SBN's Bill Connelly is once again doing his annual preview of all 128 Division I football teams and in the last few weeks he's hit the Big Ten -- and today's installment covers a team near and dear to our hearts, the Iowa Hawkeyes:
Iowa's 2015 is why most of us follow college football. From a pure numbers standpoint, most of us aren't Alabama fans or Ohio State fans or Florida State fans. In our lifetimes, we won't get many chances to partake in a national title race, but we like to believe that if we stick it out, if we just keep showing up, we might be blessed by a run like what Ferentz's Hawkeyes had last fall.
We might see our team pull away from its in-state rival with a perfect fourth quarter (Iowa 31, Iowa State 17). We might see them win with a 57-yard field goal at the buzzer (Iowa 27, Pitt 24). We might see them take on our division's heavyweight on the road and make stop after stop near their goal line (Iowa 10, Wisconsin 6). We might see them destroying another upstart rival on their home field (Iowa 40, Northwestern 10). We might see them survive a late-game shootout against another rival (Iowa 40, Minnesota 35).
We might see them finish the regular season 12-0.
He's absolutely right: 2015 Iowa football is why we watch college football. Winning a national title would be incredible and I hope to see Iowa do it one day, but we're not Ohio State or Alabama or USC or Oklahoma or one of the handful of teams for whom national title challenges are a regular occurrence. So when the stars align and the ball bounces our way, like it did in 2015, we need to make sure we appreciate it. Because that's the magic we're hoping for every year we tune in for more college football. No, Iowa wasn't able to stick the landing -- the magic wore out about 80% of the way through the Big Ten Championship Game -- but it was still an amazing season.
Now it's time for the follow-up act. How do you follow up a 12-0 regular season? Can you follow up a 12-0 regular season? Bill's numbers never really liked Iowa that much in 2015 and -- surprise, surprise -- they still don't exactly love Iowa in 2016.
My S&P+ rating is a jerk, really. It is, for better or worse, probably the least forgiving rating you can find when it comes to giving credit to a team for being one play better or one bounce luckier. That is by design. It had Iowa ranked well lower than any other computer ratings in the Massey Composite last year.
If you were deriving your ratings from play-by-play or drive-based numbers (and not simply "who did you play and who did you beat?"), you probably didn't have Iowa much higher. The Hawkeyes were ranked 33rd in ESPN's FPI, 34th in Ed Feng's The Power Rank, 34th in FEI, 35th at Tempo-Free Gridiron. But the Hawkeyes ended up 47th in S&P+. And while that's awfully low for a 12-win team, S&P+ had a pretty much perfect read on the Hawkeyes over the last half of the season, as did Vegas. At least, they did until the Rose Bowl, when the Hawkeyes dramatically underachieved.
Those numbers have Iowa favored in 8 of 12 games, a pure toss-up in another (50% odds versus Nebraska), a slight underdog in one game (44% odds at Minnesota), and a moderate underdog in two other games (35% odds at Penn State, 33% odds versus Michigan). Ultimately, they project Iowa for 7.4 wins.
What do you think? Give the preview a read (it's good) and let us know what you think and vote in the poll below, based off Bill's projections. We'll do another win projection poll closer to the season with a few more options than this one.