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Stealing from Steele: The Hawkeyes Sessions
It's shameful, if not sinful, the way certain sportswriters (me) will pilfer from Phil Steele's College Football Preview.
But I just got my hands on the 2013 edition, and it's June, and what was I going to do today, call high school freshmen football players in Ohio to ask them if they've ever heard of Iowa?
So I'll pass on some of Steele's projections about the '13 Hawkeyes, and encourage you to spend the $9.99 to buy the magazine if such things interest you. I spent almost seven bucks on an enormous ice cream concoction over the weekend, and that did me short-term and long-term harm, not good.
1. Iowa vs. Tulsa in the Heart of Dallas Bowl
I almost typed "Heart of Darkness Bowl." Last season's Heart of Darkness Bowl -- oh, I did do it that time! - pitted someone and someone else. Actually, it was Purdue and Oklahoma State. The Boilermakers lost, 58-14.
That would mean, without question, that Iowa goes 6-6 in the regular-season.
Last year, Steele predicted Iowa would play in the Gator Bowl. And it would have had it not botched games against Central Michigan and Indiana and Purdue.
Whoa! That was a lot of botching against mediocre teams. Oh, well. That's last year. Phil and I are looking ahead. He also predicts ...
2. Iowa in 5th-place in the Big Ten's Legends Division, ahead of only Minnesota
This will be a popular pick. Not popular in Iowa, mind you, but in preseason forecasts.
The Hawkeyes tied Minnesota for fifth in the Legends last season.
3. The only units ranked in the top 45 in the nation are linebackers (15th) and special teams (42nd)
That's jarring. Forty-five is a lot of teams. Ohio State is in the top 45 in all eight units (quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, special teams). Penn State and Michigan are ranked in six units, Nebraska and Wisconsin in five, Michigan State and Northwestern in four.
Or course, you can go cuckoo taking this stuff seriously, of course. Steele says five Mid-American Conference teams have better backs than Iowa's. Without doing one iota of research on any of the four, I'll suggest Iowa's trio of Mark Weisman, Damon Bullock and Jordan Canzeri are the equals of all MAC teams except perhaps Kent State, which has a wonderful duo in Dri Archer and Trayion Durham.
And if Iowa doesn't have one of the nation's 45 best offensive lines, something has gone haywire in Hawkdom.
4. Northern Illinois is the nation's No. 2 top non-Automatic Qualifier
Iowa plays Northern Illinois in the season-opener. Fresno State is No. 1, by the way.
This is actually a drop-off for the Huskies. They played in the Orange Bowl last season. In theory, anyway.
5. In terms of wins and losses, Iowa will be the 15th-most improved team in the nation
Last year, Steele's No. 1 and 2 most-improved picks were UCF and Ohio State. UCF went from five wins to 10, and Ohio State went from six to 12.
He says Indiana will be the No. 3 improved team this year. Iowa doesn't play Indiana. I'd tell you that's a good thing, but you'd rather play the Hoosiers than Ohio State.
6. Iowa is 49th in Steele's Power Poll
That isn't a projection of where teams will finish the season. It's how he ranks teams from 1 to 126 in strength.
The rest of the Big Ten: 2. Ohio State, 21. Michigan, 24. Wisconsin, 27. Nebraska, 28. Michigan State, 32. Northwestern, 38. Penn State, 53. Indiana, 66. Minnesota, 82. Purdue, 85. Illinois.
Iowa State is 69th. Northern Illinois is 54th. Western Michigan, which plays at Iowa, is 100th.
7. Odds and Sods
Iowa hasn't lost two straight games to Purdue since 1979 and 1980. The Boilermakers won at Iowa last year.
For those with short memories (like me), the last two Ohio State-Iowa games were 3-point Buckeye victories. Yes, I remember the 2009 overtime game vividly. But the following year, OSU trailed Iowa 17-10 in the fourth quarter before rallying. They play each other again this season after a 2-year hiatus.
It seems crazy to say this, but Iowa hasn't played Illinois since 2008 and won't play the Illini this year unless it's for the Big Ten title. If it is Iowa-Illinois for the league-championship, I will grow a long white beard, stand on a street corner outside Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, and hold a sign saying "The End is Near!"