Iowa's loss at Penn State was weird, maddening and costly in my latest Big Ten football power rankings

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By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa – As I compiled my latest Big Ten power rankings, it sort of felt like kicking the Iowa football team when it’s down.

There is no change at the top or at the bottom of the rankings, but almost every team in between has shifted spots from a week ago.

Iowa dropped from second to sixth, which might seem harsh after this past Saturday’s 30-24 loss at No. 17 Penn State. But this isn’t a popularity contest, and the rankings aren’t based solely on talent and potential.

These rankings are based mostly on who is winning right now, with talent a contributing factor.

For example, I think Iowa has more talent and potential than Northwestern, but the Wildcats are alone in first place in the Big Ten West Division with a 5-1 record.

So that has to mean something.

Northwestern has to be taken seriously and given its due respect, while Iowa should suffer the consequences of losing for the second time in five conference games.

The rankings are so fluid that Iowa probably could climb three spots with a victory at Purdue on Saturday depending on what happens in the other games.

The Big Ten West Division still is very much up for grabs with four games remaining, mostly because Wisconsin has slipped back to the pack and appears vulnerable. 

1. Michigan, 5-0, 7-1 – I’m hearing that Jim Harbaugh spent the bye week planning Michigan’s next summer trip to Wally World, and that he wants to have Randy Quaid help chaperon.

2. Ohio State, 4-1, 7-1 – Urban Meyer spent the bye week conveniently forgetting things.

3. Penn State, 3-2, 6-2 – James Franklin spent Saturday night and all day Sunday wondering how in the hell did his team beat Iowa, and how did Iowa defensive lineman Sam Brincks catch that touchdown pass on the fake field goal?

4. Northwestern, 5-1, 5-3 – Pat Fitzgerald has spent his entire adult life secretly despising both Notre Dame and Iowa, so the next two weeks could prove to be the greatest or the worst two weeks of his life.

5. Wisconsin, 3-2, 6-2 – I’ve been told that Paul Chryst spends nearly every waking hour waiting for instructions, advice or orders from Barry Alvarez.

6. Iowa, 3-2, 6-2 – Kirk Ferentz spends no time on social media, which certainly worked to his benefit this past weekend.

7. Michigan State, 3-2, 5-3 – It wouldn’t surprise me if Mark Dantonio spends at least one hour a day thinking of ways to annoy or incite Michigan.

8. Purdue 3-2, 4-4 – Jeff Brohm will spend time each day this week hoping and praying that the Nate Stanley who struggled against Penn State this past Saturday will make another appearance at Purdue on Saturday.

9. Maryland, 3-2, 5-3 – The Terrapins amassed 712 yards during their victory over Illinois this past Saturday, including a whopping 431 rushing yards, so you have to wonder if Illinois spends any time coaching defense.

10. Nebraska, 1-4, 2-6 – With back-to-back victories, it wouldn’t surprise me if a majority of Nebraska fans spent Sunday worshiping Scott Frost.

11. Minnesota, 1-4, 4-4 – P.J. Fleck spends at least one hour each day rowing an imaginary boat in his bath tub.

12. Indiana, 1-5, 4-5 – Tom Allen is doing little to change the fact that Indiana fans spend the fall mostly waiting for basketball to start.

13. Illinois, 1-4, 3-5 – It now seems abundantly clear that Illinois spent way too much money to hire Lovie Smith as head coach.

14. Rutgers, 0-5, 1-7 – The Scarlet Knight spend more time in the basement than mold, radon and Arthur Spooner from the hit comedy series “King of Queens.”