One publication projects Iowa playing in the College Football Playoff at the end of the year. Do you believe? I do. Here are some of the reasons why.

The Iowa Hawkeyes have been on an amazing run since the calendar changed to November of 2020. Iowa has rattled off 10 consecutive wins heading into their showdown with undefeated Maryland Friday night. What they've been doing has opened eyes around the nation. So much so that one national publication projects the Hawkeyes to be among this season's four best teams... playing in the College Football Playoff on New Year's Eve.

USA Today's latest college football projections put Iowa into the College Football Playoff along with Alabama, Oregon, and Georgia. They currently project Iowa versus the Crimson Tide of Alabama on New Year's Eve. Just typing that gives me goosebumps.

Iowa among the final four standing in college football? Yes, with this team I truly believe it's possible. Here's why.

Defense

It all starts with Iowa's defense. The Hawkeyes have outscored their opponents during the 10-game winning streak 329-127. That's an average of 32.9 for the good guys and 12.7 for the opposition. The Hawkeye defense has now gone 26 consecutive games without giving up 25 points or more. By far the longest such streak in the nation. Oh, and they score too. *Below is the Iowa D scoring a safety against Kent State earlier this season.

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Singling out a member of the Hawkeye defense isn't the Iowa way, but I must. Junior linebacker Jack Campbell (#31 below) of Cedar Falls was named the Bronko Nagurski National Player of the Week yesterday after Iowa's win over Colorado State. Deservedly so. Campbell, a giant of a linebacker at 6'5", 243 pounds, had 18 tackles, three pass break-ups, and a fumble recovery in Iowa's game against the Rams. *Below, he's scoring against Iowa State.

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Special Teams

Iowa has three weapons that make field position a challenge for the opposition. Kicker Caleb Shudak consistently kicks the ball deep into the end zone, forcing touchbacks for the opposing offense.

Iowa punter Tory Taylor (below) is averaging 47.9 yards per kick and a net of 42.5. He can flip field position in a hurry and puts a terrific Iowa defense in a good spot nearly every time they take the field after a punt.

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Iowa punt returner Charlie Jones (below) is averaging 13.4 yards per return this year. That's more than four times the average (3.0) of the opposition.

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Iowa's Offense Has the Weapons

Although Iowa's offense has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, the weapons are there. Tight end Sam LaPorta (below) has been quarterback Spencer Petras' favorite target so far in 2021, with 17 grabs, a 12.6-yard average, and 2 touchdowns.

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Running back Tyler Goodson (below) is just 4 yards shy of 400 through 4 games and has hit paydirt 5 times.

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The wide receivers have been fairly quiet so far this season but look for players like Tyrone Tracy Jr. (below) to become more involved as Iowa gets into the heart of the Big Ten season.

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Iowa found a deep threat last weekend against Colorado State with freshman Keegan Johnson (below). He caught two deep balls for a 46-yard average and his first black and gold 6-pointer, to match his uniform number. Stretching the field should help the young Iowa offensive line open more holes for Iowa's backs.

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Many fans have been tough on quarterback Spencer Petras but he continues to get results. During Iowa's 10-game winning streak, he's thrown for 12 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions.

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It all starts and ends with the Iowa defense. Defensive lineman Zach VanValkenburg is just one of several imposing defenders along the front of that Iowa defense.

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The pieces are in place. Sure, Iowa will need to continue to play mistake-free football on the offensive side of the ball but don't doubt for a second that this team doesn't have what it takes to be part of college football's elite throughout the season.

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There are plenty of possible bumps in the road ahead starting with what's sure to be a raucous crowd Friday night in College Park, Maryland. If Iowa can win on the road Friday, the game of the year awaits October 9 at Kinnick Stadium where fellow Top-10 team Penn State will be at the ready. Here's the remainder of Iowa's 2021 schedule:

October 16: Homecoming versus Purdue (2:30 kickoff)
October 30 at Wisconsin (11:00 kickoff)
November 6 at Northwestern (TBA)
November 13 versus Minnesota (TBA)
November 20 versus Illinois (TBA)
November 26 at Nebraska (12:30 kickoff)

Every one of those games is winnable. The Big Ten Championship game is Saturday, December 4. Let's not get ahead of ourselves but enjoy... it could be a really fun ride.

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Iowans Show Off Their Hawkeye Spirit