In 2013, the Iowa Hawkeyes football program and their head coach Kirk Ferentz are more likely to overachieve than underachieve.
Of course, one has to consider the current expectations on the football program.
The vast majority put Iowa in the bottom three, along with Purdue and Illinois.
There are no previews that have Iowa outside of the bottom five, which includes Purdue and Illinois, along with resurgent Indiana and Minnesota.
One can go so far as to say that most expect the Hawkeyes to fall somewhere in the four-six wins area with five wins serving as the mean. As the following will attest, six-eight wins, or overachieving, is more likely for 2013 Iowa than two-four wins.
Last year, one of Iowa's biggest problems was a lack of talent.
Only one Hawkeye was taken in the 2013 NFL draft—cornerback Micah Hyde. This followed three straight years of putting six players into the draft each year.
That is a substantial dropoff in talent.
However, as I recently detailed, the 2013 Hawkeyes will be considerably more talented.
In fact, the only individual position group that might drop off is cornerback, and even that is questionable. It is difficult to see any other position moving backward.
It is projection, of course, but Iowa's offensive line, tight ends and running backs might all rank in the top quarter of the conference amongst their respective position groups.
There is potential there, and player for player, it is next to impossible to see the Hawkeyes doing worse than last year.
This offseason saw a slew of administrative and staff movements, which was especially surprising for a program known for its stability.
Amongst the changes, Iowa replaced three coaches—one of whom is officially the special teams coordinator—reorganized its recruiting responsibilities, held an open practice in Des Moines and held an actual spring game, as opposed to its typical open practice.
Judging by all of this activity, Kirk Ferentz (finally) recognizes and acknowledges most of the problems that have plagued Iowa over the last three years and especially last year.
As far as the individual moves, outside of no longer actively recruiting Florida, one would be hard-pressed to find too many Hawkeyes fans who don't see all of these offseason moves as a net positive.
One of the problems last year was depth. There wasn't any.
Iowa's offensive line was coming together until the Penn State game. At that point, two starters went down, and the line never came together after that.
This was complicated by the general poor health of all of the Hawkeyes' running backs. Add to that late-season flu issues that plagued Iowa's only pass-rushing threat and nagging injuries to Iowa's middle linebacker and defensive leader.
Unfortunately, the roster had nobody to replace them, and the Hawkeyes began to sink as the bodies began to drop.
That won't be the case this year.
Iowa has proven depth at running back, tight end, offensive line and defensive line.
Moreover, the linebackers can withstand one injury, and though fans want a winner in the quarterback competition, the fact is the Hawkeyes have three signal-callers, any one of whom looks like he could play respectably if called upon.
The only two positions without some proven depth are the safeties and the wide receivers.
This isn't to say that these positions' lack of depth isn't a problem, nor is it saying that an injury to a starter wouldn't be a major blow to the program.
Rather, it is saying that last year, Iowa couldn't withstand any injuries. This year, the Hawkeyes could handle a few.
Many—such as BTN.com's Tom Dienhart—are pointing to Iowa's schedule as a key factor keeping them from reaching bowl eligibility and beyond.
However, that schedule is not as difficult as it might seem.
Firstly, the out-of-conference (OOC) features an FCS team that went 3-8—Missouri State—and two FBS teams that, according to football guru Phil Steele, rank 112th and 117th in the country in returning starters.
Northern Illinois is a quality foe, but surprisingly, early odds have Iowa as 6.5-point favorites.
In short, the Hawkeyes can start 4-0 if Iowa can get past NIU, and Kirk Ferentz can get past whatever holds him back where it concerns ISU.
After that, though the home conference schedule doesn't shake out well, the Hawkeyes' draws from the Leaders Division are favorable.
Iowa is playing its toughest potential foe from the other division—Ohio State—but its second and third toughest rivals are most likely Penn State and Indiana, neither of which is on the schedule.
This is not to say Indiana or Penn State is a better team than Wisconsin, but Iowa matches up better against the power-based Badgers than it does against up-tempo, pass-heavy Indiana.
As for PSU, the Nits under Bill O'Brien, even with scholarship limits, are built like Northwestern but with higher level talent, and Ferentz has a 5-7 record against the Cats.
In short, 4-0 in the OOC is possible, as are two-four wins in conference.
Kirk Ferentz is known for his stoicism and conservatism.
Not much has changed in his 14 years at Iowa, and as Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette noted following Iowa's 2011 loss to Iowa State, Ferentz's system "works more than it doesn't."
Lately, it's hard to accept that it has worked more than it hasn't. However, all of the aforementioned offseason moves plus his recent willingness to open up more with the media, indicate that Ferentz knows he has run short on local goodwill and has to make some changes.
It's not fair to say he's been complacent over the last three years, but he has to realize the proverbial heat is on.
Furthermore, even though his job may be safe due to his contract, he still has a legacy to worry about.
That may not seem like much, but legacy becomes an issue when a person gets to the level Ferentz has gotten.
It would be a shame to let it all go down the tubes, given all the great moments he has brought to Hawkeyes fans, and recent moves indicate Ferentz knows this.