Welcome to The Ciskie Blog's 2008 College Football Preview. As usual, you can expect a rundown of every Division I-A (or "Football Bowl Subdivision", if you prefer) conference, as well as a brief look at the independents. Some of the information used to compile these previews came from various football preview publications that I took the time to review this summer. I give a full endorsement to Phil Steele's College Football Preview (the national edition, as well as his various regional magazines). I also have looked at Sporting News, Athlon Sports, and Blue Ribbon (via ESPN Insider). Information was also gathered from local newspapers and school websites. Please use the comments section or e-mail for feedback, questions, and any corrections you feel need to be noted.
Last year: 6-6 overall, 4-4 Big Ten (T-5th)
Postseason: Not quite
In good shape
Defensive line. Yes, Kenny Iwebema is gone, but Iowa returns a pair of hard-charging tackles. Mitch King led the team with 14.5 tackles for loss a year ago, and Matt Kroul led all linemen with 74 tackles. King fits the Iowa mentality perfectly, as he's an 264-pound defensive tackle who plays like he's at least 295. He has a non-stop motor and a great nose for the football, which reminds you of former Iowa linemen like Aaron Kampman and Jared DeVries who have succeeded in the NFL. The Hawkeyes also have the potential to field some playmakers at the ends, especially sophomore Adrian Clayborn. The ends will benefit from a lot of one-on-one blocking as opponents look to neutralize King and Kroul in the middle.
Passing game. I do think junior Jake Christensen is going to be a fine QB. He only threw six picks in 370 pass attempts a year ago, despite a dreadfully bad and awfully banged-up group of receivers. His best WR, Darrell Johnson-Koulianos, returns after a 38-catch freshman season. The bad news is that he scored just two times and those 38 catches led the team. Iowa wins with tough defense and a solid ball-control offense, and they don't have to give in to the pass-first tendencies of many college offenses these days. However, they do need to average better than 190 passing yards per game if they hope to avoid another season below a 20 PPG average. Worse, the running game is also a huge question mark thanks to the departures of leading rushers Albert Young and Damian Sims.
Despite returning eight starters, there isn't much to like about the Iowa offense. The Hawkeyes didn't run the ball effectively, and Christensen - while staying mainly turnover-free - just didn't light up any opposing defenses. His best performance was a 299-yard game against Northwestern. His season-high was 308 in a game Iowa lost by 18 points (Indiana). He'll help himself by completing more than 53 percent of his throws, but he'll also help himself by developing a serious rapport with Johnson-Koulianos. He should be helped by a line that returns five starters and can't possibly give up 46 sacks again (31 of those came in Iowa's six losses). Unless coach Kirk Ferentz can mold the line and develop the skill positions, Iowa is doomed for another poor season. A soft non-conference schedule (outside of a trip to Pittsburgh) probably assures a six-win season, and if they can pull off an upset in Big Ten play, they have a good shot at making a bowl game.