It’s been nearly 36 years since the Hawkeyes have been the No. 2 team in the country.
With Iowa outlasting Penn State and Alabama going down to Texas A&M, it was a no-brainer for the voters to move the team up one spot. It’s heights the program hasn’t reached since the late great Hayden Fry was patrolling the sidelines.
Ironically, 1985 was the same year the Hawkeyes were Big Ten Champs and made it to the Rose Bowl. Kirk Ferentz has his team playing at a high level. Obviously the Hawkeyes’ resume is one of the best in the nation up to this point. Indiana, Iowa State and Penn State were all ranked in the top-20 when the teams played Iowa.
Now the Hawkeyes are (6-0) for the first time since 2015, when they finished the regular season undefeated. This year’s version of the Hawkeyes are on a similar mission, but better equipped this time around. After all, Iowa is battle-tested and owns the nation’s second-longest winning streak at 12 games.
There’s a plethora of leaders on both sides of the ball that keeps the team focused game after game. It’s hard being a highly-ranked team and getting every opponent’s best. The Hawkeyes have had a bullseye on their backs since the start of the season and nothing has changed.
Iowa’s tenacious defense is the biggest reason for its’ success. Despite the fact that star cornerback Riley Moss injured himself on an interception against the Nittany Lions, the Hawkeyes’ still have the No. 1 secondary in the land. The group is full of ball hawks and Matt Hankins sealed the deal in the win Saturday with a clutch interception.
The Hawkeyes have playmaker at every level of the defense, including edge rusher Zach VanValkenburg, who anchors the front and linebacker Jack Campbell, who’s a tackling machine. The unit currently ranks first in the Big Ten and fourth in the FBS in scoring defense, allowing only 13 points per game.
On the offensive side of the ball, Iowa isn’t flashy. However, the Hawkeyes are effective enough to move the chains and put points on the board. Some fans consider quarterback Spencer Petras a game manager, but he has spread his wings over the past two weeks.
All-Big Ten running Tyler Goodson continues to be a staple in the backfield, despite the team ranking 99th in the FBS in rushing yards per game. All-American center Tyler Linderbaum continues to set the tone for the big boys up front. The offensive line been holding down the trenches and dictating the pace of the games.
Iowa always play solid on special teams and has the reigning Big Ten Punter of the Year in Tory Taylor. The Hawkeyes are blue collar, but always stay disciplined. The defense is fundamentally sound and continues to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes. Mix all of that in with Ferentz’ longevity in the game, and that’s recipe for major success. Which is why no one should be surprised that the program has reached new heights.
Ferentz faces his biggest challenge of keeping his team focused and not feeding into the outside noise now. It’s easy for a team to have a hangover after coming off a huge win. Although the Big Ten West appears to be on lock for the Hawkeyes the rest of the way, they haven’t reached the promised land yet.
There’s still a lot of football left to be played, but the schedule lightens up a bit moving forward. Regardless, there’s no denying it’s a great time to be an Iowa fan in 2021.