Iowa finishes 2019 football season with top-15 national ranking

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

After their dream of a Big Ten championship fizzled, Iowa football players were passionately committed to a 10-win football season.

They got it in the Holiday Bowl. And with that 49-24 rout of USC, the Hawkeyes not only won their final four games but have now earned a final top-15 national ranking for the sixth time in the 21-year Kirk Ferentz era.

Iowa wound up with a No. 15 national ranking by the Associated Press after its 10-3 campaign in 2019.

In the Big Ten Conference, Ohio State (at No. 3), Penn State (No. 9), Minnesota (No. 10), Wisconsin (No. 11), Iowa and Michigan (No. 18) ended up in the final top 25.

Kirk Ferentz has finished with six top-15 finishes as Iowa's head coach.

This was the ninth time a Ferentz team has been ranked in a season-ending top-25 poll. Previously, Ferentz has enjoyed five top-10 national finishes — 2002 (No. 8 by AP), 2003 (No. 8), 2004 (No. 8), 2009 (No. 7) and 2015 (No. 9). This was the first time Iowa has finished with back-to-back top-25 rankings (Iowa was No. 25 by AP in 2018) in 15 years.

Furthermore, this marked the first time that the Hawkeyes went wire-to-wire — from the preseason AP poll to the final poll — as a ranked team since 1991. That's a first under Ferentz, a remarkable consistency that shouldn't be underestimated.

Under previous coach Hayden Fry, Iowa never finished higher than No. 10 in the final AP poll (hitting that high watermark in 1985 and 1991).

More:Iowa in top 10 in early Top 25 for the 2020 college football season

The 2019 Hawkeyes also ended up with the No. 5 scoring defense in college football, allowing 14.0 points per game — the second-fewest in the Ferentz era (13.0, 2008). Had LSU not taken a knee in the final minute near Clemson's goal line, Phil Parker's defense could have finished No. 4.

As a result of Iowa’s top-15 national finish, Ferentz earned a $175,000 bonus and his assistant coaches are in line for a 12% pay raise, under the terms of the head coach's contract signed in September of 2016. According to USA TODAY's Steve Berkowitz, Ferentz earned $775,000 in performance bonuses this season.