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

Breakdown of Iowa football’s 2023 opponents

The Hawkeyes kick off the 2023 season on Saturday against Utah State.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa tight end Erick All talks with fans during a spring football practice at the Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, April 22, 2023.

Iowa kicks off its 2023 season on Saturday against Utah State. A sea of black and gold will flood Melrose Avenue and tailgate parties will be in full force.

Expectations among Hawkeye fans are high, as Iowa landed highly sought-after transfers Cade McNamara, Erick All, and Kaleb Brown.

Last season, Iowa was hampered by an offense that ranked near the bottom in the FBS. This season, the Hawkeyes hope to take some weight off their dominant defense.

Sept. 2 vs. Utah State

2022 record: 6-7

Head coach: Blake Anderson

Utah State enters its third season under the helm of Blake Anderson. The Aggies had a breakout season in Anderson’s first year, going 11-3 and winning the Mountain West title.

The Aggies struggled in 2022, however, posting a 6-7 record. Similar to Iowa, Utah State struggled on offense, only scoring 22.2 points per game. Cooper Legas is returning at quarterback, but the Aggies lost 1,000-yard-rusher Calvin Tyler Jr.

The defense ranked 11th in the Mountain West last season, allowing close to 400 yards per game. Anderson’s teams are known to compete year in and year out, so the Hawkeyes should not take this contest lightly.

Sept. 9 at Iowa State

2022 record: 4-8

Head coach: Matt Campbell

Entering their eighth season under coach Matt Campbell, the Cyclones look to rebound after a disappointing 4-8 record in 2022. It was Iowa State’s first losing season since 2016.

With Hunter Dekkers and Jirehl Brock returning on offense, Iowa State had hopes of a turnaround season. But those hopes were dashed when Dekkers and Brock were both accused of sports gambling on Cyclone sporting events. With Dekkers gone, the offense will have to rely on an inexperienced slinger under center.

TJ Tampa and Myles Purchase led a dominant Cyclone defense which only allowed 20 points per game last season. The Hawkeyes will be seeking revenge against the Cyclones after losing last season’s matchup 10-7.

Sept. 16 vs. Western Michigan

2022 record: 5-7

Head coach: Lance Taylor

The Broncos disappointing 2022 season led to the firing of coach Tim Lester. In the offseason, Western Michigan hired Louisville offensive coordinator Lance Taylor in hopes of bringing back some of the magic that now-Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck once had in Kalamazoo.

On the offensive side, the Broncos put up only 19 points per game last season. The defense was strong, allowing 24 points per game to rank second in total defense in the MAC. Although the Hawkeyes will be heavy favorites against the Broncos, this could be a trap game. Iowa will need to come off the Cy-Hawk game strong and not jump ahead to its game against Penn State the following week.

Sept. 23 at Penn State

2022 record: 11-2

Head coach: James Franklin

Penn State won the Rose Bowl last season and came into 2023 with high expectations, hoping to dethrone Michigan and Ohio State in the East division.

Penn State lost longtime starting quarterback Sean Clifford, but the Nittany Lions are confident that sophomore Drew Allar will take Penn State to the next level.

Big Ten Freshman of the Year Nick Singleton led the Lions with 941 rushing yards and should serve as a safety valve for Allar. On defense, Penn State allowed only 18 points a game and should stay strong on that side of the ball, anchored by linebackers Abdul Carter and Curtis Jacobs. This game will be Penn State’s annual White Out game and bring an immense challenge for the Hawkeyes.

Sept. 30 vs. Michigan State

2022 record: 5-7

Head coach: Mel Tucker

After giving Mel Tucker a historic contract, the Spartans went 5-7 and missed a bowl game in 2022. This down season came just a year after going 11-2 and winning the Peach Bowl.

The Spartan offense struggled with the departure of star running back Kenneth Walker to the NFL and only averaged 24.4 points per game last season. Quarterback Payton Thorne departed for Auburn, leaving an open competition in East Lansing. Noah Kim and Katin Houser are expected to be the top contenders for the job.

Tucker’s defenses have been putrid the last few seasons. The Spartans ranked 111th in the FBS in total defense. Defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton hopes for a dramatic turnaround in 2023.

Michigan State will be playing in Kinnick Stadium with fans in attendance for the first time since 2013.

Oct. 7 vs. Purdue

2022 record: 8-6

Head coach: Ryan Walters

Last season, Purdue captured its first Big Ten West division title and finished with an 8-6 record.

Following the championship game, head coach Jeff Brohm departed to take the job at his alma mater, Louisville. Purdue filled the vacancy by hiring Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters. Under Walters, the Boilers should stay competitive on the defensive side of the ball. Veteran defensive back Cam Allen will anchor this unit, which allowed 27 points per game last season.

The offense, however, looks murky. The Boilermakers lost the experience of Aidan O’ Connell, former Hawkeye Charlie Jones, and Payne Durham, all who are now in the NFL. Purdue brought in Texas transfer Hudson Card at quarterback to provide not only veteran leadership but also to maintain a successful passing game — a trademark for Purdue in recent years.

