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Andrew Logue: Should Iowa fans be alarmed by elevated expectations?

[ 0 ] April 19, 2014 |

IOWA CITY, Ia. – We’re all a little sappy when it comes to spring football.

And if preseason magazines start showing Iowa a little love, some Hawkeye followers will fall head over heels.

Shame on them.

If the past decade has taught us anything, it’s that national pundits can be fickle and Big Ten foes unforgiving.

“We’re still trying to sort through our Big Ten predictions,” said Steven Lassan, a college football editor for Athlon Sports, “but I think the new alignment really favors Iowa this year.”The Hawkeyes take the field against Michigan State on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. (Bryon Houlgrave/The Des Moines Register)

The addition of Maryland and Rutgers led to an overhaul in the Big Ten. As a result, the Hawkeyes will play in the West Division along with Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin.

It’s an intriguing twist for the Athlon staffers, who plan to unveil their 2014 projections in late May or early June.

“Nebraska and Wisconsin both have a lot of starters to replace, and Iowa brings back most of its core,” Lassan said. “I think with the schedule and the veteran leadership they have on offense, Iowa can certainly make a run at the division title and maybe into the preseason top 25 discussion.”

That’s what Hawkeye Nation wants to believe.

Elevated expectations generate excitement, helping folks pass time until Northern Iowa visits Kinnick Stadium for the Aug. 30 opener.

Of course, reality isn’t always so sweet.

Remember 2005, when quarterback Drew Tate was an icon in the making and the defense boasted future NFL linebackers Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge?

The Hawkeyes finished 7-5.

They also suffered heartbreak and disappointment in 2010 (8-5) and 2012 (4-8).

“We can’t control expectations,” said Brian Ferentz, Iowa’s offensive line coach, who played center for the ’05 Hawkeyes. “We can’t manage those. We can’t do any of that.

“We have to focus on what we’re doing in this building, and maybe, if we haven’t lived up to those expectations in the past, that’s our fault.

“We probably need to do a better job of improving as a football team.”

There’s a lot to like about Iowa’s current roster. Eight starters are back on offense. The defensive line is formidable. The schedule is favorable.

“I think the top tier in the division is pretty clear,” Lassan said. “Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa are the three top teams.

“I think most are going to lean (toward) Wisconsin, just because they’ve been probably the most consistent program out of that bunch in recent years.”

Based on history — which seems to indicate the Hawkeyes would rather slip under the radar — you can’t blame people for being a little leery.

“It’s something we’ve definitely noticed,” Lassan said. “And actually, it’s something we’ve talked about in some of our Big Ten prediction meetings.

“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that happens. I think maybe one theory I have is Iowa’s just a tougher job in terms of reloading or rebuilding.

Another reason: a thin margin for error.

From 2002-03, the Hawkeyes owned a 10-1 record in games decided by seven points or less and they finished among the Associated Press top 10 in each of those seasons.

Iowa began 2005 ranked No. 11, but went 0-3 in close games.

When the Hawkeyes made their Orange Bowl run in 2009, four of their wins were within seven points.

In 2010, after starting No. 9 in the AP poll, they lost five games by an average of 3.6 points.

“I think sometimes football luck is hard to define,” Lassan said. “When we look at basketball and we look at baseball, we have so many stats that kind of show you just how good certain players and certain teams are.

“College football is not quite to that point.”

Drama is unavoidable.

So if the national experts start touting your team, remember what Elvis said, “Only fools rush in.”

Andrew Logue covers Hawkeye football and sports media for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMLogue.

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SPRING GAME

The Iowa football team will hold its annual spring game at 2 p.m. Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

Gates open at 1 p.m. There is no admission charge, but fans are invited to bring non-perishable food items to the event as part of the annual food bank drive.

The Hawkeye Sports Network will be on the air from 2 to 3 p.m., with Gary Dolphin and Rob Brooks discussing spring football and the game.

The event will feature offense vs. defense, with a unique scoring system.

SCORING OFFENSE: touchdown 6 points, explosive play 1 (run of 12+ yards, pass of 16+ yards), 3 consecutive first downs 1, PAT 1, field goal 3

SCORING DEFENSE: touchdown 7, turnover (unless a TD) 3, three and out 1, QB sack 2, sudden change 4 (when offense starts inside the 35 and is held to a field goal or no points)

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 19 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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