When Big Ten football coaches preview the upcoming season Thursday at the league’s annual kickoff event in Chicago, it is unlikely Iowa will be on the tip of many tongues.
From preseason publications to prognostications, the Hawkeyes are not projected to have a legendary season in the Legends Division.
“It’s nothing new. Nobody ever seems to throw a lot of love our way,” Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz said.
Many of best teams coach Kirk Ferentz has coached in his first 13 seasons have not been preseason favorites in a league traditionally dominated by Michigan and Ohio State.
The Wolverines are the pick of many to top the pack in the Legends Division, while the Buckeyes — ineligible for postseason play this year — and Wisconsin are popular choices to lead the Leaders Division.
As for the Hawkeyes, most preseason picks have Iowa settling into the fourth or fifth position in the Legends Division.
Among longtime college football publications, Athlon’s has the Hawkeyes finishing in a fourth-place tie in its six-team division while Lindy’s lists Iowa finishing ahead of only Minnesota.
Phil Steele’s magazine pegs a Hawkeye team which returns 11 starters at fourth in the Legends behind Michigan, Nebraska and Michigan State. It lists Northwestern and Minnesota behind Iowa.
Steele lists the Hawkeyes as a potential sleeper pick, pointing to the returning experience of James Vandenberg at quarterback, the potential to
turnaround a couple of close losses from a year ago and a schedule that includes neither of the Leaders Division favorites.
A balloting of 24 beat writers from across the conference conducted by Bob Asmussen of the Champaign News-Gazette followed form, placing Iowa behind the Wolverines, Spartans and Cornhuskers in the Legends Division.
Most publications cite the lack of proven running backs and receivers and the loss of three defensive line starters for the second straight year as concerns. Many see a period of transition created by coaching staff changes as well.
All of those issues lead to low expectations that are of little concern to the Hawkeyes.
Quarterback James Vandenberg, a returning 3,000-yard passer whose return has been overshadowed by other returning quarterbacks within the league, isn’t concerned about what people think about this Iowa football team before it has held its first day of fall camp.
“I don’t spend a lot of time reading magazines, unless it’s Outdoor Life,” Vandenberg said. “I’m not a big media guy. I just know we’re working hard to improve and getting ready to build a good football team.”
And if Iowa finds itself a bit under the radar, that is something the Hawkeyes can live with.
“We like being underdogs,” defensive lineman Dominic Alvis said. “I think we have a lot to prove and that is part of the challenge we face.”
At a glance
Beat reporters picks
Big Ten football preseason poll that consisted of a group of 24 beat reporters, including Steve Batterson of the Quad-City Times, with first-place votes in parenthesis:
1. Michigan (16) 134
2. Michigan State (7) 120
3. Nebraska (1) 104
4. Iowa 72
5. Northwestern 51
6. Minnesota 24
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1. Wisconsin (19) 139
2. Ohio State (5) 125
3. Purdue 79
4. Illinois 72
5. Penn State 65
6. Indiana 24
The poll also asked beat reporters to select a Big Ten championship outcome, and preseason offensive and defensive players of the year. Here are the results:
Michigan over Wisconsin (11), Michigan State over Wisconsin (7), Wisconsin over Michigan (5), Wisconsin over Nebraska (1)
Offensive MVP: Montee Ball, Wisconsin (14), Denard Robinson, Michigan (9), Braxton Miller, Ohio State (1)
Defensive MVP: William
Gholston, Michigan State (11); Kawaan Short, Purdue (5), Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State (3), John Simon, Ohio State (2), Denicos Allen, Michigan State (1), Chris Borland, Wisconsin (1), Gerald Hodges, Penn State (1)
— Staff report