NCAA Football Iowa Hawkeyes

2014 Iowa Football Schedule Preview

Iowa Football Schedule Preview

Iowa Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa will have a great opportunity to land its first Big Ten championship game appearance in 2014 thanks to a weaker group of West division opponents, a manageable non-conference slate and a good draw for its two East division crossover games. Oh, and the Hawkeyes are also going to be pretty darn good on the field. Let's examine the path Kirk Ferentz's squad will have to take to get to Indianapolis.

Iowa vs. Northern Iowa: Aug. 30 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Northern Iowa Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Getty Images

Iowa vs. Northern Iowa: Aug. 30 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Northern Iowa Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Getty Images

The Hawkeyes open up 2014 with a date with in-state FCS squad Northern Iowa, who has an all-time record of 1-15 against its rival. While this looks like a minor tune-up game on paper, Iowa needs to come ready to play or it could end up like Iowa State, who was upset by the Panthers 28-20 last season.

Iowa vs. Ball State: Sept. 6 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Ball State Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa vs. Ball State: Sept. 6 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Ball State Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Following its tangle with UNI, Iowa will welcome a solid opponent in Ball State to Iowa City. The Cardinals feature two talented backs in Jahwan Edwards (1,110 rushing yards in 2013) and Horactio Banks (6.3 yards per carry), and return a 1,000-plus yard pass catcher in Jordan Williams. However, BSU is also vulnerable at QB, where it must replace four-year starter Keith Wenning, and against the run — recipes for disaster against Iowa.

Iowa vs. Iowa State: Sept. 13 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Iowa State Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa vs. Iowa State: Sept. 13 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Iowa State Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa still appears to hold an edge over its rival after reclaiming the Cy-Hawk trophy last season in Ames. Like Ball State, ISU is entering 2014 with a question mark under center, but is likely to be even more challenged against the Hawkeyes' attack than the Cardinals due to a very young and inexperienced group.

Iowa at Pittsburgh: Sept. 20 (Pittsburgh, PA)

Iowa vs Pittsburgh Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa at Pittsburgh: Sept. 20 (Pittsburgh, PA)

Iowa vs Pittsburgh Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa will travel to Heinz Field for an exciting non-conference finale against the Pittsburgh Panthers in Week 4. In what is starting to look like a pattern, Pitt will also trot out an inexperienced signal caller in Chad Voytik, although he does have the distinction of having led his team to a bowl victory last year. The Panthers could definitely trip Iowa up in this one.

Iowa at Purdue: Sept. 27 (West Lafayette, IN)

Iowa vs Purdue 2014 Schedule Preview
Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa at Purdue: Sept. 27 (West Lafayette, IN)

Iowa vs Purdue 2014 Schedule Preview
Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports

The Boilermakers were abysmal in 2013, but it would be difficult to envision Darrell Hazell's group not winning at least a couple more games in his second year at the helm. The Hawkeyes will be Purdue's first Big Ten opponent at home and the visitors for the school's homecoming game, but that still seems unlikely to be enough to push the advantage in their favor.

Iowa vs. Indiana: Oct. 11 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Indiana Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa vs. Indiana: Oct. 11 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Indiana Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawkeyes should thank the football gods for their extra week to prepare for the Hoosiers, who will undoubtedly be a headache for Big Ten defensive coordinators once again in 2014. Gunslinger QB Nate Sudfeld and his group of weapons are deadly, but on the flip side, Indiana showed little life on defense last season. Iowa should have no issues moving the football down the field, but can it get enough stops to slow down the Hoosiers' air raid?

Iowa at Maryland: Oct. 18 (College Park, MD)

Iowa vs Maryland Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Getty Images

Iowa at Maryland: Oct. 18 (College Park, MD)

Iowa vs Maryland Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Getty Images

Like their extra week of preparation for the Hoosiers, Iowa lucked out in avoiding all of the top teams from the Big Ten East for its crossover games. Maryland features a dynamic playmaker in WR Stefon Diggs and all-around solid offensive attack, but the Terps aren't on Iowa's level. That being said, this is a road game against an experienced squad who might be desperate for a win.

Iowa vs. Northwestern: Nov. 1 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Northwestern Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa vs. Northwestern: Nov. 1 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Northwestern Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern is coming off a disappointing season after entering 2013 with realistic Big Ten title expectations and then failing to even make a bowl game. You have to wonder if the unionization of the Wildcats players was a distraction this offseason as well. Despite these concerns, NU could surprise some people this season with its defense, which was subpar for a Pat Fitzgerald team in 2013.

Iowa at Minnesota: Nov. 8 (Minneapolis, MN)

Iowa vs Minnesota Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa at Minnesota: Nov. 8 (Minneapolis, MN)

Iowa vs Minnesota Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawkeyes' trip to Minneapolis will likely be their toughest road challenge of the season, as Minnesota should have a very good rushing attack. The Golden Gophers can contend for a Big Ten West division crown if QB Mitch Leidner brings balance to the offense and they can replace the losses of a few key defensive players. As Iowa heads into the final stretch of the season, its lack of early tests may make this a challenge.

Iowa at Illinois: Nov. 15 (Champaign, IL)

Iowa vs Illinois Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Getty Images

Iowa at Illinois: Nov. 15 (Champaign, IL)

Iowa vs Illinois Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Getty Images

Illinois will either show promising signs of life in 2014 or collapse and show head coach Tim Beckman the door. Depending on which route it goes, this game could either be a gimme against a team that's already packed it in or an upset candidate. Illinois will likely ride or die with former Oklahoma State QB Wes Lunt, but even if he's spectacular, the sum of the parts may not be good enough to play with the Hawkeyes.

Iowa vs. Wisconsin: Nov. 22 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Wisconsin Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa vs. Wisconsin: Nov. 22 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Wisconsin Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Yet another sign of a magical season is the fact that the other top West division contenders, Wisconsin and Nebraska, will travel to Iowa City this season. However, while home crowds offer valuable votes of confidence, they don't guarantee wins. The Badgers have a Heisman hopeful in RB Melvin Gordon and a capable passer in Joel Stave, who may finally figure it out in 2014. If Iowa wants to take the next step, it has to win this game.

Iowa vs. Nebraska: Nov. 28 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Nebraska Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Getty Images

Iowa vs. Nebraska: Nov. 28 (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa vs Nebraska Football 2014 Schedule Preview
Getty Images

In what could be a conference title game-clinching final week of the season, Iowa will host yet another star RB in Ameer Abdullah and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Heroes Game swung into Iowa's favor after last season's sound victory and will stay where it is in 2014 if Huskers QB Tommy Armstrong does not improve on his completion percentage (51.9 percent) and touchdown-interception rate (9-8).


Michael Briggs is a Big 10 Writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.