The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Dowson: Good news for football nation


I was sitting in the north end zone of the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. It was the perfect vantage point to see Dillon Kidd’s second-quarter punt split the hash marks and allow Christian McCaffrey to go all video-game-like against the Hawkeyes.

That play ended the 2015 Hawkeye’s campaign, in my mind. A disappointing end to an otherwise storybook year. A season that will not be duplicated for quite some time, right?

A lot of things seemed to fall into place for last year’s Hawkeyes. The schedule didn’t include the giants of the Big Ten. C.J. Beathard emerged as an elite signal-caller. Desmond King stepped his game up in the form of the Thorpe Award and being named a consensus All-American. Josey Jewell tackled anything and everything that came between the hashes (besides McCaffrey).

Answer me this — of those things, what changes in 2016?

The schedule leans in Iowa’s favor in 2016. Once again, Michigan State and Ohio State are not on there until a potential matchup in Indianapolis. I will admit that the Michigan game on Nov. 12 is bigger than any game Iowa played last year, but the Hawks get to play that game in Kinnick.

And every other tough divisional game is at home next fall as well. They get Northwestern, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and even Iowa State at home.

Away games at Rutgers, Minnesota, Purdue, Penn State, and Illinois should not scare anybody.

That leaves Miami (Ohio) and North Dakota State. If the latter had been on the schedule a year ago, I would have sweated it a little. But its four-year starting quarterback is gone to the NFL and will likely be a top-five pick. He won’t be easily replaced.

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The Hawkeyes 2016 schedule is even more favorable than in 2015.

On top of the schedule looking manageable, the Hawkeyes will be better in 2016 than they were a year ago. Fifteen starters return from last year’s group, evenly dispersed on both sides of the ball.

Most notably is the loss of All-Big Ten performers Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh on the offensive line. But Kirk Ferentz has five guys in Ike Boettger, Boone Myers, James Daniels, Cole Croston, and Sean Welsh who have considerable experience with their hand on the ground.

The loss of deep-threat Tevaun Smith is significant, but the returning receiving corps of Matt VandeBerg, George Kittle, and Jerminic Smith is better than in years past.

On the defensive side, the Hawkeyes return their top tackler in Jewell and lockdown corner in King. Add returning starters Ben Niemann, Greg Mabin, and Miles Taylor, and the defense looks formidable. The potential return of Drew Ott would make the Hawkeyes scary.

All-purpose leader Jordan Canzeri is gone to graduation, but the Hawkeyes return three backs, LeShun Daniels Jr., Akrum Wadley, and Derrick Mitchell Jr., who gained 1,355 yards combined. That doesn’t include the 468 yards that Beathard rushed by himself.

Beathard may have been the biggest surprise of 2015. Hawkeye fans were excited to see him get his due, but did anyone expect him to be such a gamer? He is poised to be preseason first-team All-Big Ten and will start the 2016 campaign healthier than he was most of last season, barring injury during the spring.

Will this team win 12 games again in 2016? Not necessarily. But are 10, 11, dare-I-say 12 wins are possible? Absolutely.

The Hawkeyes ended their storybook 2015 season by getting hit in the mouth by Stanford in the national spotlight, and they have had a bad taste in their mouth ever since.

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