A Blue Ribbon Analysis

July 13, 2010

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Is the University of Iowa football team a top-five team in the nation or the No. 5 team in the Big Ten Conference? That is a question posed by Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz and the answer might become clearer Sept. 4 when Iowa hosts Eastern Illinois in the season-opener.

“We were really close to having a better season [than 11-2],” Ferentz said. “But we were equally as close to being right in the middle of the pack, and I think it’s important to see both sides.”

That Iowa could lose six NFL draft choices off last year’s team — the most for the program in 44 years — and still be considered a Big Ten title contender indicates the amount of talent Ferentz has stockpiled. The Hawkeyes have 15 starters returning, highlighted by perhaps the best collection of skill players Iowa has had since 2002 and the makings of its best defense since Ferentz took over 12 years ago and brought Norm Parker in to run his defense. Those are just a few of the reasons the Hawkeyes surfaced in several spring top 10 lists.

To read a complete Iowa preview from the Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook and posted on ESPN.com, click HERE.

Writes Blue Ribbon: The Hawkeyes’ title hopes appear to hinge on two critical factors — the development of a largely untested offensive line and good fortune on the injury front. Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, Ferentz’s specialty is the offensive line, and Iowa has regularly been strong up front when medical misfortune hasn’t gotten in the way. But there’s not a lot of time for on-the-job-training before Penn State rolls into town for the Oct. 2 Big Ten opener.