Leistikow: Iowa can't play no-respect card in 2016
As tends to be the case, times change.
From a national perspective in 2015, pundits repeatedly handed Iowa football supporters flammable material soaked in gasoline.
The schedule was “embarrassing,” an ESPN talking head who once quarterbacked Ohio State said.
That one radio guy now with Fox (who we don’t speak of) famously blasted Iowa as “a fraud,” among other things.
Hawkeye players said they didn’t notice, but they did. C.J. Beathard responded to the unnamed talking head with a zinger after Iowa beat Nebraska to finish the regular season 12-0.
But in 2016, it doesn’t appear the no-respect card will be available in Iowa’s deck.
Thursday's release of the preseason USA TODAY Coaches' Poll was a reminder of that. Ballots compiled by 64 FBS coaches (or their SIDs) resulted in the Hawkeyes getting a complimentary No. 15 national ranking.
Hawkeye fans should be more than cool with that.
In-the-spring ratings had Iowa in the 20 to 25 range. As the Hawkeyes have gotten closer looks, they’ve gotten more love.
Three other Big Ten teams are ahead of them (No. 5 Ohio State, No. 8 Michigan, No. 11 Michigan State), but none play in the West Division, which Iowa was picked to win by 32 of 39 sportswriters in late July.
Most sportsbooks have the Hawkeyes’ over/under regular-season win total at nine, making 9-3 the consensus prediction (same as mine) for 2016. If that happens, it'll be Iowa’s second-best win total since 2009.
And now let’s take one more look at the coaches’ poll, in which the Hawkeyes are preseason-ranked for the first time since 2010 when they were No. 10 and went on to finish 8-5.
Coaches (seven of which are in the Big Ten) ranked Iowa ahead of programs like Georgia, Southern California, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oregon and Florida. A year ago, the Hawkeyes were one of only five Big Ten teams not to get a single preseason polling vote.
As was obvious at Big Ten media days in Chicago, the Hawkeyes now have a target on their backs.
Even Radio Guy Who Shall Not Be Named has trumpeted Iowa as an "11-1 team" and a threat to make the College Football Playoff.
Not this year.
(But get back to me in November.)
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 22 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.