Totally in command of the Big Ten West, No. 3 Iowa seeks greater status vs. No. 4 Penn State
In a conference that has 5 of the top 11 teams in the nation, Iowa totally controls its side of the Big Ten.
If the 5-0 Hawkeyes can handle their business — and they’ve been handling it handily at a 33.2-11.6 point-differential clip so far this season — they’ll cruise to a B1G West title.
Normally at this point in the season, you might think “their first big test” comes Saturday night, when No. 4 Penn State arrives in town.
But this season has already been full of exams that were perceived to be tough, and Iowa passed them all with flying black and gold. That’s why the Hawks are perched at No. 3 now.
As No. 18, the Hawkeyes dominated No. 17 Indiana by 28. As No. 10, they demoralized No. 9 Iowa State by 10. And as No. 5, they dismantled No. 27* Maryland (*also receiving votes) by 37. The latter 2 were road games, too.
All three had hyped quarterbacks coming into the game who were expected to give this elite Hawkeyes defense some trouble. By the time Iowa was done with them, all 3 of said QBs were benched.
Yet, Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras, winner of 11 straight as a starter, got hit with plenty of the criticism.
“I love being next to Spencer in the backfield. He’s dialed in right now,” Tyler Goodson said after Friday night’s win.
What’s the old NFL Primetime bit about Cris Carter? “All he does is catch touchdowns.”
Well, after that 0-2 start to the all-B1G 2020 season, Petras and the Hawkeyes haven’t tasted defeat. “All he does is win.”
But this week? It’s next level.
1960. 1985. 2021. Three Top 4 matchups in Iowa football history.
Iowa has played in a total of TWO AP Top 4 matchups ever (and only one in Kinnick).
No. 1 Iowa beat No. 2 Michigan in Iowa City in 1985.
No. 3 Minnesota beat No. 1 Iowa in Minnesota in 1960.
So yeah, this weekend is kind of a big deal. pic.twitter.com/yvrOnJdeey
— Matt Benson (@mbenson6) October 3, 2021
One ended at a Rose Bowl. The other in what some still say should be claimed as an Iowa national title. The third is Saturday.
Penn State is a rivalry without a trophy. It would be true of any two teams with a score of 6-4 on their ledger this century. Some wanted a night game, and that “Kinnick After Dark” magic worked on the Nittany Lions the first time in 2010, but not since.
The last two meetings in Iowa City have been particularly heartbreaking — a 21-19 last-second loss to No. 4 Penn State in 2017 and a 17-12 defeat in 2019 due to “downright dismal offense” in a Nos. 17/18 matchup (but they sure looked good in gold). 2018 is another story, but 2020 stopped the skid (and streak of close games) at 6 with a 41-21 win.
So is it too soon to be talking Indianapolis? Probably. But fans have allowed their minds to wander — and plan. Book now — prices will only rise on those hotels, as Iowa guard Justin Britt’s mother Nikkie pointed out on Twitter.
Reading all these post about how the 5-0 Iowa Hawkeyes are over freaking rated.
The only thing "overrated" about Hawkeye football is the price of hotels during football season.
Otherwise, go back to your regularly scheduled losing program.
— Nikkie Britt (@britt_nikkie) October 2, 2021
The teams directly behind the Hawkeyes — Minnesota and Purdue — still have dates in Kinnick Stadium scheduled, but neither were among the preseason favorites. Iowa has at least a 2-game lead on everyone else.
The Big Ten West is in such a state that people have resorted to saying Nebraska (3-3, 1-2 B1G) is its second-best team. The pundits don’t know what to do — or maybe even what they’re seeing — with a defensively dominant team. So they grab the comfort food of a blue blood.
ESPN’s David Pollack determined — unconvincingly — that if Iowa is good, offenses must be down on the show that shall not be named until it shows up in Iowa City.
Others have said Iowa State, Indiana and Maryland just aren’t that good. People really can’t accept that Iowa’s defense is otherworldly, can they?
Now, even if that Nebraska prediction pans out, Iowa still might be in a position to rest all of its starters come Black Friday. Not that college football teams do that. (Besides, there will be a 6-game Heroes Trophy streak on the line, even if the 11-game winning and 27-game 25-point defensive streaks have ended by then.)
But don’t expect any of them to end easily:
“Our mantra coming into this game was we’re going to storm through the front door and take what’s ours.”
There you have it. Riley Moss has laid claim to every football for the Iowa defense, and before the season is done, these ball-Hawks just might do it.
He’s done his part, leading the Big Ten with 3 picks — 2 returned for touchdowns — and Iowa has scored 75 points off of 16 turnovers.
“Coming up with those big plays, I don’t think anybody could have seen that coming,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
He’s being modest. These players are put in these positions to make these plays. Opposing fan bases may grouse that the Hawks can’t count on the game-changing defensive plays every week. But anyone following Iowa should know by now that it’s not if, but when and how many.
And forget 25. This year’s defense hasn’t allowed anyone to score 18 — and plenty of people predicted that streak would fall before now.
So it’d be fitting if these two teams — as Nos. 3 and 4 — combined to score 10 points or less again.
Stranger scores have happened — usually in this series.