On Saturday, the Iowa football team made its 22nd appearance in the Associated Press preseason poll — landing in the top 10 for the first time since 1988.
Unfortunately, for those trying to gauge how the ninth-ranked Hawkeyes will fare this fall, the previous 21 appearances brought mixed results.
“Right now, it doesn’t matter,” defensive back Brett Greenwood said this month when USA Today ranked Iowa No. 10, “but it will in November, December and January.”
The Hawkeyes, who finished 11-2 last season, find themselves on a short list of projected Bowl Championship Series contenders.
Defending national champion Alabama is the Associated Press No. 1, followed by Ohio State, Boise State, Florida and Texas.
“I love this Iowa team,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. “I think, on paper, they are without a doubt a top-10 team in the country. And if they come together, as far as the intangibles are concerned, they could have a magical year.”
The Hawkeyes could also slip into mediocrity.
They’ve opened among the top 10 on five previous occasions (1957, ’59, ’61, ’85 and ’88), but failed to remain in the rankings three of those years.
Of the 21 total seasons in which Iowa was ranked at the start, only 11 ended with the Hawkeyes still in the top 25.
“I just want to see this team be able to be comfortable with those lofty expectations,” Herbstreit said, “and being able to go out there, play loose and have fun.”
The Hawkeyes rode a rankings roller coaster last season.
They began at No. 22, then tumbled out of the poll after a narrow 17-16 win over Northern Iowa.
Coach Kirk Ferentz’s team went on to beat Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl and finish No. 7.
“It’s kind of the same as a year ago,” Ferentz said of the anticipation surrounding this season. “Externally, maybe the barometer was not quite as high, but I think (fans) are feeling pretty good out there.”
Some national observers have drawn comparisons to Iowa’s 2005 and ’06 teams, which opened at No. 11 and No. 16, respectively, but posted a combined record of 13-12.
“Not only did they deal with some difficulties, but they ended up not being able to deal with the expectations,” Herbstreit said. “And then all of a sudden, that’s when everyone started to question, ‘Is Kirk Ferentz the right guy? Is he in trouble?’ ”
Ferentz’s Hawkeyes have compiled a 20-6 mark the past two seasons.
“Iowa is a team that, when you don’t expect a lot from them, they seem to be relaxed, in their comfort zone, an ‘us-against-the-world’ mentality,” Herbstreit said. “And then, when the expectations are there, they have the potential to be snuck up on, and somebody can get them.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football