To no surprise, how Iowa Hawkeyes football is now regarded nationwide has changed. There will be no starting this season 22nd in the preseason Associated Press poll, a la 2009.
Here are the preseason rankings, by the way. They weren’t horribly wrong.
Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: No. 9.
Iowa will have back six starters on offense, but the line must be rebuilt with center Rafael Eubanks, right guard Dace Richardson, left tackle Bryan Bulaga and right tackle Kyle Calloway leaving. Nine starters should return to a very stingy defense. The Hawkeyes’ nonconference schedule isn’t overly challenging besides a Sept. 18 road game at Arizona, and they play Big Ten heavyweights Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State at home.
Actually, it will probably be eight starters returning on defense, Mark. Unless cornerback Amari Spievey surprises us and doesn’t make an early entry into the NFL draft.
Did you see how that defense dominated Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl? At least eight of them are back next season.
Way to do your homework on Spievey, Scott.
Tim Hyland, About.com: No. 4.
Yes, Iowa. After a spectacular start to 2009, the Hawkeyes stumbled a bit down the stretch–losing at home to Northwestern, then on the road at Ohio State–and saw their national title hopes evaporate. But in both their season-ending win over Minnesota and their Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech, the Hawkeyes proved that they can play defense as well as anyone in the country (yep, even ‘Bama). Defensive end Adrian Clayborn will return to pace the Hawkeye D, while quarterback Ricky Stanzi will once again lead an underrated offense. Kirk Ferentz has this program back on track.
The Big Lead: Not in the Top 10.
But Boise State is No. 1, and this team is No. 7:
Wisconsin Badgers: They return basically everyone, though. I thought Miami would take ‘em by 14 in the bowl game. That was a semi-statement win moving forward in my eyes.
Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN: No. 4.
“Look out for the Hawks. . . . A number of players return and I think Kirk Ferentz will have a very experienced team.”
The Hawkeyes might not need much luck in ’10 with quarterback Ricky Stanzi and nine defensive starters set to return. The top of the Big Ten should be a three-team, steel-cage match.
Monster DE Adrian Clayborn and QB Ricky Stanzi return, and the Hawkeyes play Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State at home.
Rivals.com: No. 14.
The Hawkeyes should be fine everywhere – except perhaps the offensive line, where four starters have to be replaced. QB Ricky Stanzi must curb his penchant for throwing interceptions. The defense will be strong again, especially if CB Amari Spievey stays for his senior season.
And what if Spievey doesn’t return?
That offensive line situation can’t be dismissed lightly. Iowa plays at Arizona in September. You don’t want to take an O-line that’s still coming together into that game, or you’ll have your first scratch before Big Ten play begins.
Pat Forde, ESPN: Only has one pick, his No. 1 team. It’s Boise State.
It is coming off a 14-0 season capped by a victory in a BCS bowl. It returns 21 of 22
starters from a team that finished the 2009 season ranked in the top five. It loses the fewest graduating players in the entire country — five seniors, just three of whom dressed for its bowl game, just one of whom played a significant role in that game. It returns the nation’s most efficient quarterback during the regular season, a 1,000-yard rusher, a 1,000-yard receiver and a complete offensive line. The defense returns its top tackler, top sacker and leading interceptor. The guy who handles punting and place-kicking is back. The core of an excellent coaching staff also is expected to be intact.
No-brainer, right? That team has to be ranked No. 1. But when you put a name on that team, and that name is Boise State, watch the voters suddenly fall out of love with the Broncos.