Being watched by a bunch of Hawkeyes

Dennis Dodd | march 24. 2009

I've read your e-mails, Hawkeye fans. And after correcting all the spelling errors and grammatical mistakes I was able to piece together your basic message:

Iowa deserves to be the consensus preseason No. 1 going into 2009. It further seems that I made the mistake of not recognizing that fact in January.

Iowa's future is riding on Adrian Clayborn's future. (Getty Images)  
Iowa's future is riding on Adrian Clayborn's future. (Getty Images)  
There won't be an apology. The difference between you and me is, I sleep it off when I'm over served. Hawkeye fans are apparently the walking undead when it comes to unrequited poll love. Must have ranking, must have ranking ... At least zombies eat only flesh. You people are after my soul.

Let's explain this rationally. How could I leave out the Hawks in a top 25 released before the grass turns green? Easy. Until last season, you hadn't won nine games since 2004. Ohio State and Penn State are better in the Big Ten. Your Doak Walker-winning tailback (Shonn Greene) is gone. The face of a cab driver allegedly ran into the fist of one of your promising defensive ends (Adrian Clayborn).

The cops see it a different way, but I cut you a break anyway. Normally, I don't move teams into the offseason rankings when a starter is arrested. But read on, Hawkeyes. You're No. 21 with a bullet in the spring top 25.

No, it's not No. 1. Call it a small victory. You've had a few of those lately. Get some more in '09 and we'll talk. But for goodness sake, use spell check next time.

1. Florida: We already know that Urban Meyer and Lane Kiffin aren't sharing brownie recipes. The bigger concern for the Gators is winning it all again and for the third time in four years. Forget Kiffin, Bud Wilkinson and Tom Osborne are jealous.
Watch: The spring battle at receiver.

2. Texas: I'm leapfrogging the 'Horns over the Sooners into the second spot. They are the Big 12 version of Florida: loaded. Given the way the award has gone it's Colt McCoy's turn to win the Heisman isn't it? Mack Brown is kicking back right now with 20 commitments for the class of 2010.
Watch: For a better running game, meaning Colt doesn't have to scramble as much.

3. Oklahoma: Bob Stoops has called out the offensive line. The tragic accident involving Corey Wilson impacts the receiver depth. No other major news during the spring is good news.
Watch: Sam Bradford's hair. For some reason he is letting it grow out and it's ... not good, Sam. Not good. Larry Fine is wondering what you're doing.

Watch out SEC, Julio Jones is back for his sophomore year. (US Presswire)  
Watch out SEC, Julio Jones is back for his sophomore year. (US Presswire)  
4. Alabama: Nick Saban has it rolling, can he keep it rolling? The biggest concern is at quarterback, center and left tackle where Nick Saban must find replacements for (in order) -- John Parker Wilson, Antoine Caldwell and Andre Smith.
Watch: Julio Jones become the most dominant receiver in the SEC.

5. Virginia Tech: Tyrod Taylor reminds me of a certain No. 7 at quarterback. If Tech's junior quarterback can stay healthy and improve his throwing just a little bit, this will be the best Hokies team since Michael Vick was around in 2000. Tailback Darren Evans set the ACC rushing record for a freshman.
Watch: The opener against Alabama in Atlanta. The winner has the early inside track for BCS title game hype.

6. USC: The last time there was this much uncertainty at quarterback, little-known Matt Leinart was winning the job in the spring of 2003. Sure, Mark Sanchez left too early. That just means Pete Carroll and crew will coach the hell out of the new guy.
Watch: Aaron Corp, Mitch Mustain and Matt Barkley battle for the QB job. Also watch new play caller Jeremy Bates (from the Denver Broncos) who replaced Steve Sarkisian in one of the most prestigious jobs in the country.

7. Penn State: Now that the pressure to become the game's all-time winningest coach has lessened, Joe Paterno can concentrate on winning games for the right reasons. It's about championships, Joe, not etching your name in stone. It's basically a toss-up between Ohio State and the Nittany Lions for the Big Ten. Most of the tough games are at home for Penn State, including the Buckeyes. Sean Lee returns at linebacker forming one of the best groups in the country. Quarterback Daryll Clark should be even better. A return trip to the Rose Bowl should be an expectation.
Watch: Penn State gave USC a game well into the second quarter in January. Clark combines with tailbacks Evan Royster and Stephon Green for a killer backfield.

8. Oregon: A couple of years ago Chip Kelly was an offensive coordinator for I-AA New Hampshire. Now he's running the show in Nikeville. Mike Bellotti, the dean of Pac-10 coaches, is sliding over to become AD. Kelly is an offensive guy, as innovative as they come. As long as Ducks D-coordinator Nick Alliotti is left alone to keep working his magic, Oregon will challenge USC for the Pac-10 title.
Watch: The running game. For all of the fireworks in Kelly's playbook, Oregon was second nationally in rushing last season.

OSU will ride the arm and legs of Pryor. (US Presswire)  
OSU will ride the arm and legs of Pryor. (US Presswire)  
9. Ohio State: Ohio State was probably a Terrelle Pryor fumble (against Penn State) away from the Rose Bowl last season. Pryor is a year older and wiser. The swing game in '09 is a homer against USC in the second week of the season.
Watch: Big Ten football, please. After watching Big Ten basketball this season, it makes Large Eleven football look like seven-on-seven.

10. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys' season was summed up on Nov. 29. They scored 41 at home and lost by 20 to Oklahoma. Mike Gundy gets back most of what should be the nation's best offense outside of Gainesville (maybe better). Veteran D-coordinator Bill Young has been hired to improve the defense. If he can hold teams down when the Cowboys score at least 30, (Gundy is only 11-5 in those games within the Big 12) he will have done his job.
Watch: The defensive line. The Cowboys were last in the Big 12 in sacks.

11. Mississippi: The only team hotter is the group that put together Twitter. Everybody is jumping on the Ole Miss bandwagon. The Rebs were the only team to beat the national champions. They followed that up by punking Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl and come in having won six in a row. Pay attention to this Nutt guy. He can coach, and should win the SEC West this year.
Watch: Left tackle. Michael Oher has been the subject of a book and will be the subject of an upcoming movie. Now that he has moved on to the NFL, Oher's backup Alex Washington (6-feet-4,337 pounds) will try to win the job.

12. LSU: The spring is all about getting quarterback Jordan Jefferson reps. The coaching staff won't say it out loud but it does not want Jarrett "Pick Six" Lee anywhere near the center's butt.
Watch: Early enrolling freshman Russell Shepard. He'll stay at quarterback for the spring but may have to play receiver and/or running back in the fall. Shepard will be on the field somehow.

13. Georgia Tech: This is going to be fun. Now that Paul Johnson has more of his own guys in place, look for the triple-option fun to really start.
Watch: Running back. ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer returns. Louisville transfer Anthony Allen is eligible after transferring.

Butch Davis' squad finished 8-5 in 2008. (US Presswire)  
Butch Davis' squad finished 8-5 in 2008. (US Presswire)  
14. North Carolina: It's almost ancient history but T.J. Yates threw for a school-record 2,655 yards in 2007. Injuries have plagued him since then. Plus, Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate are gone. This ranking is based on faith in Butch Davis.
Watch: Davis' recruiting classes pay off big time.

15. Kansas: Missouri is rebuilding. Nebraska has to come to Lawrence. Kansas State has a new/old coach. The Jayhawks should come in favored to win the Big 12 North with Heisman outsider Todd Reesing back at quarterback.
Watch: Receivers Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe. Think Miami or Florida State could use these guys?

16. Boise State: Look what going undefeated got the Broncos? Certainly not the Fiesta Bowl. The best non-BCS program in '09 soldiers on.
Watch: The opener against Oregon. It will set the tone for the remainder of the season.

17. Utah: Bad news for the mouthy Mountain West. Utah isn't playoff caliber this year. The two best players (Brian Johnson, Paul Kruger) are gone. The Utes should still be good enough to win the league.
Watch: The defense. Eight starters are back from a top-11 unit in '08.

18. Cal: If the Bears get anything out of sometimes-maligned quarterback Kevin Riley, tailback Jahvid Best should run wild. Maybe all the way to the Heisman.
Watch: Oct. 3 on the calendar. USC comes to Berkeley.

Jerry Hughes tallied 19 1/2 tackles for loss and 15 sacks last season. (US Presswire)  
Jerry Hughes tallied 19 1/2 tackles for loss and 15 sacks last season. (US Presswire)  
19. TCU: The Horned Frogs have to reload on the defensive line for the second year in a row. Defensive end Jerry Hughes returns.
Watch: For a more productive offense that should be able to win close games when the defense plays their hearts out. That wasn't the case last season.

20. Oregon State: Have Rodgers Bros., will compete. Tailback Jacquizz Rodgers is trying to heal a sore shoulder. Receiver James has a bum collarbone. Both will participate in spring practice but likely be held out of contact.
Watch: The defense. Coach Mike Riley must replace eight of 11 starters. The secondary has been ravaged with the loss of three all-Pac-10 second teamers.

21. Iowa: Before we got to know Greene, the Doak winner was gone. There is no one on the roster with Greene's talent. The bigger concern is the defensive line.
Watch: The Big Ten road schedule -- at Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State.

22. Georgia: Weren't these guys the preseason No. 1 last year? No Moreno. No Stafford. Maybe with lowered expectations the Dawgs can sneak up on some people.
Watch: Receiver A.J. Green and tailback Caleb King. If Joe Cox can get Green the ball and the offensive line holds up, Green can be dominant and King will be a pleasant surprise.

23. Nebraska: Quarterback depth is an issue with Patrick Witt quitting the program.
Watch: The hype. Don't necessarily believe that the Big 12 North is Nebraska's because it has an easier conference schedule than Kansas. Never thought I'd say this but in recent years Kansas has gotten it done. We're still waiting on the Huskers.

24. Florida State: If you can get past all the NCAA shenanigans, there is fairly good team down in Tallahassee. A veteran quarterback (Christian Ponder) is playing behind a huge offensive line.
Watch: Bobby Bowden. Will this be his last season?

25. BYU: When was the last time the defense led the way in Provo? Eight starters return.
Watch: The standings. Until further notice, BYU is still the third-best program in the Mountain West behind Utah and TCU. Thirteen of the team's 28 turnovers last season came against TCU, Utah and in the bowl game against Arizona.

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