Goodwin: Football can be special this year


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The hometown football team with high expectations and a favorable schedule will finally kick off its season Saturday against an in-state rival. And, really, it’s about damn time.

We’ve been talking about possibilities and making predictions about this year’s Iowa football team since last spring, it feels like. We’ve been raving about talent in some areas, and how great things have fallen into place, and that, if all goes accordingly, the Hawkeyes could end up in Indianapolis, maybe Pasadena, and …

I should stop. I’m getting ahead of myself. I understand that. You should understand that, too. It’s harmful looking so deep into the season, like I just did, because, well, we really don’t know what’s going to happen just yet.

But, as a general fan of football, it’s hard not to get excited.

The Hawkeyes are coming off a season in which they went 8-4 and made the Outback Bowl — a rebound season after failing to make a bowl game the year before.

The team returns a myriad of experience and talent on both sides of the ball. The starting quarterback is back after, what we’ll classify as, a solid season. The left tackle, whose name I’m sure you know, is expected to be a monster.

The wide receivers are supposed to add explosiveness to the offense. The defensive line is ready to do a ton of damage so that a competent linebacking corps can do its job. The secondary is athletic, and its leader is a physical corner with shutdown capability.

You can read into those last three paragraphs however you wish. But a promising outlook for 2014 to you is, for me, almost an exact replica of what came before 2009.

Remember 2009? Obama came into office. Taylor Swift won country music awards, for some reason. Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game.

And the Hawkeyes went 11-2. And won the Orange Bowl.

This is not to say that the 2014 edition of the Iowa football team will replicate what Ricky Stanzi, Adrian Clayborn, and the rest of that team did five years ago. These are two completely different teams, in two completely different times.

But it’s hard not to see the similarities.

There’s the Outback Bowl the year before. There’s the season-opener against Northern Iowa.
And there’s the returning experience and talent at specific positions.

Like quarterback: Stanzi; Jake Rudock.

And defensive line: Clayborn, Karl Klug, Broderick Binns; Carl Davis, Louis Trinca-Pasat, Mike Hardy.

A fleet of gifted receivers: Marvin McNutt, DJK; Kevonte Martin-Manley, Tevaun Smith, Derrick Willies.

And don’t forget that each team fielded an incredibly skilled left tackle: Bryan Bulaga; Brandon Scherff.

Not everything aligns quite the same, of course. The 2009 team played against a Big Ten slate that went 59-42 the year before, while the 2014 team is set to play a more favorable conference schedule that went 47-50 last season.

Still, all things considered, the stars were in line for the 2009 Hawkeyes, and they turned in an incredible season. But before their 9-0 start, they needed two blocked field goals in order to beat Northern Iowa, 17-16, in the season-opener.

So in order for this season to become special, in any capacity, Iowa must first get through its sneaky little brother of an in-state rival, because you can’t start 9-0 if you don’t win the first game.

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