The guess here is more than 5.5 wins for Hawkeyes

Will the fog from last year lift? Sure. Maybe.

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Here’s the deal: Last season stunk for Iowa’s football team.

To say the Hawkeyes were in a funk last season would be kind. They went 4-8. They were what their record says they were.

There are those who would note Iowa had five losses by a total of 16 points. Statistically, that is true. But four of those games were against teams that also finished with losing records. When you’re coin-flipping with mediocre teams, you’re mediocre.

But in the words of Billy Joel, every year’s a souvenir that slowly fades away. The 2013 season is at hand. If you want to entitle it “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” that’s your prerogative. But for all we know, the fog hanging over Kirk Ferentz’s program has already lifted, and it’s just a matter of seeing the proof.

Such proof would require positive answers to the following questions:

Will Iowa’s offense look coordinated? Will a Hawkeye quarterback play at the level needed to manage more wins than losses? Will Iowa’s defensive front start to resemble to produce to typical level of D-line play we’ve seen on Ferentz’s teams?

And, have all of the Hawkeyes’ coaching-staff changes of the last two years formed a greater whole?

It’s easy to see where an over/under win number of 5.5 has been slapped on Iowa by Las Vegas sportsbooks, and why virtually none of the national publications and websites are picking the Hawkeyes to have a winning season. It’s a salty Big Ten schedule.

This could be a noticeably better team and still might not make huge gains in the win column. But two of Iowa’s games (Missouri State and Western Michigan) should be wins, and right now as many as seven of the other 10 games could be considered relative coin-flips.

Expectations are dialed down, which means a 7-5 record would probably be greeted the same way it was back in 2000 when the Hawkeyes went to their first bowl under Ferentz. Namely, as a renaissance.

That might even apply to a 6-6 season if the team is consistently competitive, competent, and compelling. But come to think of it, those usually aren’t hallmarks of a 6-6 team.

Last season, the Hawkeyes were about as entertaining as a C-SPAN program about First Lady Caroline Harrison. Did you know she designed her own White House china pattern?

Watching Iowa’s offense was like being stuck at a railroad crossing waiting for a train to go by, but it never did. If that alone changes starting Saturday against Northern Illinois, it’s a better season.

Whether Jake Rudock or any of his quarterback mates steps up, who knows? But going with a first-year starting quarterback is overrated as a concern. New starting QBs prosper for many teams every year.

What we do know is Iowa’s offensive line ought to start this season better than it was in the second half of 2012. A healthy Brandon Scherff makes that a fact, not a guess.

As for that defensive line, well, we’ll know soon enough. Northern Illinois isn’t Chopped Liver State. Iowa was the only team to contain NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch last year until the Huskies got to the Orange Bowl. Repeat that effort, and the sun will shine in Iowa City next week.

How bright will things be come late November? Your guess is as good as mine, but both of us are lying if we say we’re doing anything more than guessing.

My guess is to take the “over” in Vegas on those 5.5 wins. You can apply the money to your trip to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.


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