Iowa’s football team used a bye week to rest, recharge and get as healthy as possible heading into the final five games of the regular season. But the Hawkeyes didn’t remain idle in the two major college football polls released Sunday.
Iowa resides in the AP's Top 10 for the first time since Sept. 12, 2010, when it was ninth. The door to the Top 10 was opened Saturday when No. 9 Florida State lost at Georgia Tech, 22-16, and No. 3 Utah lost at Southern California, 42-24.
Iowa has finished the season in the Top 10 of the AP poll four times during the Ferentz era — eighth in 2002, 2003 and 2004 and seventh in 2009. That 2009 season is also the last time the Hawkeyes started 7-0. Iowa also started 7-0 in 1985 and finished 10th nationally.
The Hawkeyes, holding a one-game lead over Wisconsin in the Big Ten West Division standings, return to the field for a 2:30 p.m. game against Maryland (2-5) at Kinnick Stadium. The Terrapins beat Iowa 38-31 last season in College Park, Md.
Get a turnover, baby
Iowa has an edge in points off turnovers this season, 56-30. The Hawkeyes were outscored 58-35 in that category last season. Iowa is a plus seven in turnovers this season, which ties for 12th nationally. The Hawkeyes were a minus six last season.
“There are a couple of things we really believe in, and the turnover/takeaway ratio is one of them,” Ferentz said. “I think that’s synonymous with being a good football team. And if you have a bad turnover/takeaway ratio, you better be really talented and that much better than the other teams. And that’s hard to do. We’re doing a good job of taking the ball away and usually come out with some points, too. So that’s a positive.”
Maryland is 126th out of 127 FBS schools in turnover margin at minus-13 through seven games. The Terrapins turned it over five times against Penn State Saturday and have been outscored 67-10 in points off turnovers this season.
Iowa has had three different running backs rush for more than 100 yards this season. Jordan Canzeri has done it four times (256 vs. Illinois, 125 vs. Wisconsin, 124 vs. Iowa State, 115 vs. North Texas). LeShun Daniels had 123 yards in the season opener against Illinois State. Akrum Wadley became the first back to dent Northwestern’s defense for triple figures with his 204 yards on Oct. 17.
This is the first time three different backs have reached the century mark in the same season since 2005, when Albert Young did it eight times and Shonn Greene and Damian Sims once each. An Iowa back rushed for at least 100 yards just twice last season: Wadley had 106 yards against Northwestern, and Mark Weisman had 134 yards against Illinois.
The Hawkeyes are second in the Big Ten in rushing at 214.4 yards per game, a 5.0 per-carry average. Last season’s team averaged 168.8 yards a game, a 4.0 per-carry average. Maryland is yielding 175.6 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 13th in the Big Ten. But Penn State managed just 48 yards on 31 carries Saturday.
Maryland is 11th in the Big Ten in pass defense, allowing 268.6 yards per game. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg threw for 315 yards Saturday, with five completions of 30-plus yards.
Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard has reached Maryland’s per-game average just once, a 278-yard game against North Texas. He also threw for 258 yards against Pittsburgh and has passed the 200-yard mark five times. The junior has completed 114 of 187 passes for 1,415 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions this season.
With go-to wide receiver Tevaun Smith back from a knee injury, look for Beathard to throw a heavy dose of vertical passing the Terrapins’ way.
Maryland all-Big Ten cornerback William Likely attended Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, Fla. — the same school that produced former Iowa quarterback and 2002 Heisman Trophy runner-up Brad Banks.
Look for Likely, who had a pick-six in Maryland’s 38-31 victory over Iowa last season, to get a lot of touches against Banks’ old school on Saturday. Interim coach Mike Locksley incorporated Likely into the Terrapins’ running game against Penn State. He had four carries for 30 yards, and was also used as a decoy in motion to set up other receivers in the passing game.
Likely is also a dangerous kick returner. He is averaging 19.9 yards on 20 punt returns, with two touchdowns. And he’s averaging 21.7 yards on 18 kickoff returns.
Maryland had a dual-threat quarterback last season with C.J. Brown. He passed for 120 yards and ran for 99 against the Hawkeyes a year ago, even though he spent a good share of the game on the sideline with an injury.
The Terrapins benched Caleb Rowe and have started Perry Hills the last four games. Hills, who relieved Brown against Iowa last season (5-of-10 passing for 86 yards and a touchdown), is a dual-threat weapon. He had 26 carries for 124 yards and a touchdown against Penn State Saturday. He also completed 19 of 28 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown. He did throw three interceptions and was sacked four times.