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Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley runs near Iowa defensive end Matt Nelson at Kinnick Stadium.

Guessing Iowa’s kickoff times for 2018 season

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ANSWER: When it came to projecting Big Ten kickoff times about 10 years ago, it was easy. There were a handful of primetime selections, then the best games were placed at 2:30 p.m. CT and the rest at 11 a.m.

Now with 14 teams, BTN and the FOX family of networks, it’s like predicting the NFL draft. Sure, you might nail a couple of picks but you miss on quite a few more.

When you project Iowa’s kickoff times, you have to take the entire league into consideration. Often, other Big Ten teams have more to do with Iowa’s starting time, especially Ohio State. But let’s give it a shot anyway.

SEPT. 1 — Northern Illinois at Iowa. This is a terrific matchup. In defensive end Sutton Smith, NIU has one of the best defensive players in college football. As to where it fits in the Big Ten lineup, Michigan-Notre Dame carries a much higher profile. Oregon State-Ohio State, Texas-Maryland and Akron-Nebraska also will get selected before the Hawkeyes-Huskies tussle. But it’s such a good game it will get good network exposure.

  • Prediction: 11 a.m. CT, ESPN

SEPT. 8 — Iowa State at Iowa. With both teams winning eight games last year, earning a rare bowl victory and knocking off a combined three top-5 teams, this rivalry has more juice than at any time I can remember. Penn State at Pittsburgh already secured ABC/ESPN’s night slot, so I think the Cy-Hawk battle is made for late afternoon. I’m predicting FOX/FS1 picks it up because it has rights with both the Big Ten and Big 12.

  • Prediction: 5 p.m. CT, FS1

SEPT. 15 — Northern Iowa at Iowa. Outside of the I-380 corridor, this game has no traction, unless UNI pulls a shocker. Television networks won’t bank on that notion, however, especially with a decent Big Ten nonconference slate that day.

  • Prediction: 11 a.m. CT, BTN

SEPT. 22 — Wisconsin at Iowa. This is the game that should decide the Big Ten West Division title. The Badgers are the Big Ten’s best team, while Iowa has the best chance in the West of dethroning its northeast rival. The only other game that approaches it that day in intrigue is Nebraska-Michigan, but it’s not quite as good this year as the Heartland Trophy battle.

  • Prediction: 7 p.m. CT, ABC

SEPT. 29 — OPEN

OCT. 6 — Iowa at Minnesota. The Hawkeyes’ schedule has reached the point of unpredictability. What if Iowa upsets Wisconsin and is 4-0? Or what happens if the Badgers and Iowa State beat the Hawkeyes at Kinnick? It’s the difference between a top-15 ranking and a prime television slot or also-ran status with little appeal. Iowa and Minnesota seem to always capture some type of spotlight because of the trophy dash. I think that’s the case here.

  • Prediction: 7 p.m. CT, BTN

OCT. 13 — Iowa at Indiana. There are two impactful Big Ten games that day with Wisconsin-Michigan and Michigan State-Penn State, so the Hawkeyes-Hoosiers won’t approach top billing. More than likely, this game is staged opposite one of the other two Goliaths.

  • Prediction: 2:30 p.m. CT, BTN

OCT. 20 Maryland at Iowa. Outside of Michigan-Michigan State, it’s a down day schedule-wise for the Big Ten. That includes this matchup. Plus, this is Iowa’s homecoming so expect an early kickoff.

  • Prediction: 11 a.m. CT, ESPN2

OCT. 27 Iowa at Penn State. This game by far is the best on the Big Ten’s docket. It seems like a natural primetime game, right? Well, FOX  — which owns the Big Ten’s first-tier rights — also broadcasts the World Series. Game 5 is scheduled to air that night. There’s no way FOX would bump the World Series for a regular-season college football game. There’s also no way FOX would want another network to air a good Big Ten game against it, either. So I figure, like last year with Ohio State-Penn State, this primetime-caliber game heads to mid-afternoon as a lead-in to the World Series.

  • Prediction: 3 p.m. CT, FOX

NOV. 3 — Iowa at Purdue. Both of these teams won bowl games last year and should contend for the postseason this year. It’s not the Big Ten’s highest profile game on the schedule, but it has bowl ramifications.

  • Prediction: 11 a.m. CT, ESPN2

NOV. 10 — Northwestern at Iowa. This is a rivalry without a trophy, and it’s a fiercely competitive series. It’s also the third-best game on the schedule behind Ohio State-Michigan State and Wisconsin-Penn State. In mid-November, that means an early start. But it should have strong viewership.

  • Prediction: 11 a.m. CT, ESPN

NOV. 17 — Iowa at Illinois. Nothing stands out on the Big Ten schedule, but that doesn’t mean something won’t take shape in six months. With expansion, kickoff time matters less than the network. If this is 6-4 Iowa playing 2-8 Illinois, the time may not change much. It’s the same situation should 9-1 Iowa face 6-4 Illinois.

  • Prediction: 2:30 p.m. CT, ESPN2

NOV. 23 — Nebraska at Iowa. This game now is separated from the Saturday games in selection process so it’s not susceptible to ABC/ESPN snagging it away. Expect FOX/FS1 to make this game its Black Friday centerpiece again.

  • Prediction: 3 p.m. CT, FS1

Read more Question of the Day answers about the Iowa Hawkeyes here.