Football magazine names Iowa 'heavy' Big Ten West favorite

Chad Leistikow

The college-football preview magazine bonanza is about to begin, and the first big publication to reveal its predictions puts the 2016 Hawkeyes in the nation’s Top 20 — barely.

Iowa is ranked No. 20 nationally in Athlon Sports’ rankings, which were published online Monday. The magazine is available for pre-order and hits newsstands May 24.

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The analysis was consistent with what and posted last week — that the Hawkeyes are a back-end Top 25 team but still the only ranked member of the Big Ten Conference's West Division. Athlon put three Big Ten East teams — No. 3 Ohio State, No. 5 Michigan (which travels to Iowa City on Nov. 12) and No. 13 Michigan State — ahead of the Hawkeyes.

In fact, Athlon refers to Iowa as a “heavy favorite to win the Big Ten West.”

(Nebraska and Wisconsin fans probably would be first in line to dispute that.)

Quarterback C.J. Beathard (16) and cornerback Desmond King are the cornerstones of the 2016 Hawkeyes.

Expect more magazine speculation in coming weeks from the likes of Lindy’s, Phil Steele and The Sporting News. And expect the narrative to remain relatively consistent: Iowa being viewed as regressing a little bit after a nice surprise 2015 (No. 10 final national ranking) but still being the team to beat in the West behind quarterback C.J. Beathard and cornerback Desmond King.

As Athlon put it: "With a favorable schedule in place, Iowa could once again challenge for 10 (or more) wins."

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