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Iowa Big 10 Football Preview
by Tom Stryker - 06/21/2006
When you talk about Big Ten football power, most thoughts turn to Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan. But the Iowa Hawkeyes shouldnâ€™t be dismissed. Coach Kirk Ferentzâ€™s Hawkeyes are one of only four teams nationally to have played in four straight January 1 bowl games - and there is no reason to suspect that this year wonâ€™t be number five.
As part of our continuing early looks at the Big Ten football teams on this Web site, todayâ€™s installment will deal with Iowa.
Ferentz has seen the highs and the lows in his first seven years at Iowa. After dropping 18 of his first 20 games with the Hawkeyes, the program has been resurrected. In fact, Iowa has more Big Ten wins (25) in the past four years than any other conference team.
Big things could happen in Iowa City in 2006. Fourteen returning starters, including plenty of skilled veterans and a solid offensive line return, hell bent on improving upon last yearâ€™s 7-5 record.
Plenty of preseason attention is being given to quarterback Drew Tate, who threw for 2,828 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2005 (only 7 interceptions). Tate will have the top Iowa running back with him in the backfield in Albert Young. Young had a sensational season a year ago with 1,334 rushing yards (a 5.4 per-carry average).
Three returning starters and plenty of veteran backups - and a bevy of top line recruits could give Iowa the conferenceâ€™s best offensive line.
Some help will be needed at wide receiver. Graduation has hurt, but tight end Scott Chandler (47 receptions for 552 yards) returns to lead a deep cast at that position.
On the defensive side of things, only one lineman is gone via graduation and Ferentz is counting on his veterans to do big things. For the final seven games in 2005, Iowaâ€™s D allowed less than three yards per carry.
If they can do that again, it will mean some talented linebackers have been successfully replaced. Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway are playing on Sundays this fall. But the top four (besides Greenway and Hodge) do return.
Six of Iowaâ€™s top eight defensive backs are still in the fold.
If special teams are important, then Iowa canâ€™t be discounted in that area. Placekicker Kyle Schlicher is back again. He was 17 of 21 in the field goal department last fall. Damian Sims (20-yards-plus on each return) and running back Young (15-plus each return) will handle those duties for a solid special team corps.
Iowa plays seven home games in 2006 and the schedule is a favorable one. Michigan may be the toughest road game. The Hawkeyes get intrastate rival Iowa State at home, and they also host Ohio State. Iowa does not have to face Penn State in conference play this year.
Except for the trip to Ann Arbor, the Hawkeyes are likely to be favored in most of their games. Without upset losses, and with a victory over either Michigan or Ohio State, Iowa could be a potential top 5 team.
On a technical note, Ferentz, has had his troops go 27-5-1 ATS in their last 33 home games.