Iowa ranked No. 18 in Associated Press preseason college football poll

Last week, Iowa received its highest preseason ranking since 2016 in The USA TODAY Sports AFCA preseason college poll at No. 18. The Associated Poll has the Hawkeyes pegged in a similar spot as well. 

The AP poll, released Monday morning, slotted the Hawkeyes in at No. 18. The Hawkeyes are the fourth-highest ranked Big Ten team behind Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana. Five Big Ten teams were ranked in total, including Penn State at No. 19. 

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, with their highest preseason ranking in school history at No. 7.

The Hawkeyes schedule sets up nicely for them to stay in the national college football rankings conversation throughout the year — if they're able to get off to a strong start. Flashback to last season: The Hawkeyes six-game winning streak was impressive but the team's 0-2 hamstrung their ability to fly up the polls. 

This season, with two ranked opponents to start, a 1-1 start will likely keep them ranked while a 2-0 start will catapult them toward the Top 10 in major polls. From there, it's fair to assume that Iowa would be considerable favorites against Kent State, Colorado State and Maryland before a crucial home matchup against Penn State on Oct. 9. After that, another home game against Purdue, potentially a favorable matchup. 

Arguably their most important game is the opponent after Purdue: at Wisconsin on Oct. 30. Not only are the Badgers the second-highest ranked preseason Big Ten team, they were named the overwhelming favorite to claim the Big Ten West (29 of 34 votes).

Something that's working in the Hawkeyes' favor: they have bye week the week before. 

A fast start, and taking care of business against teams Iowa is favored against, could set the Hawkeyes up for some pivotal games.  

The Hawkeyes are a veteran bunch with 14 starters returning (7 on offense, 7 on defense) with Big Ten Punter of the Year Tory Taylor and kickoff specialist Caleb Shudak stepping into the full-time kicker role on special teams. 

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