Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

Iowa has expectations for another solid season as 15 of 22 starters are returning to Iowa City.

On defense, Iowa returns a bulk of their big playmakers that helped the Hawkeyes force 31 turnovers — second best in the country — a season ago. Logan Lee, Noah Shannon, and Lukas Van Ness all return to anchor the defensive line. Linebacker Jack Campbell comes back for his senior season after leading the nation with 143 total tackles.

The offense is going to be the biggest question mark in 2022. Iowa had the second-worst scoring offense in the Big Ten a season ago averaging 23.4 points per game. To put that in perspective, Ohio State averaged 45.7 points per game.

Offensively, Iowa will return leading receiver and preseason John Mackey Tight End Award watchlist member Sam LaPorta. Quarterback Spencer Petras and wide receivers Arland Bruce IV and Keagan Johnson will also come back to Iowa City.

With that in mind, I believe Iowa will finish the regular season 8-4 and earn a bowl game appearance.

After a season-opening win against South Dakota State, Iowa will beat Iowa State — which will have a new man under center after Brock Purdy’s graduation.

In their next two games — versus Nevada and Rutgers — the Hawkeyes will get two more victories before Michigan comes to town on Oct. 1.

The Wolverines’ high-octane offense will be too much for Iowa to handle. The Hawkeyes will drop to 4-1.

Iowa will defeat Illinois for the ninth straight time then head to Columbus for a showdown with the perennial College Football Playoff-contending Ohio State Buckeyes.

Ohio State — behind a potent offense led by C.J. Stroud and a raucous home crowd — will hand the Hawkeyes their second loss of the season.

Iowa will drop a second straight game at home against Northwestern the following week. The Wildcats have beaten Iowa three of the last four times the two teams have squared off in Kinnick and Pat Fitzgerald’s team is almost never bad two years in a row. Last year, the Wildcats won just three games.

Iowa’s tough stretch will continue in West Lafayette against Purdue. The Hawkeyes have struggled recently against the Boilermakers and that trend will continue. Iowa hasn’t won at Ross-Ade Stadium since 2016 and Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell and tight end Payne Durham will make sure Iowa has to wait another two years for a chance at a road victory against the Boilermakers.

Sitting at 5-4, the Hawkeyes will close out the regular season with three straight wins over Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska.

8-4 it is.