Who should be the Top 25 candidates for 2011 this preseason?
Is Iowa a dangerous program under Kirk Ferentz, when they are under the radar? From 2002 to 2004, a run where Kirk Ferentz and Iowa finished #8 each season in the final Top 25 polls. Iowa had a different starting QB all three seasons, with Brad Banks, Nathan Chandler, then Drew Tate. Iowa enters the Spring with junior James Vandenberg (1-1 in 2 starts in '09) as the top returning quarterback.
Over in Ames, will head coach Paul Rhoads get Iowa State to a bowl game in his third season? The Cyclones were bowl bound in Rhoads' first season, after replacing Gene Chizik, but last year, the Cyclones didn't get enough wins to be bowl eligible. For Iowa State, it has been ninety-nine years, since the Cyclones last conference football title and 100 years, since the Cyclones' first conference title in football.
Talk about Gene Chizik and his second season at Auburn, after going 5-19 his two seasons at Iowa State. Chizik was clearly out of his element north of the Mason-Dixon Line, but at Auburn: a different story. Chizik helped lead the Tigers to the programs second national title in school's history. Chizik will have a lot of work in 2011 reloading or rebuilding the Tigers, without Heisman Trophy QB Cam Newton.
Nebraska will join the Big Ten in 2011. Head coach Bo Pelini will return to the conference he played college football in (Ohio State) and started his coaching career (graduate assistant at Iowa). The Cornhuskers started playing football began football back in 1890 as an Independent for two seasons. The Cornhuskers joined the Western Inter-State University Football Association for six seasons, before going back to being an Independent, until joining the Missouri Valley Conference in 1907. In 1928, the Cornhuskers became an original team of the old Big Eight Conference, then in 1996 became a member of the new Big 12 with four programs from the old Southwest Conference. Now, the Cornhuskers rejoin Iowa in the same conference again in 2011.
*** Unrelated to football, many in the Big Ten Conference are excited with the decision to create men's hockey as a conference sport. The impact of Penn State creating a hockey program and the conference merging programs into the Big Ten will have a negative impact for programs outside the Big Ten.