It's the time of year for upsets and havoc atop the college football rankings but the Iowa Hawkeyes once again avoided being bit by that coming out on top of Minnesota in the annual rivalry game 40-35. It was a back and forth contest but Kirk Ferentz's group, just like in every other tightly contested matchup this year, found the intestingal fortitude to close out the game.
In a year where they have been criticized by many for their schedule, Iowa has continued to do all it needs to do, win the ball game. They are now 10-0 for the first time in school history and have their eyes set on something greater. They can claim a share of the Big Ten West title this weekend against Purdue with a win. That win would be enough, because of the tiebreaker they hold over Wisconsin, to catapult them to Indianapolis to play for the Big Ten Championship Game.
Speaking of that schedule, it certainly takes a hit in the last four games against teams like Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue, and Nebraska, but folks often leave out the body of work the Hawkeyes accomplished in the first half of their schedule. They knocked off a top 20 team, Northwestern, on the road by 30. They defeated Wisconsin in Madison 10-6. Neither Northwestern and Wisconsin has lost since falling to Iowa in their own stadiums. Pittsburgh has lost a couple games since, but that's still another win, in non-conference action, against an above average football team. It isn't a pretty schedule but it's better than a few of the other teams in the playoff hunt up until this point.
They're getting credit from the committee though and that's all that matters at this juncture.
Teams like Baylor, LSU, and Stanford fell victim to upsets this past Saturday. Baylor was a team that had the potential to jump Iowa this week but couldn't beat Oklahoma and capitalize on that. LSU was another with that chance but Arkansas eliminated them from that discussion. Oklahoma State was another team said to be neck-and-neck with the Hawkeyes, but they struggled with Iowa State. Their win over the Cyclones was less than impressive than Iowa's, having trailed in the game at one point 24-7.
The number five ranking given to the Hawkeyes is more than fair and is more evidence to the fact that Iowa will be cemented into the Top 4 at the end should they walk through the season unscathed and win the Big Ten Championship Game. All that's left for them is to take care of their own business. It starts with Purdue in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday.