The College Football Playoff committee will release its weekly rankings at 7 p.m. Tuesday -- and it's faced with a bit of a conundrum.
The Iowa Hawkeyes remain perfect at 11-0 and are currently ranked No. 5. But do they deserve to move up a spot after the Ohio State Buckeyes lost, or have other teams outshined them? We asked our Big Ten experts to weigh in on the question: Should Iowa move into the top four?
Jesse Temple: Yes
What does Iowa have to do at this point to garner more respect on the college football stage? It seems preposterous to be debating whether the Hawkeyes deserve a top-four spot. They have done everything asked of them, including key wins against Wisconsin and Northwestern. And for people who want to claim Iowa doesn't have enough "style" points, consider that the Hawkeyes have scored at least 30 points in their last five victories -- cracking 40 points three times. Every team has its flaws, and it's not Iowa's fault it hasn't played the Big Ten East powers. But as long as Iowa maintains its perfect record, nothing should keep the Hawkeyes out.
Austin Ward: Not yet
Iowa has proven it is a legitimate contender, and it has a resume worthy of being in the field for the College Football Playoff. But right now, Michigan State's body of work looks just slightly more impressive thanks to the road wins over both Michigan and Ohio State. Yes, the Spartans have lost a game and the Hawkeyes are unbeaten, but evaluating a team at its best instead of a low point seems to be important to the selection committee -- a lesson learned a year ago with Ohio State and reinforced already with Alabama this season. Including both of the current division leaders in the Big Ten would be justifiable, and the good news is that it will all be settled on the field. But for now, the nod as of this moment goes to the Spartans here if there can only be one.
Brian Bennett: Yes
Iowa is one of only two unbeaten left in college football. Is it one of the four best teams? That’s highly subjective and really unknowable, at least until the next couple of weeks play out. But if we’re talking about right now, then the Hawkeyes deserve a spot in the top four, because they’ve done absolutely everything they’ve needed to do. The selection committee once dinged Iowa for the lack of an explosive offense; well, Kirk Ferentz's team has scored 40 points in three of its past five games and has reached at least 31 points in each of the past five. An undefeated record shouldn’t be a guaranteed way into the field, and Iowa still has to prove something the next two weeks. But at this point of the season, their résumé is flawless -- and field-of-four worthy.
Dan Murphy: Not yet
The correct answer to this question is really "Who cares?" The Hawkeyes have a clearly defined path from here to a playoff spot: Win the next two games and you're in. Lose either of them and you're not. Until then we're just keeping ourselves occupied. But for argument's sake, I don't think Iowa is one of the four best teams in the country. If they face Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, I'll be picking the Spartans. Only one Big Ten team is going to make a semifinal, so I can't give that spot to Ferentz. This is based solely on my unsubstantiated opinion. It's a guess. The great part is two weeks from now when Iowa plays for a conference championship, I won't have to guess and neither will the selection committee.
Mitch Sherman: Yes
We're having this discussion, 12 weeks into the season, only because it's Iowa. The Hawkeyes -- and the rest of the Big Ten West, for that matter -- command a lower level of respect than the power programs of the East Division. But let's compare Iowa to the other contenders. Even before Ohio State and Oklahoma State went down Saturday and Notre Dame and Oklahoma won close, Iowa was handling its business better than any team nationally, aside from fellow unbeaten Clemson. The Hawkeyes have not trailed in the fourth quarter all season. Say what you want about their schedule; they just win. And with two more victories, their spot in the top four, of course, would be secure.
Josh Moyer: Not yet
Iowa's done everything asked of it this season -- but it's a victim of circumstances right now. It's played just three winning teams this season to go along with what will likely amount to just a single top-25 team (Northwestern). Compare that resume to other teams and it just doesn't stack up. Michigan State lost one game but played twice as many winning teams and three times as many ranked teams. Oklahoma and Notre Dame have also had more quality wins and a more difficult road. We know strength of schedule is important to the committee -- just ask the Big 12 last season or Alabama this season -- and that's why, despite being unbeaten, I see the Hawkeyes being on the outside looking in. The good news for Iowa: These rankings really don't mean much. Two more wins, and there's no more debate about it. They're in.