Schedule analysis: Iowa Hawkeyes

We are just 30 days away from the first Big Ten kickoff of 2013 (Minnesota vs. UNLV on Aug. 29). So it's time for our annual preseason analysis of each team's complete schedule. Let's start with the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Nonconference opponents (with 2012 records)

Aug. 31: Northern Illinois (12-2)

Sept. 7: Missouri State (3-8)

Sept. 14: at Iowa State (6-7)

Sept. 21: Western Michigan (4-8)

Legends Division games

Sept. 28: at Minnesota

Oct. 5: Michigan State

Oct. 26: Northwestern

Nov. 23: Michigan

Nov. 29: at Nebraska

Crossover games

Oct. 19: at Ohio State

Nov. 2: Wisconsin

Nov. 9: at Purdue

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Penn State

Gut-check game: The Hawkeyes play four of their first six games at home, allowing for the possibility of a good start to the season. We'll find out what they're really made of when they travel to Ohio State on Oct. 19. Iowa will have a bye the week before to get ready for the Buckeyes, and it might need all of that extra preparation time for what looks like a major mismatch on paper.

Trap game: Nov. 9 at Purdue. Iowa goes to West Lafayette a week after playing Wisconsin for the first time since 2010. Despite the Boilermakers winning in Iowa City last November, the Hawkeyes might get caught looking past Purdue to a bye week and then the closing two games against Michigan and Nebraska. Also keep an eye on Western Michigan, since Iowa did lose to a directional Michigan team at home last season.

Snoozer: The Missouri State game should remind us all why the Big Ten will soon stop playing FCS teams. Not much to see here, folks.

Non-con challenge: The Hawkeyes open the season against a team that went to the Orange Bowl last year and has a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. Northern Illinois took Iowa to the wire last year and should not be intimidated at all by coming to Kinnick Stadium. The Huskies will also have a huge edge in quarterback experience, with Jordan Lynch leading them against a Hawkeyes team which will be starting a player under center who's never appeared in a Division I game.

Telltale stretch: The four-game stretch between Oct. 5 and Nov. 2 should tell us all we need to know about Iowa in 2013. It includes a home game against Michigan State, that trip to Ohio State and back-to-back games at Kinnick against Northwestern and Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes started 4-2 last year before collapsing midseason; they'll try to avoid a repeat this season versus a very challenging conference obstacle course.

Analysis: Iowa has no business going 4-8 again, but the schedule offers few breaks. The Hawkeyes draw Ohio State and Wisconsin from the Leaders side, and the two conference games where they figure to have at least equal if not superior talent -- Minnesota and Purdue -- are both on the road. They also have to go to rival Iowa State, a team that has won Cy-Hawk Trophy two years in a row, and should have their hands full in the opener against Northern Illinois. Going at least 3-1 in the nonconference portion of the schedule looks like a must if Iowa wants to get back to a bowl game this year, because wins will likely be hard to come by in the Big Ten schedule.