A reversal in record led some Iowa football fans to flip their outlook.
A year ago, the Hawkeyes were coming off a 4-8 fall. In 2013, they went 8-4 during the regular season. And Friday, Iowa was picked to finish second in the Big Ten’s West Division, according to a media poll conducted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
“I remember last year at this time I had fans who were telling me they didn’t see how we were going to win a game,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta recalled. “This year, I had fans coming to me saying, ‘I don’t figure how you’re going to lose one.’’’
Wisconsin was picked to win the West and meet East Division favorite Ohio State in the conference championship game.
The media ranked Iowa ahead of West rivals Nebraska, Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue.
Twelve of the 29 voters picked the Buckeyes to beat Wisconsin at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. But the next two title-game scenarios involved Iowa: Five voters picked Michigan State over Iowa, and four picked Ohio State over the Hawkeyes.
None picked a West team to win the conference.
The Hawkeyes have not made the championship since the Big Ten went to its current format in 2011.
“Kirk does a great job of not reacting either way,” Barta said of coach Kirk Ferentz and preseason expectations. “Now, we have to play great every game if we’re going to have a chance to win.
“Of course, the mood is much more positive going into the season than it was (last year), but you have to guard… We haven’t won a game, yet.”
BOWLSBY BUZZ: Former Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby created quite a stir this week while addressing the Big 12 Conference media in Dallas.
The league commissioner made national headlines when he said, “(NCAA) enforcement is broken. The infractions committee hasn’t had a hearing in almost a year, and I think it’s not an understatement to say cheating pays, presently.”
So what does Gary Barta, Bowlsby’s replacement at Iowa, think?
“Bob was very intentional,” Barta said Friday. “Bob said things that we all worry about.”
The general idea is that NCAA officials have too much going on – a potential breakaway by the power five conferences, several potential landmark court cases and dwindling resources – to enforce all their rules.
Which would make bending those rules a lot easier.
“So you sit here and say, I want to make sure the enforcement across the country is strong and consistent,” Barta said. “Because if I’m sitting here trying to do it the right way, I want to make sure it’s not an uneven playing field.”
Barta’s comments, however, were less inflammatory than Bowlsby’s.
“He’s saying things that I think we all believe,” Barta said. “There’s been talk about, should we have a football enforcement group, and a men’s basketball enforcement group …
“The point we all agree on is, let’s make sure the playing field is level.”