: 6-7, 2-6 B1G West

Coach: Tracy Claeys (2-4, 2-4 overall)

Series record: Minnesota leads 62-45-2

Last meeting: Iowa won 40-35, Nov. 14, 2015

Returning starters: 13 (6 offense, 6 defense, 1 specialist)


Key returnees: QB Mitch Leidner (2,701 passing yards, 270 rushing yards, 20 combined TDs), RB Sammy Brooks (709 rushing yards, 7 TDs), S Demarius Travis (out 2015 with injury), CB Jalen Myrick (3 INTs, 21.4 KO return average)

Notable: As a prep, QB Mitch Leidner camped at Iowa for two consecutive weekends but did not receive a scholarship. In two games against Iowa, Leidner has passed for 397 yards and five TDs, rushed for 109 yards and a score while leading Gophers to a combined 86 points.



Game: Oct. 15 at West Lafayette, Ind.

2015 Record: 2-10, 1-7 B1G West

Coach: Darrel Hazell (6-30, 22-40 overall)

Series record: Purdue leads 46-37-3

Last meeting: Iowa won 40-20, Nov. 21, 2015

Returning starters: 17 (8 offense, 8 defense, 1 specialist)

Key returnees: RB Markell Jones (875 yards, 10 TDs), WR DeAngelo Yancey (700 yards, 5 TDs), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (125 career tackles), DL Jake Replogle (60 tackles, 2 sacks)

Notable: Boilermakers are 2-22 in Big Ten play under Darrell Hazell and have allowed at least 35 points 13 times the last two years.



Game: Oct. 22 at Kinnick Stadium

2015 Record: 10-3, 6-2 B1G West

Coach: Paul Chryst (10-3, 29-22 overall)

Series record: Wisconsin leads 44-43-2

Last meeting: Iowa won 10-6, Oct. 3, 2015

Returning starters: 13 (6 offense, 6 defense, 1 specialist)

Key returnees: RB Corey Clement (1,717 career yards, 21 TDs), T Jacob Maxwell, OLB Vince Biegel (17.5 career sacks, 14.5 TFLs last year), CB Sojourn Shelton (37 starts, 5 INTs)

Notable: The visiting team has won the last five. Three of the last four games among the rivals have been decided by four points or less.



Penn State

Game: Nov. 5 at State College, Pa.

2015 Record: 7-6, 4-4 B1G East

Coach: James Franklin (14-12, 38-27 overall)

Series record: Penn State leads 13-12

Last meeting: Penn State won 38-14, Oct. 20, 2012

Returning starters: 16 (9 offense, 5 defense, 2 specialists)

Key returnees: RB Saquon Barkley (1,076 yards, 7 TDs), WR Chris Godwin (1,101 yards, 5 TDs), LB Jason Cabinda (100 tackles), LB Brandon Bell (65 tackles, 5.5 sacks)

Notable: RB Saquon Barkley averaged 5.9 yards a carry last year as a true freshman for an offensive line that allowed 94 tackles for loss.



Game: Nov. 12 at Kinnick Stadium

2015 Record: 10-3, 6-2 B1G East

Coach: Jim Harbaugh (10-3, 68-30 overall)

Series record: Michigan leads 41-14-4

Last meeting: Iowa won 24-21, Nov. 23, 2013

Returning starters: 15 (8 offense, 6 defense, 1 specialist)

Key returnees: WR Jehu Chesson (50 catches, 764 yards, 9 TDs), TE Jake Butt (51 catches, 654 yards), S/LB Jabrill Peppers (45 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, 10 PBUs), CB Jourdan Lewis (52 tackles, 2 INTs, 20 PBUs)

Notable: CB Jourdan Lewis and Iowa counterpart Desmond King — both Detroit natives — played on the same youth football team.



Game: Nov. 19 at Champaign, Ill.

2015 Record: 5-7, 2-6 B1G West

Coach: Lovie Smith (0-0, 0-0 overall)

Series record: Illinois leads 38-31-2

Last meeting: Iowa won 29-20, Oct. 10, 2015

Returning starters: 12 (7 offense, 4 defense, 1 specialist)

Key returnees: QB Wes Lunt (2,761 yards, 14 TDs), RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn (723 yards, 6 TDs), DE Dawuane Smoot (8 sacks, 15.0 TFLs), LB Hardy Nickerson (112 tackles at California, third in Pac-12)

Notable: Coach Lovie Smith and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz squared off once previously back in 1987 when Ferentz coached the Hawkeyes’ offensive line and Smith was linebackers coach at Wisconsin (a 31-10 Iowa win). They were in the NFL concurrently from 1996-98 when Smith was the Tampa Bay linebackers coach and Ferentz was the Baltimore offensive line/assistant head coach but their teams never met.




Game: Nov. 25 at Kinnick Stadium

2015 Record: 5-7, 3-5 B1G West

Coach: Mike Riley (5-7, 99-87 overall)

Series record: Nebraska leads 29-14-3

Last meeting: Iowa won 28-20, Nov. 27, 2015

Returning starters: 13 (6 offense, 6 defense, 1 specialist)

Key returnees: QB Tommie Armstrong (3,030 passing yards, 22 TDS, 400 rushing yards, 7 TDs), WR Jordan Westerkamp (65 catches, 918 yards, 7 TDs), S Nate Gerry (79 tackles, 4 INTs), CB Joshua Kalu 75 tackles, 3 INTs)

Notable: In their five games as Big Ten competitors, Nebraska holds a 3-2 series lead. Iowa has more points, 114-107. Nebraska was the only home team to win, 20-7, back in 2011.

NOTE: All numbers from 2015 unless noted

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