Key stretch: Iowa

August, 2, 2011
8/02/11
11:00
AM ET
Fourth in a series examining a stretch that could make the season for each Big Ten team.

Next up, the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Key stretch: Michigan (Nov. 5), Michigan State (Nov. 12), at Purdue (Nov. 19), at Nebraska (Nov. 25)

Breakdown: While I know how much Iowa fans want to continue their win streak against Penn State (Oct. 8) and end their slide against Northwestern (Oct. 15), they'll get a better gauge on their team during the final month of the season. Iowa's schedule is very favorable, especially in September and October, but November brings three Legends division games and a trip to protected rival Purdue, which should be improved if it can stay healthy. Iowa has never won three straight games against Michigan, so the first game brings a historic opportunity for the Hawkeyes. A week later, Michigan State visits Kinnick Stadium hoping to avenge last season's 37-6 defeat to Iowa. The game could have major implications in the Legends division. After the trip to Purdue, Iowa visits Nebraska in the inaugural Heroes Game on Black Friday. There should be a lot on the line for both teams in Lincoln.

Prediction: Iowa should be a more seasoned team by this stretch, particularly in the offensive backfield and along the defensive line. Both Michigan and Michigan State will test the Hawkeyes' defense, but having the games at home is huge for Kirk Ferentz's squad. Iowa must be careful of Purdue, a classic trap game, and winning in Lincoln won't be easy. I see 3-1 and 2-2 as the likely outcomes for Iowa, but I'm leaning toward a 3-1 performance during the stretch.

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