Top 25 Countdown
College Football - Top 25 Countdown: No. 23 Iowa
• Last Season: 9-4 (defeated S. Carolina in the Outback Bowl).
• Returning Starters: 14 (6 offense, 8 defense).
• Key Game: at Penn State, Sept. 26.
Why They're Worth Watching
The Hawkeyes won six of their final seven games last season and accounted for the Big Ten's lone bowl victory. The defense is experienced, though it lost defensive line stalwarts Mitch King and Matt Kroul. The secondary, in particular, is among the best in the conference, with cornerback Amari Spievey and safety Tyler Sash. Iowa gave up only nine touchdowns through the air last season, and Spievey, Sash and linebacker Pat Angerer accounted for 14 of the Hawkeyes' 23 interceptions. Last season, Iowa ranked fifth in the nation in scoring defense (13 points per game), ninth in rushing defense (94 yards per game) and 12th in total defense (291.3 yards per game).
Player to Watch
Ricky Stanzi, Jr., QB
An unnamed coach compared Stanzi to "a young Tom Brady" in a preseason magazine, which led to some razzing from teammates. Stanzi showed poise at times last season, his first as a starter. In a 24-23 upset of Penn State, he led Iowa on two scoring drives in the last 10 minutes.
Why They're Vulnerable
The Hawkeyes' road schedule is brutal, with trips to Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State, four teams that were a combined 24-4 at home last season. Running back Shonn Greene, who rushed for at least 100 yards in every game and won the Doak Walker Award, left early for the NFL, and his leading replacement, sophomore Jewel Hampton, injured his knee during conditioning workouts in early July. But Hampton, who averaged 5.1 yards per carry and set what is believed to be an Iowa freshman record with seven rushing touchdowns, has said he will be healthy for the season opener against Northern Iowa on Sept. 5.
-- Camille Powell