BLOOMINGTON — The Iowa Hawkeyes jumped to No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 this week, their highest ranking since Members Only jackets and stonewash jeans were in fashion.
It was 1985 when the Chuck Long-led Hawkeyes vaulted to No. 1 in the country, only to tie Michigan State and lose to Ohio State to dash dreams of an undefeated season. But Iowa still won the Big Ten title with Long at quarterback before falling to UCLA in the Rose Bowl.
Following Iowa’s 23-20 comeback win over Penn State on Saturday, in which fans stormed the field at Kinnick Stadium in celebration, the path to the Big Ten title game appears more manageable than ever.
After hosting Purdue on Saturday, the Hawkeyes (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) will have a bye before playing Oct. 30 at Wisconsin. Then, Iowa will close out the regular season with games at Northwestern (Nov. 6), home against Minnesota (Nov. 13), home against Illinois (Nov. 20), and at Nebraska (Nov. 27).
It’s a safe bet Iowa will be favored in all of its remaining games, with the only potential pitfalls coming at Wisconsin and at Nebraska. Certainly, every team remaining on Iowa’s schedule, beginning with the Boilermakers on Saturday, will view their games as a chance to pull off a season-defining upset.
“It’s part of the thing and part of the territory,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “If you do have success, there’s going to be more attention, and I think they understand that and get that concept that really what it all gets back to is just trying to do your best to get ready during the course of the week and then being ready to go at kickoff, and anything can happen.”
Iowa has won by leading both the country and the Big Ten in turnover margin (plus-15). Iowa’s 16 interceptions also lead the country, with two of the 16 picks returned for TDs. Punter Tory Taylor (46.6 yards per punt) has impacted field position, while running back Tyler Goodson (86.3 yards per game, 5 TDs) and quarterback Spencer Petras (189.7 yards per game, 9 TDs, 2 interceptions) have done enough on offense.
“All of them are pretty invested right now, and that’s what you hope for,” Ferentz said. “We have really good guys. I don’t know how good a team we are, but we have really good guys, and they play hard, and they care about each other.”
Williamsport’s Potts out
After losing reigning Big Ten leading rusher Mohamed Ibrahim to a leg injury Week 1 against Ohio State, Minnesota suffered another blow to its backfield when it announced Monday running back Trey Potts is done for the year.
Potts, a Williamsport graduate who was second in the Big Ten in rushing at 110.4 yards per game, left the fourth quarter of Minnesota’s game at Purdue on Oct. 2 with an undisclosed ailment. He did not travel with the team following the game and was hospitalized in Indiana.
“He’s out of the hospital. He’s back in Minnesota,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said. “It’s unfortunate what happened, and really scary what happened.
“Do I expect him to play the rest of the year? No. I’m not going to get into the extent of his injury. That’s up to him and his family to be able to talk about that if they want to do that. I keep that as a personal side for the players.”
Minnesota now may have to turn to true freshman Mar’Keise “Bucky” Irving as its starting running back for the rest of the season, beginning Saturday against Nebraska.
Five Big Ten teams are ranked in the Top 10 of the AP Top 25 football poll for the first time in the history of the conference: Iowa (No. 2), Ohio State (6), Penn State (7), Michigan (8) and Michigan State. (10).