No team in the Big Ten progressed better down the stretch last year then Iowa did. At this time in 2005, the Hawkeyes were the team the media had chosen to inflict unreasonable expectations upon. Ferentz had a young team and a difficult early schedule. Losses to Iowa State & Ohio State quickly dropped them out of contention. But they rebounded and went 5-2 down the stretch, including spoiling Barry Alvarez's last home game in November.
This time around, Iowa shouldn't need September as a tune-up month. This team is solid in the trenches. The defensive front in particular, looks excellent. Because Big Ten football is won and lost in the trenches, the front four, led by end Kenny Iwebema, will more then compensate for the loss of two All-American linebackers. An experienced secondary rounds out what is the top defense of the conference contenders.
The Hawks are also in good shape up front on offense, and with Albert Young running behind them, they will have the running game needed to compete for a championship. Drew Tate is as good a signal-caller as his counterparts at Michigan & Ohio State.
Iowa's big test will be September 30 when the Buckeyes visit Iowa City. They must win that game to have a chance at a crown, given that there is a road trip to Ann Arbor in October that will be tough to win. Penn State is off the schedule, but it remains to be seen if that's a bigger break for Paterno or Ferentz. I think the former. I like this Iowa team. While they are not great, I see them as narrowly better then their key rivals. Since coming to Iowa City, Ferentz has shared the conference title twice, but never gotten the automatic BCS bid. That changes this year. Big Ten Country is calling Iowa to go to Pasadena for the first time since 1990.