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Summer Snapshot 2012: Iowa Hawkeyes

The Iowa Hawkeyes mascot during Penn State's win over Iowa 13-3, Oct. 8, 2011. (<a href="" target="new">BSD/Mike Pettigano</a>)
The Iowa Hawkeyes mascot during Penn State's win over Iowa 13-3, Oct. 8, 2011. (BSD/Mike Pettigano)

No one wants to really read about Iowa, of all teams, while already so pissed off. But we must forge ahead. Despite what has transpired this week, Penn State will still travel to Iowa City... oh God, do they really? Lord help the players and coaches. May they survive the onslaught from that pig-head-chucking fanbase.

The Hawkeyes are one of those teams this season that could scare the rest of its division right through November. That's not to say Nebraska, Michigan or Michigan State aren't rightfully projected ahead of Iowa. But the Hawks could have enough pieces in place, with a decent enough schedule, to make a very nice run at the Big Ten West title in 2012.

More on this, below the jump...

The Past Few Seasons...

Kirk Ferentz just keeps chugging along in Iowa City, winning just enough to make him impossible to get rid of. Mediocre seasons in the middle of the 2000s had him on everyone's hot seat, until one magic night in 2008. You all know of which game I'm talking. No. 3 Penn State was headed toward the national title game (with a little luck), when the Hawkeyes pulled out a last-second game-winning field goal to upset the Lions 24-23. In 2009, Iowa built on the success of 2008 by going 11-2 with an Orange Bowl win.

But again, the Hawkeyes faltered in 2010 and 2011. The bottom nearly fell out of the program with a loss to Minnesota last season, as Iowa finished 7-6 with a bowl loss to Oklahoma.

Twenty Twelve...

The defense should be a strength this season for Iowa, with key players like James Morris, Micah Hyde and Tanner Miller returning to the back seven. The front four must replace three starters, with a fourth having sat out all of last year due to injury. If the young players up front can rise to the occasion and play beyond their experience, it will help mitigate any liability this unit would be for the rest of the defense.

James Vandenberg enters his final season as the entrenched starter and leader of the offense. Just as it seems to be annually at Iowa, running back is a huge problem (Since 2002, 14 RBs left Iowa with eligibility remaining) as Marcus Coker transferred during the off season. Vandenberg will have a couple good targets this fall, however, as the passing game should center around getting the ball to WR Keenan Davis and TE CJ Fiedorowitcz. The offensive line must deal with some holes to fill, but overall was an underachieving unit in 2011, and should improve this season.

The schedule sets up nicely, with a 5-0 start entirely possible. With just one more win needed for bowl eligibility, Iowa has a great shot to surpass last year's win total. But doing anything more than that will require this team to avoid crapping its pants in games it should win (Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota, Penn State) and pulling at least one upset among its own division's leaders (Michigan, Nebraska, Michigan State).

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