Respect or disrespect? Iowa gets both in early top 25s

Chad Leistikow

MARSHALLTOWN, Ia. — It’s banquet season for Kirk Ferentz, as evidenced by his coat-and-tie presence Tuesday night at the Elmwood Country Club to mingle with a few hundred loyal Hawkeye fans.

It’s also college football’s silly season, as evidenced by new rollouts of top 25 rankings for the 2016 campaign that is just almost four months away.

And Iowa’s too-early standing is a blend of respect and disrespect.

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz blows a bubble with his gum as he observes action during the spring game for the 2016 Iowa Hawkeyes football team on Saturday, April 23, 2016, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes are tabbed the No. 23 team in college football by’s Mark Schlabach and No. 24 by’s Stewart Mandel. On the surface, it seems like a slight for a program that returns most of its top talent off a 12-2 team that ended up No. 10 in the final Associated Press poll.

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Yet, the Hawkeyes are the highest-ranked team in the Big Ten Conference’s West Division. So there’s that.

“I wasn’t sure where it’d go, how it’d turn out,” Ferentz said Tuesday night. “But just taking a wild guess, I figured we’d be ranked somewhere. I didn’t know where. It’s usually the byproduct of a decent season, just like when you don’t finish up the way you want to, typically you’re not on those things. It’s really not a big deal either way.”

Big Ten East counterparts Michigan (No. 3 ESPN, No. 5 Fox), Ohio State (No. 10, No. 9) and Michigan State (No. 16, No. 15) are ranked ahead of the Hawkeyes.

Mandel, who in 2013 had Ferentz on his five worst coaches in America list, said No. 24 for Iowa “may seem like a steep drop for a team that went 12-2 last season, but power ratings suggest (the team) was closer to 25th than fifth.”

Ferentz wasn’t biting on a disrespect card, first pointing out the team needs to find a punter and kicker among a pile of mostly walk-ons.

“We have things we have to shore up right now. We have to figure out who our starters are going to be,” Ferentz said. “Just like I’ve said earlier, we’re replacing 21 really good players. We’re shoring up our depth also. We’ve got a ways to go there.”