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Teams of the week: Iowa brought the fight, and Ohio State folded like a lawn chair

A run through the 10 most impressive performances of college football’s Week 10.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

We are conditioned to always expect the unexpected in college football. Upsets that alter the national title landscape? Those happen every year.

But blowout upsets? Those are a bit more rare.

Team of the week: Iowa (def. No. 6 Ohio State, 55-24)

Just last year in Iowa City, Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa Hawkeyes threw a major kink in Michigan’s title plans, upsetting Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines in mid-November. Earlier this season, they almost did the same to Penn State.

Those were close games, however. Iowa 14, Michigan 13. Penn State 21, Iowa 19.

Late in the second quarter of their win over Ohio State on Saturday, the Hawkeyes began turning this into something other than an upset. Nate Stanley and Noah Fant connected for a 25-yard score with 3:06 left in the half, giving them a 24-17 lead. Then Joshua Jackson picked off J.T. Barrett, setting up a 3-yard Stanley-to-Fant touchdown and giving them a 14-point halftime lead. Late in the third quarter, it was 38-17.

And then the points kept coming. Ohio State went three-and-out, and Iowa drove 60 yards. 45-17. Jackson picked off Barrett again, and Iowa added a field goal. 48-17. Ohio State scored, but Iowa recovered an onside kick and rushed five straight times for another touchdown.

The upset wasn’t a stunner. The margin was. Iowa sat on top of the bully, one it had only defeated once in 20 years, and didn’t stop punching. The Hawkeyes scored their most points ever on Ohio State. They scored more than anyone had scored on the Buckeyes in 23 years and the fifth-most ever. They scored the most ever on an Urban Meyer team, period.

All this a week after Ohio State proved its bona fides with a comeback win over Penn State. The Buckeyes showed up in Iowa City expecting a bit of a challenge and another win. They were not ready for what awaited them. They paid the price.

Any in-conference blowout of Ohio State is surprising. The way this one came about was even more so.

That Iowa was able to frustrate Barrett, force four turnovers, and hold the Buckeyes to a decent-not-great 5.7 yards per play wasn’t a shocker. Barrett’s carelessness a week after his shining moment was disappointing, but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility in this funky sport. Iowa, after all, did come into the game ranked 16th in Def. S&P+. This was more opportunism than domination, and the former is far more common in an upset than the latter.

(That Ohio State completely forgot about its running backs in a loss was also not the most surprising thing in the world. J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber averaged 7.1 yards per carry ... on all of 11 carries.)

The offense, though? Iowa ranked 99th in Off. S&P+ after nine weeks, held back by dreadful run inefficiency (113th in rushing success rate) and the typical Ferentzian insistence on running the ball. Ohio State, meanwhile: 12th in Def. S&P+ and first in Rushing S&P+.

Ohio State dominated Penn State’s offensive front a week ago, shutting down star Saquon Barkley in the second half. But the Buckeyes allowed Akrum Wadley and James Butler to gain 192 yards in 30 carries.

Stanley played off this run success perfectly, completing 20 of 31 passes for 226 yards. Tight ends Fant and T.J. Hockenson caught nine balls for 125 yards and four scores. Fullback Drake Kulick caught a touchdown pass as well.

The Hawkeyes hadn't averaged more than 6.1 yards per play all season. With an indomitable running game and lots of big dudes running pass routes, they averaged 7 per play against one of the best defenses in the country. The turnovers helped to turn this into a rout, sure, but Iowa still had scoring drives of 89, 80, 78, 63, 60, and 47 yards.

College football is always offering us something we're not ready for.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Iowa
Akrum Wadley
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Other teams of the week

2. No. 5 Oklahoma (def. No. 11 Oklahoma State, 62-52)

That was exhausting and only sort of a football game. But OU combined a lucky early break and more than a half-mile of yardage to overcome a bowlful of adversity (some self-made) and a relentless rival. And the Sooners are still alive in the national title race because of it.

3. No. 24 Michigan State (def. No. 7 Penn State, 27-24)

After qualifying for the 2015 College Football Playoff, Mark Dantonio’s Spartans went 3-9 last fall, then suffered massive attrition in the offseason. I thought I was being optimistic by thinking that a reset roster could figure enough out to eke out a bowl bid in 2017.

Instead, after yesterday’s storm-delayed, last-second win over PSU, Sparty is tied with Ohio State atop the Big Ten West and will face the suddenly reeling Buckeyes for a likely conference title game bid next Saturday.

Things change quickly. Things can change back just as quickly, too.

4. No. 10 Miami (def. No. 13 Virginia Tech, 28-10)

The Hurricanes averaged 7.4 yards per play, allowed 4.0, and passed the turnover chain around four times. They even had a celebrity turnover chain. Hard Rock Stadium was rocking like the Orange Bowl. This was one hell of a statement, even if the offense was a little bit more unstable than I would prefer.

5. UAB (def. Rice, 52-21)

College football’s favorite zombie program is going bowling. I just cannot tell you how impressed I am with the Blazers and head coach Bill Clark. The Blazers’ mere existence is a more unlikely win over Alabama than Clemson’s in last year’s national title game. That Clark is actually building a viable program as well is just stunning.

6. Army (def. Air Force, 21-0)

Put yourself in position to win your first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy in 21 years? Check. (The Army-Navy winner will take the trophy, thanks to each team’s win over Air Force.) Do it without throwing a pass? Check.

7. No. 9 Wisconsin (def. Indiana, 45-17)

One of the primary themes emerging from Saturday was “The Big Ten is doomed!” Ohio State and Penn State were each all but eliminated from national title contention, yes, but ... Wisconsin remained undefeated, romping over an Indiana that has been pretty competitive. And they did it in a very Wisconsin way, easing in (down 10-0 after 16 minutes) and then physically dominating.

Jonathan Taylor rushed for 183 yards, the defense forced three turnovers, and the Badgers gave the Hoosiers almost nothing after the early going.

If the Badgers win out (which would include a win over probably either Ohio State or Michigan State in the Big Ten title game), I highly doubt the CFP committee will keep them out, if not because of UW’s résumé, then because a few more top teams are likely to lose and clear the path.

8. Northwestern (def. Nebraska, 31-24)

Every Northwestern-Nebraska game comes down to the wire — it is one of the most reliably dramatic series in college football — but it would have been nice if Northwestern had given its fans a week off from craziness.

9. ULM (def. Appalachian State, 52-45)

Matt Viator took on one of the hardest jobs in FBS in 2016. He just scored his best win yet, when his Warhawks lost a halftime lead to Sun Belt heavyweight Appalachian State, got it back, lost it again, then won anyway. They drove 60 yards for the go-ahead score with 3:17 left, then watched the Mountaineers tie it up with 53 seconds left.

No worries! And no overtime! Caleb Evans and R.J. Turner connected for a 50-yard game-winner with 23 seconds left, moving the Warhawks to 4-5 for the season. Bowl eligibility isn’t likely — their remaining games are against Auburn, Arkansas State, and, assuming it is rescheduled, Florida State — but this was a big win all the same.

10. Rutgers (def. Maryland, 31-24)

Speaking of nod-worthy 4-5 teams ... after a 1-4 start, Chris Ash’s Scarlet Knights have won three of their last four games. They, too, will struggle to get to six wins — they still have to go to Penn State and host Michigan State — but after serving as the butt of plenty of jokes last season (and early this year), they are showing definitive improvement late in Ash’s second year.

This piece has taken on quite the Big Ten theme.


11T. Wyoming and Colorado State (UW won, 16-13)

Snow football is just the best. As long as you’re not in the stands for it, anyway.