I voted Iowa #11 nationally, and had Michigan, Ohio State and Purdue rated ahead of the Hawkeyes in my national poll.
That brought some strong reactions from some of the Hawkeye faithful, and I certainly respect that.
As I said in the thread on the football message board that discussed my votes, it's just how I see things on paper at this time, and there is a lot of football to be played. Those votes were not necessarily how I envisioned the Hawkeyes finishing in the Big Ten standings, which would be fourth place.
However, a fourth place finish for Iowa in the Big Ten this year would be nothing to sneeze at, in my opinion.
Purdue is a team that I feel is poised to do great things in 2005. Sure, they have never gotten over in the close games, losing five games by five or fewer points last year and having a myriad of close calls over the past four years.
However, the Boilermakers do not play Michigan or Ohio State this year, two teams that have the potential to be in the season ending Top 10.
Another team they do play that has the same potential, that being the Iowa Hawkeyes, the Boilermakers get them on their home turf. Road games at Minnesota and Penn State are going to be a challenge, but their schedule, as well as the fact that they return all 11 starters on defense in addition to returning seven of 11 starters on offense are the reasons why I rated the Boilers so high.
However, I still feel that the Hawks have a good shot at making it to their fourth straight New Year's Day bowl game this year. One of the reasons that I feel that way is if Purdue does run the table or finishes 7-1, they have a great shot at earning a BCS bid. I think there is a decent chance that the Big Ten could find two of its teams punching a ticket to the BCS. If that happens, then that means the Capital One Bowl will be picking the ‘third' team from the Big Ten, with the Outback picking the ‘fourth' team. Typically, the Cap One picks the ‘second' team, with the Big Ten Champion playing in the Rose Bowl.
This year, the Rose is for all the marbles.
Many of you that have read my offerings through the years know that there is one college football magazine that I feel is head and shoulders above the rest, that being Phil Steele's annual tome.
I had the occasion to pick up his magazine on Wednesday night, and after a quick perusal, I see that Phil and I do share some of the same sentiments.
Steele did what I didn't outright have the stomach to do, but what I considered doing, and that is picking Purdue to win the Big Ten title.
He ranks Michigan second, Ohio State third and Iowa fourth.
He feels that Purdue is going to be playing in the Sugar Bowl, which is a BCS bowl, while Michigan will travel to Miami and play in the Orange Bowl, another BCS bowl. Steele and I agreed on our projected bowl game for Iowa, that being the Outback Bowl. He has the Hawks getting a rematch against Florida in Tampa on January 1st.
Now, Steele has the Boilers at #3 nationally, while I tabbed them as the 9th best team in the land to start the year. Steele has Iowa 14th.
One of my favorite articles in Steele's magazine each year is titled ‘Turnovers Equals Turnaround'. His data shows that a team that had a high turnover margin to the positive side in one year is statistically bound to see that number decrease the next year, which means that team will likely have fewer wins.
He lists Iowa as a team to watch for a downward number of wins this year, as they had the 6th best turnover ratio in the country last year.
Conversely, teams that had a horrible turnover ratio might be poised to break out the next year.
In looking back through some of his previous magazines, he did hit on some teams that did turn around, for better or for worse. But some of the elite teams in the country that force a lot of turnovers do so on an annual basis.
Will the Hawks have a strong turnover margin this year? A lot of that depends on the defensive line and their ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, in my opinion.
None of this is to say that Steele and I will be correct on our preseason predictions. I hope the Hawks finish better than fourth in the Big Ten, and in the soon to be arriving Summer issue of Hawkeye Nation magazine, an issue that is jam packed with Hawkeye stories and information related to the 2005 season, I have the Hawkeyes tying for first place with three other teams. A trip in the wayback machine to 1990, when four teams tied for the Big Ten title and Iowa went to Pasadena.
I have absolutely no tie in with Steele's magazine, he is not an advertiser and I am not compensated to mention his product.
However, I highly recommend that any serious college football fan grabs his mag, because it's chock full of outstanding information and it can take weeks to pore over it all, or longer.
No, Steele is not the end all be all when it comes to predicting the outcomes of a college football season, nor am I; not by a long shot.
Nor am I trying to water down fan expectations for this coming season; I could not do that if I tried, and that is not what someone in my position should do.
However, I do take my predictions and analysis very seriously, and I am not just going to jump on the bandwagon of calling for Iowa to finish 11-1 or 12-0…then again, what the heck was I thinking in February of 2004?
By the way, I picked up some other mags and Street & Smith tabs Iowa 13th, while Lindy's picks Iowa 15th. You already know that Athlon has Iowa 3rd, while The Sporting News has Iowa 10th.
To get a good handle on what every preseason mag or poll has the Hawks rated right now, CLICK HERE for a complete rundown as well as a consensus ranking. Iowa's weighted average is 6th in the nation right now.
In spite of all the rankings, the best thing Iowa fans have to rely on is the fact that this team has consistently answered questions in the affirmative and has overcome amazing adversity during the past several seasons. They have the best coaching staff in college football, and that counts for something.
Will the Melrose Magic continue this year?