Iowa enters 2013 off its worst season in 12 years, a 4-8 campaign that drew catcalls from fans and led to the biggest staff shakeup of Kirk Ferentz's tenure. After largely holding the same coaching staff together during his first 12 seasons in Iowa City, Ferentz has replaced both coordinators and five position assistants in the last two years. The Hawkeyes also face a quarterback battle between three players who have never taken a snap at the FBS level, a glut of new wide receivers and a near-total defensive line rebuild. It's a transition year at Iowa, one which could determine Ferentz's long-term fate.
2013 Iowa schedule
Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.
In 14 years at the helm, Ferentz has gotten through a full slate of September games undefeated just once. Iowa's chances of bowl eligibility in 2013 could hinge on him doing it a second time, because the second half of the schedule is brutal. Iowa opens against three teams with preseason ratings below theirs and a fourth -- Northern Illinois -- that is essentially a toss-up. Once Big Ten play starts in earnest, there are few places to hide. The Big Ten did the Hawkeyes no favors, replacing Indiana and Penn State with Wisconsin and Ohio State and sending the Hawkeyes on the road to its one manageable second-half game, at Purdue.
The Hawkeyes' season could well hinge on their October 26 trip to Northwestern's Ryan Field, a place where Iowa has not won since 2007. A win there, combined with three wins in the non-conference slate and road wins over Minnesota and Purdue, would get Iowa back to bowl eligibility. Short of that or a Senior Day game against Michigan, it's hard to find a path back to the Big Ten's upper echelon for the Hawkeyes.