August is finally here, which means actual, real football is getting closer and closer -- we're just 30 days from Iowa suiting up against Miami (OH). One of the annual signs that the season is drawing nearer is the release of the preseason polls and today we got the USA Today Coaches Poll, where your beloved Hawkeyes enter at #19.
This is the first time Iowa has begun the season ranked in the Coaches Poll since 2016, when Iowa began the season ranked #15. Overall it's the seventh time Iowa has been ranked in the preseason Coaches Poll Top 25 under Ferentz; the previous five teams went a combined 50-26, but just two ended the season ranked (the 2004 team ended the year ranked 8th, while the 2009 team ended the year at #7). Iowa began the season ranked in 2005, 2006, 2010, and 2016 and, well, we don't need to go into what happened in those seasons now. (H/T to blog amigo @PlannedSickDays for those details.)
Iowa ended the season ranked #25 in the AP Poll, but unranked in the Coaches Poll. Time has apparently made the coaches (or their SIDs) grow fonder when it comes to the Hawkeyes, though. This after Iowa had four high-profile departures to the NFL Draft in T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, Anthony Nelson, and Amani Hooker. Had those four stayed, Iowa probably would have been a shoo-in to be in the preseason Top 15, and perhaps even hovering outside the Top 10.
The big -- B1G, really -- takeaway from these rankings is the prevalence of the Big Ten. No other conference has as many teams ranked as the league (7), although most of them are ranked in the bottom half of the rankings. Ohio State leads the way at #5, followed by Michigan at #7. Penn State checks in at #14, while the Big Ten East's Fourth Horseman, Michigan State, is at #20, just behind Iowa. Iowa is one of three Big Ten West teams in the rankings, narrowly behind Wisconsin (tied for #17 with UCF) and a few spots ahead of the reigning West champions Northwestern at #25. A fourth West team, Nebraska, narrowly missed out on the Top 25 and is the top team in the Others Receiving Votes category. Minnesota was the only other Big Ten team to receive a vote.
The other thing to note from these rankings is that Iowa, uh, has to play a lot of these teams. In addition to facing four of the other six Big Ten teams in the Top 25 (all but Ohio State and Michigan State), Iowa will also play #24 Iowa State. (Aside: this is the first time I can ever recall Iowa State being ranked in the preseason Top 25 and it likely means that if Iowa and Iowa State can avoid any landmines in the first two weeks of the season, the CyHawk game will be a showdown of Top 25 teams for the first time ever.) On paper, almost half of Iowa's 2019 regular season schedule is ranked here (with a sixth team, Nebraska, just barely missing out). Oh, and four of those five games against ranked opponents are on the road. At this moment, this looks like the most daunting schedule Iowa has faced in quite a while. Buckle up.