Destiny is in the hands of Iowa’s football team at Kinnick Stadium the next two weeks. Maybe this time, the sequel will have a better ending.
Victories in the final two regular-season games last season, both at home, would have punched the Hawkeyes’ ticket to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. But Iowa lost 26-24 to Wisconsin and to Nebraska 37-34 in overtime, and the Badgers were the West Division champions.
Iowa can leave Wisconsin on the outside looking in if it takes care of business at home the next two weeks, starting with Minnesota on Saturday night.
“We’re headed back to Kinnick, and it’s going to be lively next Saturday,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said after his team improved to 9-0 with a 35-27 victory at Indiana.
Winning under the lights, before the first home sellout in more than a year, will mean more than reclaiming Floyd of Rosedale. It would also give the Hawkeyes their first 10-0 start in school history. And it would be the front end of a potential Kinnick doubleheader sweep that would send the Hawkeyes to Indianapolis. Iowa hosts Purdue the following week.
Jake Rudock quarterbacked Iowa in that 2014 Kinnick double dip. He’s now at Michigan, where he passed for 337 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-16 victory over Rutgers on Saturday.
The Wolverines remain in contention for the East Division title. This Big Ten title game scenario is still alive: Rudock and Michigan against his former understudy turned leading man, C.J. Beathard, and Iowa.
There’s a lot of football to be played before that happens. But it sure is fun to think about.
No place like home
Kinnick Stadium was once a graveyard for visiting teams. The Hawkeyes won 22 straight home games in a stretch between 2002 and 2005. Recent times haven’t been as kind.
Iowa had a 10-11 record at home the previous three seasons entering 2015. Now, victories over Minnesota and Purdue will give Iowa a 7-0 record at home this season. It would be the Hawkeyes’ first undefeated home season since 2004 (6-0).
Ferentz has had four teams win at least 10 games — 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2009. Those four teams were 24-2 in Iowa City.
Saturday will also be the first sellout at 70,585-seat Kinnick Stadium this season. A Nov. 10, 2012, game against Purdue was Iowa’s 61st sellout in the previous 63 games. Saturday’s game will be just the second sellout in the last 21 games since. The other sellout came against Iowa State last season.
The Hawkeyes are 9-0 after a 35-27 win.
Iowa is one of six undefeated FBS teams still standing, and the Hawkeyes also moved up in both major polls Sunday.
The Hawkeyes climbed three spots to eighth in the Amway/USA Today Coaches poll. They are also No. 8 in the Associated Press poll, up two spots. That’s Iowa’s highest AP ranking since finishing the 2009 season at No. 7.
Next up is the second College Football Playoff rating set, released Tuesday evening.
Driving Miss Touchdown
Iowa went on an 81-yard, 13-play touchdown drive on its first possession of the season against Illinois State. Since then, the Hawkeyes have had eight scoring drives of 80 yards or longer.
Those drives are a big reason why Iowa is ninth in the country in time of possession with a 33-minute, 20-second advantage.
An 11-play, 95-yard touchdown drive against Indiana was Iowa’s third of 90-plus yards this season. The Hawkeyes went 99 yards in 12 plays against Illinois State and 93 yards in nine plays against Iowa State.
Rush to judgment
Iowa dropped from fifth to ninth nationally in rush defense after allowing 227 yards to Indiana on Saturday. The Hawkeyes are still allowing just 101.4 yards a game.
Minnesota is 13th in the Big Ten in rushing offense at 141.6 yards. The Gophers had 26 carries for only 33 yards in a 28-14 loss at No. 1 Ohio State on Saturday.
Indiana scored a season-high 27 points on Iowa, but the Hawkeyes are still eighth nationally in scoring defense at 16.6 points a game. Look for the Gophers to throw a lot against an Iowa team allowing 199.4 passing yards a game.
Mitch Leidner completed 27 of 44 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State. Leidner is the first Minnesota quarterback to throw for at least 250 yards in three straight games since Mike Hohensee in 1982.
Ferentz has always stressed balance on offense. Check out these numbers: the Hawkeyes have thrown 246 passes for 1,863 yards in nine games. Iowa has rushed 391 times for 1,845 yards.