Why unbeaten Iowa is being underrated
This is the first and last time you’ll ever see me do this. I promise.
SEC apologist Clay Travis made a good point.
Shocking, right? I mean, it was in an attempt to troll the B1G’s elite, but it was still an interesting take. To illustrate it, you must look at these two teams’ resumes.
3-0 vs. teams receiving votes in latest Associated Press poll
5-0 vs. Power Five teams
+17.6 point average margin of victory
0-0 vs. teams receiving votes in latest AP poll
4-0 vs. Power Five teams
+20.7 point average margin of victory
They look pretty similar right? You could even make the argument that Team A, because it has three wins against teams receiving votes in the latest AP poll, has a better resume than Team B.
You can open your eyes now. Team A is Iowa and Team B is Ohio State.
Still, Iowa still finds itself at No. 12 in the Associated Press rankings, which is 11 spots behind Ohio State. The point of this is not to debate that Iowa is better than Ohio State. It isn’t even to say why the Hawkeyes are good. If you’ve been watching them, you already know that they own the line of scrimmage and they get takeaways on defense. It’s a formula that could lead the Hawkeyes to a 12-0 regular season.
With the unbeaten Hawkeyes on bye, they’ll be off the radar of the national college football world. And with matchups against Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska to end 2015, they won’t be earning their way back on to the national radar on a Saturday until if and when they play in the B1G Championship.
There are five reasons that Iowa is still outside the AP top 10 — and not getting much national respect — that have nothing to do with its midseason resume.
1. No preseason hype
The Hawkeyes were tabbed to finish in the middle of the B1G West with potentially 7-8 wins. The preseason personnel storyline was that Iowa lost arguably the nation’s best offensive lineman and its workhorse tailback. It even lost its starting quarterback, but some would argue that C.J. Beathard should’ve been the starter last year so that didn’t appear to be too great a loss. There was no five-star freshman or stud transfer that was going to shake up Iowa’s mediocre destiny. There was chatter that if and when Iowa tottled its way to some low-level bowl game, it would be the end of Ferentz in Iowa City. Outside of the state of Iowa, there wasn’t a reason for anyone to buy into any hype surrounding this team.
2. No prime-time national TV games
The Hawkeyes might not play a single national TV game at night until the B1G Championship. Sure, you can beat Wisconsin on ESPN at 11 a.m. but what are most college football writers and analysts doing at that time? Covering something else. And even if Iowa is on their radar, there are also usually dozens of other morning games to compete with. The Hawkeyes aren’t like Ohio State, which plays in the primetime slot even when it’s facing Rutgers. They don’t have some national fanbase that looks attractive to the major networks. Don’t get me wrong. There are a TON of Iowa fans all over the country, but Iowa still isn’t the big-name program capable of headlining a primetime slot.
3. No household names
Even if you asked the average B1G fan, they might struggle to come up with a single player on Iowa. Or they would butcher Beathard’s name. No Hawkeye earned preseason All-American honors. Nobody on Iowa’s roster is projected to be a first-round draft pick. Iowa’s stars don’t do anything sexy. Tevaun Smith can make some Odell Beckham-like catches off the field, but other than that, there’s nothing too flashy about what the Hawkeyes do. Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh lead a rushing attack that plowed the way for two backup tailbacks to record 200-yard games. Iowa fans didn’t even know there was a guy named Akrum Wadley on the roster before he went off on Saturday without Jordan Canzeri and LeShun Daniels. Beathard, while he’s been solid, hasn’t had that one monster game that gained national attention. Iowa is where it is because it has glue players like Nate Meier and Cole Fisher making all the tackles and veterans like Desmond King that capitalize on mistakes. Arguably Iowa’s only household name on defense, Drew Ott, is out for the year and wasn’t healthy for much of the season, anyway. That hasn’t stopped Iowa from ranking fourth in the country against the run. Ferentz doesn’t need superstars. He just needs guys that plug holes, don’t miss tackles and stay within the system. It doesn’t bring a mess of accolades, but it brings wins. That’s all that matters.
4. No major upsets
Iowa has only been an underdog once this year. That game, however, saw the Hawkeyes knock off Wisconsin at Camp Randall. B1G fans know how hard it is to win in Madison, no matter how banged up the Badgers are. But nationally speaking, no Iowa result has been a head-turner. If Northwestern hadn’t been demolished at Michigan the week before, Iowa’s 40-10 beatdown in Evanston would’ve been significantly more impressive. Instead, it was just treated as another sign that Northwestern’s defense was playing out of its mind early in the season. Iowa hasn’t had the chance to pull off a win against a team nobody expected it to beat. Top-10 teams like Clemson, Stanford and Utah have all done that. Iowa ends the season against B1G teams with a combined conference record of 2-12, which means the Hawkeyes will be favored in every game. If they’re going to be considered a legitimate College Football Playoff contender, it won’t be because Iowa impressed the committee with its second half victories.
5. The B1G East is having all the fun
We talked about the B1G West being the wild, wild West, but really, it’s been kind of boring from a contention standpoint. Iowa basically has a two-game lead on the division with an easy second-half schedule. The B1G East, meanwhile, has two undefeated, higher-profile teams in Michigan State and Ohio State. That doesn’t even include the Michigan Harbaughs, who have been arguably the story of the year in college football. We’re all looking forward to when MSU and OSU square off, in addition to the regular-season finale between OSU and Michigan. There could easily be a three-way tie atop the East. The common thought is that whoever emerges from the East will take care of the West winner in the B1G Championship and represent the conference in the College Football Playoff. Because of that, Iowa is still only believed to be the fourth-best team in the conference. Is that fair? Perhaps not. But it is the reality.
If Iowa was the lone unbeaten left in the B1G, we might be talking about the Hawkeyes as the new favorite to win the B1G Championship. Instead, many are wondering how good they really are.
Is the national media still sleeping on Iowa halfway through the season? Maybe. But that’s because Ferentz has lulled everyone outside of Iowa to sleep with consistent, fundamental football that keeps producing wins.
Surely he wouldn’t mind flying into the B1G Championship under the radar. By then, the Hawkeyes will have plenty trending in their favor.