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Iowa Football: Hawks Return to Top 25

The prodigal sons return

NCAA Football: Iowa at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa’s victory over Wisconsin yesterday not only put them in control of the Big Ten West, it also launched them back into both the AP and Coaches top 25 rankings.

Teams Dropping Out: Washington State, Kansas, Kentucky, Miami

New Teams In: #22 Air Force, #23 Tulane, #24 Iowa

Biggest Mover: #18 USC (-8)

Big Ten Teams: #2 Michigan, #3 Ohio State, #7 Penn State, #24 Iowa

Let’s not bury the lede here: the Iowa Hawkeyes make their return to the AP poll after a three week hiatus. They received votes after defeating Purdue last week, putting them in position to make their return once they beat the Badgers. While the offense continued its woeful output, the defense and special teams were more than impressive keeping the Badgers out of the end zone. Leshon Williams’ 82-yard touchdown run was enough offense on its own to win the game. It also helps that the #10, #14, #18, #19, #23, #24, and #25 teams all lost yesterday, causing enough chaos for the Hawks to slip in at the expense of some of those lower ranked teams. So what if it took a bunch of teams losing for us to get in. If it’s good enough for Hank it’s good enough for me.

Jokes aside, it’s gratifying to see Iowa back in the rankings on the backs of the defense and special teams units. Those have been Iowa’s identity the last few years and both are luxuries many teams would kill for. The running game has been a welcome surprise which is crucial in the absence of an effective passing attack. If those three phases continue to trend upwards, the Hawkeyes could rise further.

Elsewhere in the non-Iowa parts of the country, the top four remain locked in place and the Washington Huskies rose two spots to #5 after beating Oregon in an instant classic. Those Ducks dropped to #9. Penn State actually dropped a spot despite annihilating UMass 63-0. Oklahoma remained ahead of the Nittany Lions even though the Sooners were idle yesterday. A note to any team schedulers out there: if you’re ever thinking of playing the Minutemen, just make it a bye week instead.

The biggest mover in the poll is USC, and not in a good way. The Trojans fell to #18 after their 48-20 defeat at the hands of rival Notre Dame. USC was out of this game early, trailing 24-6 at halftime, and it only got worse from there. The Irish rose to #15 with the win and USC’s playoff hopes are essentially over.

University of Southern California v University of Notre Dame

The rest of the excitement comes at the bottom of the poll. As I said earlier, six ranked teams lost yesterday, including five from spot #18 and lower. Washington State got blitzed by Arizona 44-6, Kansas dropped a close one to Oklahoma State, Kentucky lost by 14 to Mizzou, and Miami didn’t bother showing up in the second half against North Carolina. While not dropping out of the poll, UCLA’s loss to Oregon State did move them to the #25 spot. All this madness allowed three new teams into the poll: Air Force, Tulane, and Iowa at #22-24. The final piece of madness was Louisville’s post-Notre Dame honeymoon coming to an abrupt end thanks to a 38-21 loss to Pittsburgh. The Cardinals find themselves now at #21.

Now that we’re past the halfway point of the season the playoff picture is starting to firm up just a bit but much remains unclear. The Huskies are atop the Pac-12 now but their last four games are brutal. Florida State is still in command of the ACC but doesn’t play North Carolina unless they meet in the championship game. Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State have yet to play each other, and Georgia’s toughest test remains with a three week stretch of ranked conference opponents to begin November. There’s also still the looming possibility of a Red River Rematch in the Big 12 championship.

And amid all that Iowa is back in the rankings! Have a great Sunday, Hawkeye fans.