The signs are all there.
Kirk Ferentz deflecting preseason hype about his team.
Phil Parker at a loss for words talking about the potential of his defensive line.
Brian Ferentz bursting with positivity about his offense.
The groundswell of optimism coming from Iowa City can no longer be ignored — it’s Indianapolis or bust for “Kirk’s Dawgs” in 2019.
We know last year could have been that year for the Hawks. And, quite frankly, last year probably should have been that year for the Hawks.
Four losses by a combined 23 points. Each setback with its own unique cause.
A dynamic offense that averaged more than 31 points per game, leading to a final scoring margin of over 13 ppg. Only two years have had that statistical combination or something better under Ferentz.
One of them was the fabled 2002 campaign.
The other was 2008, which ended with an impressive Outback Bowl victory. And a 9-4 record.
The 2008 squad also had four players drafted, including their best offensive player, albeit he wasn’t selected as high as T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant. Shonn Greene was still a bonafide difference-maker, though.
The next season (2009) started with a preseason ranking of No. 22 by the Associated Press. It ended with an Orange Bowl win and an 11-2 record.
Do you see where I am going with this?
The 2019 team begins at No. 20 in the AP poll. There are once again multiple players with NFL-level talent on both sides of the ball, including at least two potential first-round picks.
There’s also a three-year starting quarterback who’s in the conversation for the best to ever play the position for the Black-and-Gold. There are 21 returning letterwinners in the Week 1 starting lineup too, including nine seniors.
That’s a formula for success in college football.
The key players from 2018 also experienced last season’s disappointments, much like 2008. They saw first-hand that there’s a fine line between championship-level teams and those which go to the Outback Bowl. That experience matters.
All of the pieces are in place. Expectations should be high around the football facility and across the Hawkeye state.
A Big Ten West title and trip to Lucas Oil Stadium in December is always the program’s goal. In 2019, anything less will be a disappointment.
This year is Iowa’s year.