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247Sports shares Iowa’s Big Ten power rankings before league media days

There’s plenty of reason for excitement about the Iowa Hawkeyes‘ 2024 hopes.

Iowa returns its starting quarterback in graduate signal-caller Cade McNamara along with a pair of its top receivers from a season ago in juniors Kaleb Brown and Seth Anderson. Plus, the Hawkeyes return talented tight end Luke Lachey following a season-ending injury in 2023.

Iowa also has its top four running backs from last year back as well to go along with an offensive line that brings back 58 starts from a season ago and six players with starting experience.

Of course, the Iowa offense has been a national laughingstock over the past several seasons, so there’s reasonable cause for concern over how quickly new offensive coordinator Tim Lester can right the ship.

The Hawkeyes’ offense ranked dead last nationally in total offense, averaging just 234.6 yards per game. Iowa ranked second from the bottom in scoring offense, averaging 15.4 points per game in 2023.

It’s that Iowa offense that is keeping 247Sports’ Brad Crawford from putting the Hawkeyes among the league’s elite teams in his early-summer Big Ten power rankings.

In the now-18-team Big Ten conference, Crawford has Iowa at No. 7 in his latest Big Ten power rankings.

Phil Parker’s defense could lead college football in several categories this fall and that still might only be good enough for an eight- or nine-win season with the Hawkeyes. The reason? It’s the offense. Iowa made changes on that side of the football to ensure the last few seasons of stench are out of the program. Sullivan from Northwestern and Cade McNamara will battle for reps in August, but there’s considerable pressure on both to perform. Before we can put Iowa to the Big Ten’s top tier, the Hawkeyes must show improvements offensively. – Crawford, 247Sports.

Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker has plenty of toys once more.

As Crawford noted, Iowa’s defense should again be very salty. The Hawkeyes might have the nation’s best one-two punch at linebacker in fifth year Jay Higgins and graduate Nick Jackson.

In front of those two, Iowa fans should be excited about senior defensive end Deontae Craig, junior defensive tackle Aaron Graves, senior defensive tackle Yahya Black and senior defensive end Ethan Hurkett.

The Iowa defensive backfield returns plenty of firepower, too. Graduate Sebastian Castro at CASH, sophomore cornerback Deshaun Lee, graduate cornerback Jermari Harris, junior strong safety Xavier Nwankpa and graduate free safety Quinn Schulte all boast starting experience.

It’s the tired song, but a fair one with Iowa. As their offensive growth goes, so too does their ceiling.

Crawford’s top five in his Big Ten power rankings feature No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Michigan, No. 4 Penn State and No. 5 USC.

Nebraska sits in front of Iowa at No. 6. Then, at No. 8 is Wisconsin, Washington is No. 9 and Rutgers rounds out Crawford’s top 10. After that, Maryland is No. 11, Michigan State No. 12, Illinois No. 13, Minnesota No. 14, Indiana No. 15, Northwestern No. 16, UCLA No. 17 and Purdue in the cellar at No. 18.

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Story originally appeared on Hawkeyes Wire