The polls, they love the Hawkeyes again! Well, the Coaches Poll never entirely stopped loving Iowa -- they dropped them to just #25 last week -- but Iowa is back in both the new AP and Coaches Polls this week. Huzzah!
After a one-week hiatus from the AP Poll, Iowa is back in the Top 25, at #23 this week. They were the third-listed team in the Others Receiving Votes category last week, so they're effectively jumping five spots from #28 last week to #23 this week. There was far less movement for Iowa in the Coaches Poll. They were ranked #25 last week and moved just one spot, to #24 this week.
It wasn't had for Iowa to return to the Top 25 (or at least the AP Top 25) for a few reasons. One, Iowa wasn't too far outside the Top 25 last week -- just three spots. Two, Iowa obviously went 2-0 last week and recorded an impressive win over then-ranked #16 Ohio State on Saturday. Three, there was a lot of upheaval among the ranked teams last week -- I counted 16 losses by teams ranked #12 or lower last week, which generated a fair amount of movement among the teams ranked in the lower half of the poll. A handful of teams -- #14 Mississippi State, #16 Ohio State, #20 Iowa State, #24 St. John's, and #25 TCU -- each lost twice last week. Of those five, only Mississippi State is still ranked (#24/23) this week. The pain of those teams was Iowa's gain in the rankings this week.
The Big Ten is seeing some very clear separation among the top teams in the league. Michigan and Michigan State are the highest-ranked teams in the league, at #2 and #6 (AP) and #4 and #6 (Coaches), respectively. After those two Mitten State squads, the Big Ten has no representation until the low teens, with Maryland at #19 in the AP Poll (#22 in the Coaches Poll), Iowa at #23/24, and Indiana at #25 in both polls. That broadly reflects the Big Ten standings, too, where Michigan and Michigan State are tied at the top at 6-0 in league play. Maryland is behind them at 5-1, but no other team has fewer than two losses right now. There's a pack of four teams at 3-2 right now (Minnesota, Indiana, Wisconsin, Purdue) and a trio of teams with three losses, led by Iowa (also including Nebraska and Ohio State). If the middle class of the Big Ten continues to cannibalize itself (which seems likely) and they're not able to inflict any damage on the front-runners from Michigan, then that gap is only going to grow.
Still, Iowa hasn't been ranked at this point of the season since the 2015-16 campaign. The Hawkeyes may not have played a murderer's row of late, but two of the wins in their current three-game winning streak have come against Nebraska and Ohio State, two teams that have spent time in the Top 25 this season. Iowa has rebounded from a miserable start to league play in December and clawed their way back to a .500 record and regained the momentum in a season that seemed to be in jeopardy of being lost after a demoralizing loss to Purdue a few weeks ago. The next step? Keep the good times rolling, of course. Iowa heads to dreary Happy Valley to play Penn State (7-10 overall, 0-6 Big Ten) on Wednesday night (6 PM CT, BTN) and hosts Illinois (4-12 overall, 0-5 Big Ten) on Sunday afternoon (12 PM CT, BTN).