This will be Iowa’s annual homecoming game.

Oct. 14 at Wisconsin

2022 record: 7-6

Head coach: Luke Fickell

Wisconsin suffered through a disappointing 7-6 season that resulted in the firing of head coach Paul Chryst mid-season. Once again, the Badgers were stout on the defensive end but struggled with consistency on offense, especially veteran quarterback Graham Mertz.

Wisconsin responded by hiring Luke Fickell as head coach. Fickell previously served as head coach at Cincinnati and led the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff in 2021. For years, the Badgers have been defined by a strong running game and a suffocating defense. Fickell, however, brings an air-raid offensive scheme with him, a far cry from traditional Wisconsin football.

Graduate transfer Tanner Mordecai will not only give the Badgers experience at quarterback, but he has also played in the air-raid system previously for Sonny Dykes at Southern Methodist. The Hawkeyes will be seeking their first victory at Camp Randall Stadium since their 12-0 regular season in 2015.

Oct. 21 vs. Minnesota

2022 record: 9-4

Head coach: PJ Fleck

For years, Minnesota was a consistent bottom feeder in the Big Ten. Under PJ Fleck, the team has won nine or more games three times, including in the last two seasons.

The one thing Fleck hasn’t done yet is beat Iowa, losing all six meetings. Minnesota is without long-time starters Tanner Morgan and Mo Ibrahim, who went to the NFL. Athan Kaliakmanis is expected to be the starting quarterback and started a few games last season, including against the Hawkeyes while Morgan was battling an injury.

Chris Autman-Bell is back at wide receiver to help give Kaliakmanis a strong target. On defense, the Gophers ranked atop the Big Ten in third-down stops, allowing only 13 points per game. Despite the impressive numbers for this group, it did struggle to get to the quarterback last season, ranking a measly 118th in the nation in sacks.

Minnesota is seeking its first victory at Kinnick Stadium since 1999.

Nov. 4 vs. Northwestern

2022 record: 1-11

Interim head coach: David Braun

Following a bye week, the Hawkeyes will travel to Chicago’s historic Wrigley Field to take on the Wildcats.

Northwestern went 1-11 in 2022 and head into this season under interim head coach, David Braun.

Long-time coach Pat Fitzgerald was fired following a hazing scandal. Some players have begun to transfer out of the program, leaving the Cats with uncertainty at some positions.

Quarterback Ben Bryant transferred in from Cincinnati, where he started 11 games before an injury ended his season.

Speedy wideout AJ Henning from Michigan should give the wide receiving corps a boost. Northwestern ranked last in the Big Ten in rushing defense, and Braun will look to turn that unit around. The story of this group will be how they can battle adversity after a tumultuous offseason.

Nov. 11 vs. Rutgers

2022 record: 4-8

Head coach: Greg Schiano

Rutgers is entering its fourth season under head coach Greg Schiano. The Knights have been competitive in recent years, but that has not translated to wins, as they have compiled a 12-22 record under Schiano’s watch.

Rutgers went 4-8 last season, only winning one conference game. The Scarlet Knights offense was dreadful in 2022, only averaging a measly 17.4 points per game Kirk Cirarrocca came in from Minnesota as the new offensive coordinator to help revive the struggling offense.

Rutgers was solid on defense last year, allowing 29 points per game. Starting defensive backs Max Melton and Robert Longerbeam hope to maintain their strong presence on defense.

Nov. 18 vs. Illinois

2022 record: 8-5

Head coach: Bret Bielema

Following a 5-7 finish in 2021, Illinois responded with its best season in years. Led by star running back Chase Brown, the Illini went 8-5 in 2022, marking their first winning record since 2011.

Since arriving in Champaign, head coach Bret Bielema has quickly turned this program into a contender in the Big Ten. Illinois was led by a dominant defense in 2022 that only allowed 12.2 points per game. But the defense lost a lot of talent to the NFL, including Syndey Brown and Devon Witherspoon.

On offense, Illinois lost Brown to the NFL, but quarterback Luke Altmyer has the tools to improve the Illini’s passing game.

Nov. 24 at Nebraska

2022 record: 4-8

Head coach: Matt Rhule

Head coach Scott Frost ended his Nebraska tenure 16-31, finishing near the bottom of the conference each year. Former Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule took over in Lincoln and brings a solid track record of reviving struggling programs like Temple and Baylor.

Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Sims will start at QB and try to spark an offense that scored 22.2 points per game last season. With Marcus Washington returning at wide receiver, Sims has a proven veteran target to throw to.

On defense, the Huskers return some key pieces in the secondary, including Quinton Newsome and Myles Farmer. Iowa will have revenge on its mind going into this contest, as the Huskers stole one in Kinnick Stadium last fall.

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About the Contributors
Brad Schultz, Sports Reporter
Brad Schultz is a sophomore at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Sports Studies. This is first year working as a sports reporter and he has a deep passion and love for sports. Outside of the Daily Iowan, Brad is a contributor for Saturday Blitz, a college football site, with his content primarily covering Iowa and the Big Ten.
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.