Wine: Four Games, Four Victories...or Four Losses

Oct. 22, 2007

IOWA CITY — Four games remain on Iowa’s football schedule, three of them at Kinnick Stadium.

After playing Michigan State at home Saturday, the Hawkeyes go to Northwestern, then finish out against Minnesota and Western Michigan, both at Kinnick.

All four games look winnable. Yes, they do. But if they look winnable to Iowa, imagine how they must look to the other side. To borrow a Hayden Fry expression, “Teams must be licking their chops at the thought of playing the Hawkeyes.”

Yes, Iowa is in the Big Ten’s second-division, but so are Michigan State, Northwestern and Minnesota. And Western Michigan’s record, like Iowa’s, is 3-5.

That’s because our favorite team has lost five of its last six games, and was not very competitive in three of those defeats. Its offense is seriously crippled by injuries and inexperience and has scored only two touchdowns in the last three games.

Yet there is still hope for a seventh straight post-season game. If the Hawkeyes can somehow win three of their remaining four games they will become bowl eligible.

Yes, Iowa is in the Big Ten’s second-division, but so are Michigan State, Northwestern and Minnesota. And Western Michigan’s record, like Iowa’s, is 3-5.

Here’s a look at each opponent, and what the Hawkeyes face in the next four weeks.

Michigan State – The Spartans began the season with four straight victories, the most impressive at Pittsburgh, but have lost three of their last four games. Two weeks ago they hammered Indiana 52-27, a team that had its way with Iowa, 38-20. New Coach Mark Dantonio has an explosive offense that averages 35 points a game. He has the second-best rushing attack in the Big Ten, with tailback Javon Ringer averaging 130 yards. But the Hawkeyes are generally strong against the run, so there is hope here. The teams have not played each other the past two seasons.

Northwestern – The Wildcats are at the top of the Big Ten in passing and the bottom in rushing. With quarterback C.J. Bacher throwing for 320 yards a game the Cats can light up the scoreboard. In successive weeks they beat Michigan State 48-41 and Minnesota 49-48 and have now won three in a row. Remember when Iowa won 21 straight in this series? Ah, those were the days. Northwestern, with its spread offense, has won the last two, including a 21-7 shocker at Kinnick last season.

Minnesota – The Gophers score a lot of points, more than 30 per game, but give up even more, nearly 40. Quarterback Adam Webster and tailback Amir Pinnix are among the passing and rushing leaders in the Big Ten, but that has not translated to winning. Minnesota’s only victory was against Miami (Ohio) and it took three overtimes to achieve it. The Gophers are the only winless team in the Big Ten standings. They stung the Hawkeyes 34-24 at the Metrodome last year.

Western Michigan – Two of the Broncos’ five losses were to West Virginia and Missouri, both Top 20 teams. Iowa and WMU have both beaten Northern Illinois and lost to Indiana. How unusual is it for Iowa to end the regular season with a non-conference game? The last at Kinnick Stadium was played 42 years ago when North Carolina State was the 1965 opponent. Since then Iowa has played a non-league opponent three times in the final game of the regular season, but all were on the road. In 1966 it was at Miami, in 1984 at Hawaii and in 2001 at Iowa State.

That’s a brief rundown on Iowa’s four remaining opponents. If the Hawkeyes can beat three of them they will have finished the season strong and raised their self esteem. They will have made their fans happy and eager to attend a bowl game. Let’s hope it works out that way.

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