By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – On back-to-back Saturdays, the Iowa football team caused its fans to rush the field at Kinnick Stadium in the joy of victory and then rush to the exits in the agony of defeat
After a four week hold of the top spot in my Big Ten power ranks, the Iowa football team fell hard and fast in the wake of Saturday’s 24-7 loss to unranked Purdue at Kinnick Stadium, which was more than half empty when the game ended.
The good news is that Iowa doesn’t have to play Purdue again this season since they’re both in the Big Ten West Division, and Iowa probably doesn’t ever have to face Purdue receiver David Bell again, assuming he declares for the NFL draft as a junior.
And why wouldn’t he?
Some might ask why Purdue is ranked two spots ahead of Minnesota since the Gophers beat Purdue 20-13 on Oct. 2 in West Lafayette, Indiana.
And that’s a fair question.
My answer is that Purdue is coming off a victory over the second ranked team in the country on the road, while Minnesota is coming off a victory over Nebraska at home.
Purdue is also healthier than Minnesota right now.
These rankings are based mostly on what teams have accomplished recently, and the Gophers can’t match Purdue’s signature win.
I couldn’t bring myself to rank Iowa below both Purdue and Minnesota.
Kirk Ferentz sort of owns Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck the same way Purdue coach Jeff Brohm owns Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa also has a better body of work than both teams, but to rank Iowa above Purdue after what happened this past Saturday would be dismissing what Purdue accomplished.
- Ohio State, 5-1, 2-1 – A sense of normalcy returns with the Buckeyes back on top of the power rankings.
Ohio State is without question the most talented team in the conference, and has the most upside, but its loss to Oregon in week two couldn’t be overlooked.
The weekly rankings are about performance on the field, and about what a team has accomplished up to that point, and Ohio State had to pay a price for losing, especially at home, just like Iowa paid a price for its loss to Purdue.
However, the Buckeyes are now the choice over Michigan and Michigan State, despite both of them being undefeated, because of how well they’ve performed since the loss to Oregon, winning four games in a row, including three in dominant fashion.
Ohio State has arguably the best receivers in college football, a rising star at quarterback, a rock-solid offensive line, an emerging star at running back and an improving defense.
Add all that adds up to being the top team in the conference.
2. Michigan State, 7-0, 4-0 – The Big Ten’s most improved team continues to find ways to stay undefeated under second-year head coach Mel Tucker.
The Spartans’ performance on offense in Saturday’s 20-15 victory at Indiana left much to be desired, but they still found a way to win on the road thanks to their defense.
Good teams find ways to win, and Michigan State is more than half way through the regular season and still undefeated.
3. Michigan, 6-0, 3-0 – Jim Harbaugh might have his best team since returning to his alma mater. But the Wolverines still have to play at Michigan State, at Penn State and at home against Ohio State, so it would be premature to say that Michigan has returned to elite status.
Michigan is coming off a bye week and will host Northwestern next Saturday in a game the Wolverines should win.
4. Penn State, 5-1, 2-1 – Penn State is also coming off a bye week, which came at a good time, considering how many of its players limped off the field during the 23-20 loss at Iowa on Oct. 9.
And though some of the injuries looked suspicious to Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, the injury to starting quarterback Sean Clifford in the second quarter was legitimate and too much for Penn State to overcome. Clifford has to get back ASAP or the Nittany Lions could be in trouble based on how poorly backup quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson performed against Iowa.
5. Purdue, 4-2, 2-1 – The Boilermakers would be like Ohio State, and Jeff Brohm would be the Big Ten’s answer to Nick Saban, if they could play Iowa every Saturday.
6. Iowa, 6-1, 3-1 – Iowa finally paid a price for its deficiencies on offense, losing to unranked Purdue in a game in which Iowa never had the momentum, or an answer for David Bell.
Iowa dropped from second to 11th in both top polls, which is a significant drop, but not that surprising because Purdue won convincingly on Iowa’s home field.
Defense and special teams had been carrying Iowa throughout the season, but even those units struggled against Purdue. It was only a matter of time before the offense would be asked to play a lead role, and that time was Saturday against Purdue, but the offense failed miserably.
From questionable play calling to a lack of execution, the offense just didn’t rise to the occasion, and as a result, Iowa dropped from first to sixth in the power rankings.
7. Minnesota, 4-2, 2-1 – P.J. Fleck seems to rub a lot of people the wrong way with his look-at-me personality, but the guy can obviously coach and motivate. The Gophers have lost their top two running backs, and yet, their ground attack has remained productive.
That’s a sign of a stable program.
8. Wisconsin, 3-3, 1-2 – The Badgers still are a mess on offense, especially at quarterback, but their defense is good enough to keep Barry Alvarez from having to take over on an interim basis. At least for now.
9. Maryland, 4-2, 1-2 – Maryland had a bye on Saturday, but that probably won’t be enough time to fix what was exposed in its last two games against Iowa and Ohio State, games Maryland lost by a combined score of 117-31. The Terrapins are built more for 7-on-7 than for the rugged Big Ten.
10. Nebraska, 3-5, 1-4 – Scott Frost blames Bo Pelini for spoiling Nebraska fans by never winning fewer than nine games in a season.
11. Northwestern, 3-3, 1-2 – The Fighting Fitzgeralds have climbed out of the Big Ten basement, and would sit atop the rankings if it were based solely on academics.
12. Rutgers, 3-4, 0-4 – The Scarlets Knights are entering a bye week, which means they can’t lose on Saturday, although, don’t ever overestimate Rutgers.
13. Indiana, 2-4, 0-3 – The Big Ten’s most disappointing team has been reduced to being just another warm-up act for an Indiana men’s basketball program that is college basketball’s answer to Nebraska football.
14. Illinois, 2-5, 1-3 – Illinois had a bye on Saturday, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Illinois lost an intra-squad scrimmage.