OK, this is getting crazy.
First, ESPN put Iowa in its very, very early Top five football rankings. Then CollegeFootballNews.com did the same. Then CBSSportsline.com followed suit.
Late last week, one of SportsIllustrated.com's football writers tabbed the Hawkeyes as his early #4 pick.
The Athlon's and Lindy's will roll out sometime in May or June, and it will be interesting to see where they pick the Hawks. I would guess that one or both of them will have Iowa in its Top 10.
I was asked three questions more than any other from the nearly 500 Hawkeye fans who flew on our charter flight in the hours following Iowa's Cap One win; where would Iowa be ranked to end 2004, where would the recruiting class be ranked and where would Iowa be ranked to start the 2005 season.
My answer was swift, though it was little more than an educated guess; 8, 8 & 8.
The first two crazy eights came to pass, following the pattern of being ranked 8th in the final polls in the 2002 & 2003 seasons.
I am guessing that when the AP and Coaches polls are released sometime in August, that is where the Hawks will start the year. It would provide great symmetry and could then be mentioned before every game right after the announcers remind us that Iowa has received the football 1,002 out of its last 1,006 football games under Kirk Ferentz.
Wait a second, that would mean Kirk was coaching back in 1914. Scratch that. But you get the idea.
All of this is begging the question, one that I will ask many of you later this year; what will be good enough for you this season? How many wins will it take to make you happy? What will you consider a disappointment? Has the Hawkeye Nation gone Husker Nation, where nine win seasons are demanded, and anything less than that is a waste of time?
I really hope it does not come to that. I hope that if the Hawks were to go 8-3 and still be in the hunt for a New Year's Day Bowl game or Alamo Bowl at worst, we would all still enjoy the ride. I really believe that I would, because as you know, I don't think the Alamo is a consolation prize.
But Ferentz, his coaching staff and the men who don the black and gold have certainly raised the bar of expectations.
The sweetness of the fruits of their success have tasted awfully good over the past three years.
From the 18-games and counting home winning streak to the two Big Ten titles in three years to the back to back to back Top 10 rankings and the back to back New Year's Day Bowl wins to the back to back to back New Year's Day bowl games…its been the era of tall cotton, to borrow a phrase that a certain West Texan might have uttered.
I guess I am wondering such things because I could see this season being an 8-3 campaign while still seeing it being a 10-1 or 11-0 journey.
Many of you have reminded me of what I wrote in February of 2004 when I said that I felt Iowa could be in line for a run at a National Title in 2005.
I am probably not as much on that track now as I was then, but if the defensive line can play above average, Iowa could win them all. But it will not be an easy road, even though Iowa drops resurgent Michigan State and stingy Penn State from its schedule and adds cream puff Indiana and stingy Northwestern.
Four games will define this season and just how high the Hawks can fly; @ISU, @OSU, @Purdue and home against Michigan.
If I had to rate those games as far as my gut feel on the likelihood of a win, here is what my take is right now, going from best feeling about a win to worst feeling about a win:
Yes, I feel better about the home game against Michigan than I do about the roadie in Ames, and I feel ‘better' about the game at the Shoe than I do about the contest in West Lafayette. For those of you that attended FanFest 2005 and heard the respect given to the Boilermakers by the player's panel, including Brian Ferentz, that should come as no surprise.
If Iowa can split with OSU and Purdue and beat both Michigan and ISU, then I see another January 1 bid on their horizons with a BCS bid as a possibility. If Iowa splits with OSU and Purdue and splits with ISU and Michigan, then they could still be looking at a New Year's Day bowl game. Not a bad scenario.
I need to stop here and save the prognostications for the Summer Issue of Hawkeye Nation magazine, due out on newsstands and in your mailboxes in early to mid June. It promises to be one of our best issues, ever.
RANKINGS, PART DEUX
Don't look now, but Steve Alford's Hawkeyes are getting a bit of early love from ESPN's Dick Vitale and Andy Katz.
Of course, we only care about Vitale's opinions when they are favorable to Iowa, and he tabs Iowa as his twelfth best team for 2005-2006. Of course, his Dukies are #2.
Katz has Iowa checking in at #16 and in both instances; only Michigan State comes in ahead of the Hawks.
It's a long, long way until November and even longer until February of 2006, the month where Iowa's fortunes have turned south far too many times in the Alford era.
But the Hawks return every key performer from their at large bid NCAA qualifying team of 2004-2005.
However, their out of conference schedule appears pretty challenging. Known road games at ISU, UNI and St. Louis will tough, and the first two teams listed were also at large NCAA selections this year.
Iowa will rejoin the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, and I suspect they will be pitted against Georgia Tech or Wake Forest. Iowa may be in next year's Guardian's Classic Tournament, and that field might include Texas, Kentucky and Syracuse, with ‘might' being the operative.
It's far better to be picked to be among the Big Ten's best teams in April than it is to be picked as a middle of the road team, but each prediction amounts to squat right about now.
Unless you are talking positive about Iowa's football team, that is.