The run is on. Iowa is 5-0 for the first time since 2009, fresh off a borderline surreal 10-6 victory at Camp Randall over then-No. 19 Wisconsin. Back in August, it looked like Iowa's toughest game of the season, and even today if there's any game that might be harder it's Week 7's trip to Northwestern... and that's about it.
Iowa didn't look perfect on Saturday. If anything, Iowa looked lucky to have been able to win with 10 points and a scoreless second half. Whether the Hawkeyes would win five of 10 games against Wisconsin is... debatable.
And yet, far from being an invalidator, luck is a crucial component of any special season—for Iowa or anyone else. Moreover, as we've seen from Kirk Ferentz's past Iowa teams (both good and not-so), luck isn't a wholly external factor. The better teams made their own luck, and the worse ones, much more often than not, couldn't:
Among active Power Five coaches, Ferentz has the worst close-game record given his large sample size. During Iowa's four 10-win seasons (2002-04 and 2009), Ferentz went 9-1 in games decided by four points or less. He's 11-29 (.275) in those games for the rest of his FBS career -- a remarkably poor record.
Iowa is now 2-0 in these games decided by four points or fewer—and let's not forget Iowa State had a tie game and possession in the fourth quarter before Iowa closed the game out con gusto. There's some sort of irony in doing such a good job of finishing a close game that it no longer counts as a close game win, but that's a discussion for another day.
Sure, you can call Joel Stave's 1-yard-line fumble in the fourth quarter a piece of good luck for the Hawkeyes, and no—that usually doesn't happen, nor was it a function of especially good defense. That's one way to look at it. It's also a credit to Iowa's defense that Wisconsin started the drive at Iowa's 27-yard-line and was already on its seventh snap of the drive. Marc Morehouse has the breakdown of that play and the hydra-esque defensive effort it took it keep Wisconsin out of the end zone on the previous play. Every snap is a potential disaster, however remote the possibility, and the more iterations you can force a team to execute correctly en route to its desired goal, the better the chances they'll screw it up with minimal help. And look at Iowa's defensive presence on the fated play; it's safe to say that even with a safe QB exchange, there's no damn way Wisconsin was scoring on that snap.
You can imagine where it goes from here.
Wisconsin fans can tell themselves a better quarterback would have beaten Iowa—there was plenty of that in Section CC on Saturday—or the team wouldn't normally make so many mistakes, or whatever excuse they can think of. They can tell us all about it from the rearview mirror. The run is on now, and the target on Iowa's back as a ranked team will only grow and grow the longer this goes on. We know how harrowing this can be; 2009 wasn't that long ago.
As for when the run ends—or at least abates itself toward a more realistic end like the Outback Bowl—lord, who knows? Perhaps there's a quarterback waiting on Iowa's schedule who'll scorch the Hawkeyes in a way Joel Stave couldn't. Or perhaps there's not. Perhaps Jordan Canzeri's fumbleitis will cost the Hawkeyes a game. Or perhaps it won't. Perhaps C.J. Beathard can't survive the sustained absence of his top receiver and starting left tackle. Or perhaps he can.
Perhaps some opponent in the near future plays out of their minds because it's Iowa on the other side of the field and pulls off the stunning upset. Or, y'know, perhaps nobody does that.
This is the uncertainty of a run. We want to know it'll keep rolling one, two, eight weeks from now, but we don't know who'll stay healthy and who won't. We don't know if Corey Wootton will run onto the field and break Beathard's ankle when Iowa's at Northwestern. Hell, Penn State (and 80% of the Iowa fan base) didn't know who Daniel Murray was until he introduced himself in the rudest possible way. So who's waiting to introduce himself to the Hawkeyes?
Was the Wisconsin game so stressful you could barely breathe? Get used to it, because that's the primary physical response to a run in college football. This is what we hope to sign up for. This is it. Let's go.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention just how awesome Madison and Wisconsin are. To start things off, Iowa-Wisconsin just might be college football's most congenial rivalry, because 1) both sides have the similarity of siblings and, most crucially, 2) neither side resents it. Iowa comes home with the Heartland Trophy and that's pretty damn rad, but even if the game went the other way, the trip would have been so worth it. Go to a game at Camp Randall. Go to Madison. Enjoy it. And eat so many cheese curds you need to go to detox. It's the only way.