Iowa ranked No. 18 in USA TODAY's preseason college football poll, highest since 2016

Iowa received its highest preseason ranking since 2016 in The USA TODAY Sports AFCA preseason college poll released on Tuesday. The Hawkeyes are ranked No. 18 in the country, a few spots off where they were five years ago, to open the season.  

One major reason for the Hawkeyes' ranking is their strong finish to the 2020 season. After a 0-2 start, Iowa reeled off six consecutive victories by an average margin of victory of 22 points. Their final two games of the season were canceled due to COVID outbreaks by their opponents but the Hawkeyes finished the year ranked No. 15 in the final USA TODAY poll. 

The last time Iowa was ranking so highly entering the season was 2016, when the Hawkeyes were No. 15. 

Personnel wise, the Hawkeyes return talent on both sides of the ball. They have seven starters returning on offense, including quarterback Spencer Petras, star running back Tyler Goodson and preseason All-American offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum.  

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras drops back during spring practice on April 17 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.

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Defensively, the traditionally stout Hawkeye defense returns seven starters as well including every starter in the secondary and added FCS grad transfer cornerback Xavior Williams to the mix. 

Iowa's first two games of the season are against two other ranked teams: Conference foe Indiana (No. 17) and in-state rival Iowa State, who received their highest preseason ranking in school history at No. 8.

Within their conference, Iowa was picked to finish second in the Big Ten West behind Wisconsin in a media poll.  

Iowa begins its season against Indiana on Sept. 4 at 2:30 p.m. at home on the Big Ten Network. 

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Kennington Smith is the new Iowa Hawkeyes beat writer for the Des Moines Register. You can connect with Kennington on Twitter @SkinnyKenny_ or email him at