Iowa’s football team got a 25th-place vote Sunday morning.
For the first time since Nov. 6, 2011, someone voted for the Hawkeyes in one of the two major Top 25 polls. On that day, the Hawkeyes were fresh off a 24-16 home win over Michigan and received a few votes in the Associated Press and coaches rankings.
The following week, Iowa lost to 37-21 to Michigan State and got no votes in either poll. It hadn’t received one since until it showed up with a vote in Sunday’s coaches poll. Unlike AP, the coaches’ poll doesn’t release its individual ballots to the world. But since Minnesota’s Jerry Kill is one of the 62 coaches who votes, and since the Hawkeyes flattened Kill’s Gophers Saturday, 23-7 …
Oh, what a difference one ill-placed pass can make. Were it not for Jake Rudock’s late-game interception that led to Northern Illinois’ game-winning field goal, Iowa might be 5-0 today and holding the No. 23 spot in the AP poll that the Huskies claim.
But ifs and buts are the stuff of every college football season. Here’s the only “if” that matters now in Hawkeyeland: Beat Michigan State Saturday in Kinnick Stadium, and they’re 2-0 in the Big Ten.
These days, college football scores seem to go up quicker than fares on taxi meters. But Iowa’s going to get its first taste of a legitimate big-time defensive team this week. And judging by the way Notre Dame’s defense got gouged by Oklahoma Saturday, so is Michigan State.
The Spartans are first in the nation in total defense, allowing a paltry 188.8 yards per game. Iowa is seventh, at 265.6. MSU is second in the nation in rushing defense. Iowa is seventh.
Does that mean the Hawkeyes have the seventh-best defense in the land, or does it mean they have faced Missouri State, Iowa State, Western Michigan and Minnesota after allowing 430 yards to Northern Illinois?
You can twist it any way you want, but Iowa’s defense has exhibited plenty of growth this month. The Spartans’ ‘D,’ however, has been big-boy for a while now. MSU finished the season in the nation’s top 10 in total defense in 2011 and 2012.
The difference between the 11-win Spartans of 2011 and the 7-6 team of last year is that Michigan State was a team in search of a competent quarterback and a healthy offensive line a year ago. Yet, none of its five Big Ten losses were by more than four points.
From afar, the story doesn’t look like it’s changed a whole lot so far this season. MSU is 103rd in total offense. Last weekend, the Spartans held Notre Dame to 224 yards in South Bend. But the MSU offense only put up a little more than half of the offensive production Oklahoma displayed at Notre Dame Saturday in its 35-21 win, and the Irish held off Michigan State, 17-13.
The Spartans, you see, are 103rd nationally in total offense. It will be a waste of a great defense if those numbers don’t rise in Big Ten play. Again.
But then you could also say that were it not for dicey pass-interference calls against Michigan State down the stretch, the Spartans would have defeated Notre Dame and would have one of those Top 25 spots itself. Just like Iowa might possibly have one, or might have at least been pounding hard on the door from the “Also receiving votes” category were it not for the finish against Northern Illinois.
For now, the Hawkeyes have one vote in one poll. It’s a start.
Comments are closed.