Football Big Three: Trap games

BY SETH ROBERTS | JULY 25, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa football team is young and inexperienced, two factors that generally point to a mediocre season. Still, the Hawkeyes have a reasonably favorable schedule — but that doesn't mean opposing teams won't surprise the Black and Gold.

The Daily Iowan broke down the schedule to bring the three opponents with the most potential to trip up the Hawkeyes.

3) at Iowa State, Sept. 10

Sure, the Hawkeyes haven't lost to Iowa State in three years. Sure, Iowa outscored the Cyclones in those contests, 87-15.
Sure, Iowa State looked more like a hilariously crummy high-school junior-varsity team than a Division-I squad in those three games.

Don't be cocky.

The Hawkeyes are only 2-4 in Ames in the Kirk Ferentz era. Plus, if there's anything that motivates a football team, it's losing to your archrival three years in a row — and looking silly while you do it.

One can't overlook the fact that new Cyclone quarterback Steele Jantz has one of the coolest names in the history of college football, either. That has to count for something.

2) at Penn State, Oct. 8

The Nittany Lions had an off-year last season and finished a 7-6 campaign with an embarrassing 37-24 loss to Florida in the Outback Bowl.

But when was the last time Joe Paterno coached two mediocre teams in a row?

Running back Evan Royster is gone, but quarterback Rob Bolden — who was the first true freshman to ever start a season-opener during JoePa's 45-year tenure in Happy Valley — returns and will have plenty of excellent targets downfield.

History might make one assume Iowa will win the game, because the Hawkeyes have owned the Nittany Lions in recent memory and posted an 8-2 record under Ferentz.

History doesn't mean squat. Paterno and Company won't roll over easily.

1) vs. Michigan, Nov. 5

The Des Moines Register dug up an interesting fact about the Wolverines recently.

If Iowa can pull out the win in November, it will be the first time ever he Hawkeyes will have taken three in a row from Michigan.

Easier said than done, of course.

Quarterback Denard Robinson is one of the greatest athletes you'll ever see touch a football, and he returns to lead a potent offense that averaged 32.8 points per game in 2010.

Even better, new coach Brady Hoke likes defense — he was a linebacker at Ball State and defensive coach at several schools before he landed the head job in Ann Arbor. This bodes well for a Wolverine team that gave up a league-worst 35.2 points per contest last year.

Honorable mention: vs. Northwestern, Oct. 15

After three-straight stunning losses to the Wildcats, it's hard to classify the showdown with Northwestern as a trap game.

But there's a reason Iowa fans enter every game against the Big Ten's best academic school thinking the Hawkeyes will win.

Because they should. Actually winning? That's another story.

The Big Three is a five-part series and will be published all week.

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