Iowa is tied for first place in the Legends Division.
Think about that for a second. OK, now come back to reality, which is that only one Big Ten game has been played so far this season.
The Hawkeyes, though, got off to a better-than-believed start to conference play by defeating Minnesota, 31-13, on Saturday in Kinnick Stadium to improve to 3-2. That result was something many fans had a grain of hope for, but many were also pessimistic after the Sept. 22 loss to Central Michigan, and for good reason.
Iowa emerged from the non-conference portion of their schedule with its worst record in 12 years. Fans and media babbled all week leading up to the Floyd of Rosedale game. Speculation was rampant. Will the season get so bad that the coaching staff might take a look at backup Jake Rudock? Will the Black and Gold even get to four wins? How is Kirk Ferentz paid so much?
Evidently, the players didn’t care about any of that. It was all blocked out.
Iowa thrashed the Gophers on Saturday. This was the ultimate bounce-back game of sorts.
Aside from some hiccups in the passing game in the second half, Ferentz’ squad dominated in all phases. The Hawkeyes recorded 374 yards of total offense, the defense forced four turnovers, and special teams had better kick and punt coverage while Mike Meyer improved to 10-for-11 on field goals this season.
Mark Weisman continued his bulldozing escapades at running back, too. Weisman rushed for 177 yards on 21 attempts, 16 of those coming in the first half. The former full back is tied with Ohio State’s Braxton Miller for the Big Ten lead in rushing touchdowns with seven. His 519 yards are the most by a Hawkeye through the first five games since Shonn Greene’s 665 yards in 2008.
Recent history tells you Iowa would likely have retreated from the devastating loss to Central Michigan. Oddly enough — or perhaps not — the previous two Minnesota games are big indicators.
In 2010, Iowa lost at Minnesota but stormed back to beat a ranked Missouri team in the Insight Bowl. Then last year, the Hawkeyes fell to Minnesota again before posting a win over Michigan the following Saturday.
So we’ve seen this recipe before. Iowa puts bad and sometimes devastating losses in the rearview mirror, and quickly. They did this past weekend, and now have arguably the most momentum in the conference: A defining win over 4-0 Minnesota and now an extra week to prepare for Michigan State. The Spartans are also 3-2, by the way.
The sky isn’t falling on Iowa after all.
Now it’s a wait-and-see if the Hawkeyes will take advantage of this newfound momentum.