Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Maybe it's time to flip back to 2005... but make it 2008?

Is 2008 the year, that Kirk Ferentz helps Iowa catch back up with the pundits that believe Iowa would walk on water in 2005 and 2006?

"Believe the hype... Hawkeyes will contend for a BCS bowl" (2005 Sporting News Big Ten Preview cover)

#3. Iowa Hawkeyes (that's nationally, not in the Big Ten)... "the defensive line, where all four players who started all 12 games last year are gone." "Never sell Kirk Ferentz short or underestimate his resourcefulness. Iowa coach stands among the elite in his profession." (page 46 - Athlon Sports 2005 Big Ten Regional Edition)

Back in 2005, all most every preview magazine had Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz walking on water. Actually, every preview magazine, other than Game Plan, had Iowa in the Top 25 entering the 2005 season. Only Game Plan didn't buy it. Kirk Ferentz was wary, if we go back and listen, but the national media had Ferentz mania.

"This is the league's best program not named Ohio State. Want proof?
The Hawkeyes could win the Big Ten for the third time in five seasons.
Imagine what Ferentz would do if he had the same talent as Michigan.
Scary. Take a bow, Kirk." (Tom Dienhart's take on Iowa in the 2006 Sporting News Big Ten Preview)

The following season, the Iowa Hawkeyes were a 2006 Preseason Consensus Top 25 Team. Nobody had Iowa in the Top 5, like 2005, but every preseason magazine had Iowa in its Top 25. By the way, Iowa finished 2-6 in the Big Ten in '06. So much for the pundits predictions.

By 2007, none of the major preview magazines showed Top 25 love for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa finished 4-4 last year and 6-6 overall, so they are making progress, but after 2005-2007... the three year run of 2002-2004, where Iowa finished #8 nationally for three straight seasons has run its course. The 2008 predictions for Iowa are very low key.

It's quite ironic to reflect on the past seven years of college preview magazines. In 2002, clearly Iowa's best Big Ten season ever, not one preview magazine had Iowa on their radar.
Iowa was coming off its first bowl season under coach Ferentz, his third season as head coach. In 2001, Iowa went 7-5 (4-4 in the Big Ten) and defeated the Big 12's Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl.

In 2002, the preseason magazines picked Iowa #8 for the most part in the Big Ten, not the Nation, which is where Iowa finished that year, nationally. While Ohio State finished 8-0 in '02, so did Iowa in the 2002 Big Ten race. None of the major previews had Iowa better than #6.
Iowa is back off the radar. Does history and Kirk Ferentz repeat in 2008 and become the nation's surprise team, again? The previews for 2008 basically look at Iowa as #8 in the Big Ten. Only Phil Steele has Iowa in the top half of the Big Ten, picking the Hawkeyes #5.

Clearly, Iowa doesn't have the look of the '02 team, but if you liked Iowa in '05, why not like them in '08. Clearly, Iowa could be this year's Kansas or Illinois... a non-bowl team from last year that could go from mediocre to big-time? As page 11 of Pro Football Weekly:

"Iowa: Put it this way, the Hawkeyes went 6-6 with an offense that lost almost
all of its top receivers, didn't get any production from the line, and was
inconsistent in the backfield. The bloom is off Kirk Ferentz's rose,
but he has done more with less than he has coming back. The veteran
team should be far better on both side of the ball, but the real reason for
excitement is a schedule that lacks Ohio State and Michigan and brings
Wisconsin and Penn State to Iowa City."
What's changed with Kirk Ferentz, since 2005 or 2006? He did it once before, so why not again in 2008? He has a lot of confidence entering '08 with anchors in both the offensive and defensive lines returning. One of the strengths separating the 2002 team from Ferentz earlier teams was experience and strength in the trenches. Some random observations heading into '08:

  1. Lindy's in 2005 rated RB Shonn Greene one of Iowa's top newcomers of impact - you can say that again in '08 as Greene is back after a year at a JUCO
  2. They also called OT Kyle Calloway the Sleeper of the Class of 2005 - he may be the sleeper of the 2008 offensive line for Iowa
  3. Also Lindy's 2005 scouting report mentions DT Matt Kroul "plays low and hard"... '08 will be his fourth year as a starting DT (Lindy's Top Newcomer back in '05)
  4. The Sporting News in 2005 says "Iowa leaps up the list to land among the big boys"... the top incoming players (ranked by position): #1 QB Jake Christensen, #1 TE Tony Moeaki, #2 OL Dan Doering, and #5 DB Chris Rowell... all are involved in '08
  5. The Sporting News in 2006 spoke of breakout player... DT Mitch King, who is the other fourth year starter at DT for Iowa in '08 (Also a two-time MVP per Lindy's '07 and '08)
  6. Also mentioned as Top incoming players (ranked by position): #5 QB Ricky Stanzi, #5 TE AJ Edds (LB - day 1 at Iowa), and #2 LB Jeremiha Hunter... all are involved in '08
  7. Athlon Sports in 2006 pointed out rising star C Rafael Eubanks, the junior looks to begin his third year as a starter.
  8. Lindy's in 2007 highlighted OL Bryan Bulaga as Iowa's top newcomer, who is one of five returning starters in Iowa's O-Line for '08... all in the 2 deep return in the O-Line
  9. Also Lindy's rated DB Jordan Bernstine as the #8 top incoming Big Ten recruit... ahead of #10 Bulaga. Both are projected as starters in '08
  10. In '08, Iowa will replace departed DEs with two sophomores, just like they did in '05. Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard are both former "Newcomers of Impact" as mentioned by the past two issues of Lindy's
  11. Back in '02, Iowa had to replace everyone in the backfield... new starting QB, new RB, new FB... Iowa has been through this before, but this time, Iowa's top two QBs return in '08.

It will be an interesting year in college football and the Big Ten this season. Iowa appears to have some talent returning, as Pro Football Weekly observed, so will Kirk Ferentz make up for lost opportunities with his '08 Iowa Hawkeyes?


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