It didn’t take long for the “way-too-early” 2019 top 25 rankings to show themselves after Clemson dismantled Alabama 44-16 to win the 2018 national championship. The Hawkeyes lose a couple of key pieces, but return both starting tackles and will have a third-year starting quarterback in Nate Stanley.
So where is Iowa on USA Today’s too-early top 25 for 2019? A nice ranking for a team that lost some of its best playmakers to the NFL Draft. There is a lot of faith in Stanley and for Iowa’s ability to develop talent.
Myerberg broke down Iowa’s ranking by saying: “The Hawkeyes will be in good-to-great shape at offensive tackle, quarterback, edge rushing and in the secondary. There will be big names to replace at tight end and along the interior of the offensive line, but Iowa’s track record at both positions lessens any worries over a shift in personnel. Iowa could be the best team in the Big Ten West.”
Best team in the West? That’s setting some high expectations for the Hawkeyes especially considering that the Big Ten West is getting better and there will be more teams in contention for a Big Ten West title. Iowa’s schedule next season won’t do them any favors either. The Hawkeyes will play at Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, at Northwestern, and at Wisconsin in a five-game stretch.
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Other Big Ten teams that show up in his rankings include Ohio State at No. 6, Michigan at No. 7, Penn State at No. 19, Nebraska at No. 21, and Wisconsin at No. 23.
This isn’t the first set of early rankings that have included the Hawkeyes. Athlon recently put Iowa at 17th for the 2019 season. In case you missed what they said:
“The Hawkeyes capped a solid 2018 season with a New Year’s Day victory over Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl. Of Iowa’s four losses, three came by six points or less and the other was by 11. Contending for the Big Ten West Division title is certainly within reach in 2019. Quarterback Nate Stanley returns after throwing for 26 touchdowns, and the backfield features a promising trio in Mekhi Sargent, Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin. Coach Kirk Ferentz’s top priority on offense will be restocking the playmakers for Stanley. Tight end Noah Fant declared for the NFL, and T.J. Hockenson could also leave early. Nick Easley was the team’s top statistical wide receiver and finished his eligibility after the Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes will need more out of wideouts Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith next season. The tackle duo of Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs provide a strong foundation up front, but guard Ross Reynolds and center Keegan Render must be replaced. If the defense doesn’t suffer any early departures to the NFL, this unit will rank near the top of the Big Ten. A.J. Epenesa should be among the nation’s top linemen in 2019 after recording 10.5 sacks this season. The tackle position has to be restocked, but Anthony Nelson and Epenesa would form one of the top end combinations in the nation. Safety Amani Hooker is another player considering a jump to the NFL, but his return would only bolster a pass defense that ranked near the top of the Big Ten. The schedule is one reason why Iowa may not contend for the Big Ten title in 2019. The Hawkeyes play Iowa State, Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska on the road next year.”
The Hawkeyes lost Amani Hooker and Anthony Nelson to the NFL Draft, but the Hawkeyes still return solid edge rushers and a young secondary that got a lot of experience in Geno Stone, Julius Brents, Michael Ojemudia among others.
I’m not sure if the Hawkeyes will be ranked in the official week one polls because the schedule is as tough as it has been in memory and there are some obvious question marks. But many pundits and the outside college football world often use preseason rankings to gauge their interest in teams heading into the season, so it’s a plus for Iowa to be listed.