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I really am ready for football

The other day, I was asked if I was ready for football season. Before I could catch myself, I heard my own voice respond, “Not really.”

I almost did a double-take. Yes, I told myself, that was your voice … and what do you mean, “not really?”

Thinking about it on the drive home later that day, I analyzed my surprising answer. As I searched my thoughts and feelings for an answer that would satisfy my own curiosity, I settled on a revelation:

When asked that question, my mind immediately went to covering high school football … and then flashed back to the recent stretch in July that saw me take 14 of 19 days off to use up vacation time before the fall sports season starts back up again.

See, the answer came as I thought about all the hard work ahead of us preparing for the upcoming football season. All the trips to practices and phone calls and frantic last-minute additions and late-night proofreading that comes with our annual award-winning football preview tab.

It’s not that I’m not ready for football season to start. It just seems like, after taking nearly 3 weeks of vacation time over the last 2 months, this summer has flown by even faster than usual.

But as I thought more about the impending fall, I realized that I’m just as ready for football to start this year as any other season. In fact, talking to my visiting relatives from Louisiana earlier this week, I’d say I’m looking forward to this Iowa Hawkeye season quite a bit.

What a difference a year makes. Last August about this time, I wasn’t really sure I wanted to see much Iowa football. Coming off a 4-8 season where the Hawkeyes looked listless in losing the final six games, excitement in Iowa City was as low as it had been since the Kirk Ferentz era started in 1999.

But as always seems to happen with the Hawkeyes, they reverted to the status quo in 2013. After a four-game win streak following its last-minute season-opening loss to NIU, Iowa lost three of four to the likes of Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

But instead of collapsing, Ferentz’s squad did what it has normally done during his tenure: play much better football in November than in September.

An overtime win over Northwestern – a team that has been a thorn in Ferentz’s side – after losses to the Spartans and Buckeyes seemed to buoy the Hawks and their fan base, and they sandwiched in a hard-fought home win over Michigan between dominating performances at Purdue and at Nebraska to close the season.

And here’s the kicker: other than a couple of offensive lineman, an all-conference tight end in C.J. Fiedorowicz, and a trio of linebackers – James Morris, Anthony Hitchens, and Christian Kirksey – who combined for more than 1,000 tackles in their careers, Iowa has almost its entire team returning intact.

Throw in what the pundits say is the easiest schedule in the conference, and the fact that outside expectations are fairly low – which is when Iowa seemingly plays its best – and the Hawkeyes could be looking at double-digit wins.

But it’s not just Iowa that has me excited. For the third straight season, I’ll be bringing you my college football Blitz column every weekend. Not a natural columnist, the Blitz gives me the chance to wax poetic on my favorite sport … and I get paid for it!

As evidenced the last few years, I’m sure there will be plenty of twists and turns throughout the college football season, and I can’t wait to see it unfold right before my very eyes … and then share my (I’m sure much anticipated) thoughts with you, the reader.

And, to top it all off, how about a little college football playoff action to end the season? Sounds pretty good to me.

So, in retrospect from that initial conversation that started my wheels turning, I am ready for football, at all levels (hopefully my Falcons can right the ship this year, too.)

In a sentiment I’m sure many of you share, bring on 2014!

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