Football is king.
That may not be the boldest statement ever printed, but football has become not only our national pastime, but our national passion.
If you haven’t noticed, even with concerns around the violence of the game — mostly head injuries — football is a 24/7, 365 sport.
Football stories — NFL, college and even high school — are in newspapers nearly every day. It drives traffic on sports websites and gets fans in a frenzy on sports radio.
Mediocre NFL games get better TV ratings than MLB playoff games.
When did this happen? Why did it happen?
Those questions might be tough to answer, but football is king — and the 2019 season is just around the corner.
The Iowa high school season starts Friday with several Week 0 games, including Collins-Maxwell at Iowa Valley, Lynville-Sully at Belle Plaine and Springville at Winfield-Mount Union.
The college season kicks off Saturday with a pair of FBS games — including Miami at Florida — and two FCS games.
The NFL officially starts Sept. 5 with Chicago Bears hosting the Green Bay Packers, but the preseason already is heading into Week 3.
The prediction season also is well underway.
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The preseason college football coaches poll has been out a couple of weeks and Iowa and Iowa State both are ranked — the Hawkeyes 19th and the Cyclones 24th. The Associated Press releases its preseason poll today.
The Gazette will publish its first high school rankings on Wednesday and our preseason football section will be in the Sunday paper with features on 17 Eastern Iowa teams and a capsule look at all area teams.
We’ve also kicked off our yearly position series for Iowa and Iowa State and, starting a week from today, it’s “game week” for the Hawkeyes, Cyclones and Panthers.
Cornell and Upper Iowa introduce their teams to the media today, Coe a week from today.
Football is here folks and, for many of you, that’s good news.
Here is a quick look at, and some thoughts on, our state’s three Division I programs:
l Iowa — The Hawkeyes appear to be poised for a good season. A great season? That’s a little harder to see right now, but it’s possible.
Iowa has a talented and veteran quarterback in Nate Stanley, the makings of an improved running game and an offensive line that could have a special season. The defense has some holes to fill, but with the likes of A.J. Epenesa, it, too, could be stellar.
The schedule has some challenges this fall — especially the three Big Ten road games (at Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin).
An 8-4 season is not out of the question, but 7-5 seems a bit more likely.
l Iowa State — The Cyclones continue to grow and grow under Matt Campbell’s direction, and 2019 look like it could be a special season.
ISU returns Brock Purdy at QB and, if 2018 was any indication, he can make things happen, especially behind an offensive line with loads of experience and talent. David Montgomery is off and running with the Bears this fall, but freshman Breece Hall is getting some early hype at running back. The defense is as solid as they come, led by Ray Lima, Marcel Spears and Braxton Lewis.
The schedule is favorable, but Oklahoma and Texas always offer tough challenges.
Don’t be surprised if the Cyclones go 9-3, but 8-4 is the guess here.
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l Northern Iowa — The Panthers have a lot of questions heading into Mark Farley’s 19th season at his alma mater.
UNI needs to find a QB and a running back who can carry the load. The defense needs a leader, too.
The schedule never is easy in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and opening at Iowa State will be extremely difficult.
But Farley always seems to, at least, put a playoff contender on the field and 7-5 might give the Panthers a shot. But 6-6 seems about right.
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