Short week?

Road trip under the lights?

Unranked and undefeated team with something to prove?

No problem. There are plenty of reasons No. 5 Iowa can escape unscathed. Here are 5:


It starts and ends here for Iowa. It usually does.

The Hawkeyes have turned 9 turnovers into 51 points this season, scoring points after every takeaway. The Hawkeyes’ defense has scored 3 touchdowns and a safety.

Maryland’s bringing a talented defense as well, leading the Big Ten with 16 sacks, so Iowa’s offensive line will have its work cut out for them. Cornerback Jakorian Bennett leads all Power 5 defenders with 8 pass breakups, with an interception in each of the Terps’ first 2 games. Bennett and Nick Cross, who also has 2 interceptions, are one of only two defensive back duos in the Big Ten to each have a pair.

The other? Iowa’s Matt Hankins and Riley Moss.

Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game and has surpassed 300 yards in 3 of the Terps’ first 4 games. He has 10 touchdowns and only 1 interception.

Look for both totals to go up Friday, but the latter favors Iowa.

Tagovailoa was hot and cold in 2020 but has been a star in 2021, surviving close games against West Virginia and at Illinois (not a given — ask Nebraska), and taking care of business against Kent State and Howard.

If the Iowa defense can get to him early, the mistakes should arrive at the same time as his first true test.

Petras is overdue to steal some spotlight

You can search “Heisman” and “Taulia Tagovailoa” and get results from the past week. You can’t say the same about Iowa’s quarterback, but at least it didn’t ask “Did you mean Spencer Rattler?” after I searched.

Tagovailoa already is being mentioned. A flashy win over Top 5 Iowa might put him in legitimate contention. He’s passed for twice as many yards and touchdowns as Spencer Petras (1,340 and 10 vs. 684 and 4). It’s okay though: Tagovailoa is in the top 10 nationally in both stats, so not many quarterbacks stack up those stats.

One category they’re tied at the top in 2021: Wins. Four each.

Look for Petras to have a surprise up his sleeve in Maryland, maybe even a chip on his shoulder. He’s always confident when he speaks. Last week, Petras showed he can be when he throws, too, connecting on the deep shots when he had to. He’ll get more opportunities on Friday. If it comes down to a shootout — it likely won’t, for all of the reasons stated above — Petras can execute that plan.

After all, Iowa has scored 30.8 points per game in his 12 starts, “the most by a Hawkeyes quarterback” since Brad Banks’ 36.5 in 2002. Some took exception to that stat provided by Iowa this week, since the defense has put some points on the board this year. They did in ‘02, too. Petras is second to Banks in winning percentage for Iowa quarterbacks with at least 10 starts as well.

This is football. Quarterbacks carry an extra share of credit and blame. There’s no denying he’s on a 10-game winning streak as a starter. On Friday, Petras can take the next step toward earning more of the glory.

But there still won’t be any Heisman hype for the Hawkeye. Sorry.

History is with the Hawkeyes

While the Terrapins are off to a great start, history is not on their side when it comes to sustaining it.

Maryland hasn’t started a season 5-0 since 2001. In fact, if the Terps win Friday, they’ll match their win total of the past 2 seasons combined. Iowa last started 5-0 in 2015.

Maryland hasn’t defeated a Top 5 team since beating No. 5 Florida State in 2004. Iowa has accomplished it 5 times in that span.

The Terrapins have never started Big Ten play 2-0. Iowa has, but in Maryland’s defense the Hawkeyes have been in the conference a lot longer.

Kirk Ferentz is 2-10 in his first road trips to Big Ten opponents, but 6-4 in his second visits.

Iowa is 8-3 all-time in games played on Friday.

No fear of the unknown

Iowa has only played Maryland 3 times — ever. As Ferentz said earlier this week, this road trip is still unfamiliar.

“It’s still different,” Ferentz said. “It definitely feels — they’re not new to the Big Ten per se, but they’re new to us because we’ve only been there once.”

This has to feel more like a high-profile non-conference game than a Big Ten road trip to the Hawkeyes, so they should treat it that way. Iowa’s won 15 of those in a row. In the past 6 seasons, Iowa’s played their not-so-new B1G friends once — a 23-0 Iowa win in 2018. They’ve played Iowa State 5 times in that same span. The Hawks got to know the Terps in their first 2 Big Ten seasons; after that, they might as well be Northern Illinois. (Iowa even has a matching 2-1 record against the Huskies in the past decade.)

Iowa’s non-conference win streak is the longest in the country, and the Hawks’ last non-conference loss was at the 2017 Outback Bowl. It’s not a stretch to think of this unfamiliar trip as the conclusion of a 4-game non-con schedule.

And Iowa doesn’t lose those.

Closing games

Iowa and Maryland have played a common opponent and it’s not a Big Ten team. No surprise there, given the above.

It’s Kent State. And although fans groaned about that win, it was by 23 points. The Terps only won by 21. Since we’ve heard all week that the sky is falling because Iowa was losing at the half to a Colorado State team that lost to Vanderbilt, who lost to East Tennessee State … Iowa will therefore transitively win by … 2?

Doesn’t matter. You just need 1 point more.

Whether the Hawkeyes are only up 14-10 at Iowa State, up 9-7 to Kent State or even down 14-7 to Colorado State, one thing has been consistent: Their first halves have been underwhelming. Boos have been heard.

But equally consistent is how dominant their second halves have been. The Hawks have outscored opponents 47-10 after the break, including 31-3 in the third quarter. Even if it’s looking like an upset through 30, don’t count out Iowa. They can turn it on in a hurry — and it’s usually after the half.

And once the Hawkeyes pull away to pull off this victory, Penn State awaits.