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College Football Countdown: No. 32 Iowa

The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Today at No. 32: Iowa

Coach: Kirk Ferentz (96-66, 14th season; 108-87 overall in 16 seasons)

2011 record: 7-6 (4-4 in Big Ten Conference, fourth in Legends Division)

Look back: The Hawkeyes have been dropped a few steps since their 11-win season in 2009 punctuated by a 7-win season in 2011. In the offseason, longtime coordinators Ken O’Keefe and Norm Parker left the program leaving Ferentz to fill the spots with former Texas OC Greg Davis and Iowa assistant coach Phil Parker.

Offensive starters lost/returning: 5/6

Defensive starters lost/returning: 6/5

Key losses: RB Marcus Coker, WR Marvin McNutt, DB Jordan Bernstine, DB Shaun Prater

Top returnees: QB James Vandenberg, WR Keenan Davis, LB Christian Kirksy, LB James Morris

Strengths: All eyes will be on quarterback James Vandenberg. As a junior, Vandenberg was one of three quarterbacks in the Big Ten to throw for over 3,000 yards. He was fourth in the league in total offense while adding 25 touchdowns to the Hawkeyes offense. … The defense struggled in 2011 and only returns five starters from last season including the team’s top two leading tacklers: linebackers James Morris and Christian Kirksey.

Weaknesses: Vandenberg is a one-man wrecking crew on offense and he will need to be this season. Especially with the losses of Marvin McNutt and Marcus Coker. McNutt led the team and the Big Ten in receiving last season with 1,315 yards with 12 touchdowns. Replacing that production will fall to Keenan Davis. Coker led the team in rushing with 1,384 yards and 15 touchdowns but after being suspended for the team’s Insight Bowl appearance, decided to transfer. The rushing duties could fall on freshman Greg Garmon. … The offensive line loses three players making center James Ferentz the anchor to the unit.

Outlook: This Iowa team has a lot going against it going into the 2012 season. Two new coordinators and several new faces in key positions could point to a bit of a rebuilding year in Iowa City. If Vandenberg can pick up Davis’ offense, he could build on last season’s success.  He’ll need help and finding some playmakers to complement his game will be the biggest storyline when the season starts. While the defense doesn’t have a lot of experience returning, those players who do return will be crucial to the unit’s success.

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 vs. Northern Illinois

Sept. 8 Iowa State

Sept. 15 Northern Iowa

Sept. 22 Central Michigan

Sept. 29 Minnesota

Oct. 13 at Michigan State

Oct. 20 Penn State

Oct. 27 at Northwestern

Nov. 3 at Indiana

Nov. 10 Purdue

Nov. 17 at Michigan

Nov. 23 Nebraska

Rest of the countdown:
No. 33 Cincinnati
No. 34 Utah
No. 35 Penn State
No. 36 Rutgers
No. 37 Boise State
No. 38 Mississippi State
No. 39 Georgia Tech
No. 40 SMU
No. 41 Wake Forest
No. 42 Houston
No. 43 Virginia
No. 44 Northwestern
No. 45 Miami
No. 46 Southern Miss
No. 47 USF
No. 48 North Carolina
No. 49 Illinois
No. 50 Tulsa
No. 51 California
No. 52 UCF
No. 53 Pittsburgh
No. 54 Arizona
No. 55 BYU
No. 56 Ohio

No. 57 Temple

No. 58 Purdue

No. 59 Arkansas State

No. 60 Vanderbilt

No. 61 Connecticut

No. 62 Arizona State

No. 63 Wyoming

No. 64 Northern Illinois

No. 65 Utah State

No. 66 Louisiana-Lafayette

No. 67 Marshall

No. 68 Western Michigan

No. 69 Louisiana Tech

No. 70 Kentucky

No. 71 Air Force

No. 72 Western Kentucky

No. 73 UCLA

No. 74 Toledo

No. 75 FIU

No. 76 San Jose State

No. 77 North Texas

No. 78 Iowa State

No. 79 Nevada

No. 80 Eastern Michigan

No. 81 Hawai’i

No. 82 East Carolina

No. 83 Texas Tech

No. 84 Washington State

No. 85 San Diego State

No. 86 Ball State

No. 87 Navy

No. 88 Tennessee

No. 89 Kent State

No. 90 Louisiana-Monroe

No. 91 Bowling Green

No. 92 Syracuse

No. 93 Minnesota

No. 94 Boston College

No. 95 Kansas

No. 96 Oregon State

No. 97 Rice

No. 98 Ole Miss

No. 99 Colorado

No. 100 New Mexico State

No. 101 Duke

No. 102 Idaho

No. 103 Army

No. 104 Maryland

No. 105 Colorado State

No. 106 Miami (Ohio)

No. 107 UTEP

No. 108 Troy

No. 109 Fresno State

No. 110 Central Michigan

No. 111 Indiana

No. 112 Memphis

No. 113 Middle Tennessee

No. 114 UAB

No. 115 Buffalo

No. 116 Tulane

No. 117: FAU

No. 118: UNLV

No. 119: Akron

No. 120: New Mexico

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