Merry Steelemas: Phil Steele's Predictions For Iowa In 2011

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Cover Watch: The upper Midwest version features Jared Crick (Nebraska DT), Denard Robinson (Michigan QB), Nathan Williams (Ohio State LB), and Montee Ball (Wisconsin RB).  Well, three out of those four make sense.

Record/Finish: 3rd place, Legends division

Projected Bowl: Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (vs. Kansas State)

All-Americans
RIley Reiff, OT, 3rd team
Marvin McNutt, WR, 4th taem

All-Big Ten
Riley Reiff, OT, 1st team
Marvin McNutt, WR, 1st team
Shaun Prater, CB, 1st team
Broderick Binns, DE, 2nd team
James Morris, LB, 2nd team
Micah Hyde, S, 2nd team
Marcus Coker, RB, 3rd team
Nolan MacMillan, OG, 3rd team
Mike Daniels, DT, 3rd team
Tyler Nielsen, LB, 4th team

Recruiting
Steele rated Iowa's class 28th best in the nation and 5th best in the Big Ten (behind Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan, Penn State).  There were also multiple Iowa recruits among his Top 500 Freshmen, including Rodney Coe (RB #17), Mika'il McCall (RB #54), Ray Hamilton (TE #14), Jordan Walsh (OL #20), Austin Blythe (OL #35), Darian Cooper (DL #48), Quinton Alston (LB #49), Nico Law (DB #76), and Dan Heiar (JC #45).

Bowl Projections:
Rose -- Nebraska v. Oregon
Capital One -- Ohio State v. Georgia
Outback -- Wisconsin v. South Carolina
Insight -- Penn State v. Missouri
Gator -- Michigan State v. Florida
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas --  Iowa v. Kansas State
TicketCity -- Illinois v. Houston
Pizza Pizza -- Michigan v. Toledo
(other) Kraft Fight Hunger -- Northwestern v. California

Odds and Ends:
If you're looking for reasons why Iowa could be better in 2011, Steele has a few.  Iowa had a net close losses (games decided by a touchdown or less) of -3 (2 close wins vs. 5 close losses); per Steele's data, 81.3% of teams that had a net close losses total of -3 finished with a record that was the same or better the next year.

But if you're looking for reasons why Iowa might struggle in 2011, Steele has a few of those, too.  Iowa had a defensive YPP (yards allowed per point) total of 19.53 in 2010; almost three-quarters of teams who had a defensive YPP total like that had a record the next year that was the same or weaker.  Iowa also had a very positive turnover margin (+13), which often means some backsliding the next season (three-fourths of teams with with turnover margins greater than +10 had a record that was the same or weaker the next season).  A more concerning stat might be Iowa's poor placement on Phil's experience chart.  They rate 118th in the NCAA, sit at the bottom of the Big Ten in total experience points (40.8; next lowest is Indiana at 51.1), percentage of lettermen returning (57.6%), percentage of 2010 yards returning (25%), have the second lowest percentage of 2010 tackles returning (47%), and have the third-lowest total of returning offensive line starts (59).

Still, Steele thinks they can match last year's 8-win total, assuming that they'll have better luck in close games this year and because it's a program that "consistently overachieves when expectations are low."

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