We rate the top 25 estimates by national security. Nerd up, geek out, and follow along for number 21, Iowa.
Companion Country: Singapore. Or if you think it strange, clearly you've never been to Iowa City:
We'll sail tonight for Iowa
The city's made of Bud Light cans
Rode my moped through some cops
Stacked my cheese and ate it
Got drunk with THE COACH-US SON
Beat Cocks in the Outback Bowl
Our quarterback's efficient yes,
Our road schedule says, "Go see Jim Tress"
We hope for a Nine. And. Three.
Iowa is its own little island of football success despite the odds: only 3 million people in the entire state, and fewer still capable of running a 40 yard dash in less than 5 seconds. (Actually, Singapore with 4.5 million is bigger.) Yet like the tiniest of Asian tigers, Singapore managed to find success thanks to the strong hand of a dynamic leader who spawned a generation of young technocrats--including his lesser successor, Kirk Ferentz.
Relying chiefly on hustle and brainpower, Singapore punches well above its weight in terms of regional impact, has problems with a lack of creativity, and while generally well-behaved, its citizens do their crimes in spectacular, press-worthy fashion when they do them. The comparisons only grow stronger when you consider the beneficial kleptocracy the leaders of both Singapore and the Iowa football program seem to be running, taking slightly more than one might think they should. Also, Americans cannot find either on a map, and you can be caned for almost anything in either. (Though in Iowa, it's more the kind of thing that happens behind closed doors with kinky, strapping, and strangely attractive farmgirls.)
Internal Stability: Middling to good: after three straight years of double digit wins, Ferentz then hit a cold patch with 7, 6, and 6 win season through '05-'07, turning him from "coach continually cited as NFL to-be-poached coaching item number 1" to "the man who charges $450,000 per win, maximum offer includes 7 wins." A nine win season was nice, but you earn reprieve from further grumbling for an additional year for improving your record against top ten teams to 4-12 with this:
Finding a patchable quarterback to operate behind an offensive line returning three starters? Good, though Ricky Stanzi isn't going to flutter anyone's jumblies in a nice fashion under center, and that's not really what Iowa asks their quarterbacks to do in their scheme, anyway. (Oh, Brad Banks, where art thou, besides hoping to latch back onto a CFL roster and sitting at a table tossing Canadabucks at a bored stripper with fellow CFL hopeful Chris Leak? The program's real stability at the moment comes not from the hope that Jewel Hampton can replace Shonn Greene's massive year last year (he can't,) but that he stays healthy enough to hold the ball and let the defense take over, since they're the ones with eight of nine coming back.
Additional bonus for stability: the team has a middle linebacker named Pat Angerer. You know you've sprung from a long line of badasses when your initial, nameless ancestor came before the Saxon naming committee, and their consensus was "One who pisses you off to the point of murderous rage." You're an even bigger badass when your ancestor hears that, beats everyone in the room senseless with the arm that wasn't ripped off in a fight to the death with a swamp monster, and then happily accepts the name before taking to the marital pallet to pound out an endless stream of equally fierce man-pups, one of whom was second in the Big Ten in interceptions last year. (His teammate, Tyler Sash, was first. They don't force fumbles with pressure, but they're happy to let you throw the ball to them all day.)
Surprising thing you did not know about this team: That for some reason or another, they play Arizona at home in week three in what we don't want to call the Meth Bowl, but METH BOWL METH BOWL METH BOWL. Iowa has their Big Ten schedule set on Heroic: Their enemies are as numerous as they are ferocious; their attacks are devastating. Survival is not guaranteed. At Penn State in week four isn't very nice, and neither are trips to Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin on the road in-conference. Also, they have a backup running back named "Paki O'Meara," a character ready-made for a terrible Guy Ritchie movie if we've ever seen it.
The IMF says: Stay right where you are, pirate. That four game stretch could realistically/ optimistically split .500 in a partly sunny projection; dropping one in a home slate puts them at 9-3 on the season, and that's looking at the home games as dead locks all around, which is a big assumption given Northwestern's victory over them last year in Iowa City. Iowa, like Singapore, has its structural limits, especially when it comes to the fast-twitchy playmaking types who turn teams from being efficient machines and turn them into flamethrowing death blossoms on the college football horizon. (The team doesn't have many of them, not even the requisite Tim Dwight Clone/ Erroneously Fast White Wide Receiver and Punt Returner.) A steady tussler gets 9-3 in a good run, 10-2 at the outside, and returns to 7-5 territory if Jewel Hampton doesn't hold up and replace at least some of Greene's production. Hold at 21, and do not approve any higher in a murky, chaotic Big Ten. Like Singapore, they're among the best in a chaotic neighborhood, but you probably don't want to make them any bigger than they are, either.