Iowa and the Preseason Rankings

By RossWB on August 3, 2018 at 3:30 pm
Easley does it.

© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

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The preseason rankings are dripping out from various outlets as we inch ever closer to the start of the 2019 season (just 29 days away), so let's take a look at them. The utility of preseason rankings is debatable -- probably a third of the teams listed in most of these preseason rankings will fail to make the end of season rankings -- but they provide a rough assessment of who's supposed to be good this year. Iowa, to no real surprise, is not much of a factor in most of the rankings that have been released so far; Iowa's generally only ever been a preseason darling when they're coming off a big season the year before and 8-5 and a Pinstripe Bowl win doesn't quite cut the mustard there. Not to mention the key departures they need to replace, like Josey Jewell, Josh Jackson, and Akrum Wadley, to name a few. But there are a few Iowa opponents making some preseason noise. 

Let's start with the Coaches Poll, as flawed and unreliable as it is. Big Ten teams ranked: 

#3 Ohio State
#7 Wisconsin
#9 Penn State
#12 Michigan State
#14 Michigan

The Big Ten has five of the Top 15 and three teams in the Top 10, so the top of the league is getting a lot of love from the coaches. Last year's schedule had Iowa facing four of those five teams, but this year Iowa gets just two -- Wisconsin (at home) and Penn State (away). Iowa's other crossover opponents from the East are Indiana (away) and Maryland (home), so the scheduling luck favors Iowa this year. 

While not ranked in the Top 25, Iowa was among the teams receiving votes -- 8 to be precise, which tied them with Iowa State for (roughly) 41st. Northwestern was the only other Big Ten team to receive votes, although another Iowa non-conference opponent (Northern Illinois) did receive a solitary vote. 

ESPN released their preseason power rankings this week and they look similar to the Coaches Poll: 

#3 Ohio State
#6 Wisconsin
#8 Penn State
#12 Michigan
#13 Michigan State

Northwestern was in the Also Receiving Votes category. Again, there appears to be quite a bit of separation between the top five teams in the Big Ten and the rest of the pack. On the other hand, four of those top five teams are in the same division, so they're going to have to beat up on one another. 

ESPN also has their FPI rankings updated for the 2018 campaign and it has some... interesting rankings at the moment. 

#4 Ohio State
#9 Penn State
#10 Michigan State
#11 Michigan
#12 Wisconsin
#24 Iowa
#32 Northwestern
#48 Purdue
#51 Nebraska
#59 Minnesota
#61 Maryland
#63 Indiana
#67 Rutgers
#81 Illinois

(Incidentally, Iowa's two FBS non-conference opponents check in at #40 (Iowa State) and #70 (Northern Illinois).)

I suppose the biggest difference of note there is Wisconsin down at #12, but in truth PSU, MSU, Michigan, and Wisconsin are all very closely bunched at 9-12 in these rankings. FPI has Iowa as the "best of the rest" from the Big Ten, so... yay FPI? 

Continuing our trek through some other preseason rankings, let's look at Athlon

#4 Ohio State
#5 Michigan
#9 Wisconsin
#11 Penn State
#12 Michigan State
#35 Iowa
#45 Purdue
#46 Northwestern
#51 Maryland
#62 Nebraska
#63 Indiana
#73 Minnesota
#87 Rutgers
#95 Illinois

Michigan at #5 is definitely the eyebrow-raiser here, but a Michigan team getting hyped to the heavens is a preseason tradition like no other, especially under Harbaugh. Iowa is again the "best of the rest" here, although there's a steep drop-off from MSU (#12) to our beloved Hawkeyes (#35). 

How about Lindy's?

#3 Ohio State
#5 Wisconsin
#10 Michigan State
#11 Penn State
#18 Michigan
#29 Iowa
#40 Northwestern
#42 Purdue
#47 Nebraska
#60 Maryland
#64 Indiana
#65 Minnesota
#72 Rutgers
#88 Illinois

Not much different of note here, although they're less bullish on Michigan than their counterparts at Athlon. Expectations are high for MSU and PSU, as they are at every other outlet, too. Iowa earns "best of the rest" honors here as well. 

And, finally, good ol' Phil Steele

#3 Ohio State
#6 Wisconsin
#11 Michigan
#12 Penn State
#13 Michigan State
#26 Iowa
#38 Northwestern

Steele only lists the Top 60 in his magazine, but it's notable that no other Big Ten teams earned a spot from #39-60 in his preseason rankings. The creamy middle of the Big Ten is not inspiring much confidence or excitement in the preseason; considering that most of Iowa's schedule will be comprised of games against teams in that creamy middle, it's imperative that they take advantage of those games. If they do, this could wind up being a pretty nice season. If they don't, well, we're probably staring at a pretty so-so campaign.

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