Ferentz still OK with unbeaten Hawkeyes flying under radar
The Big Ten has three 8-0 teams for the first time since 1903.
That Ohio State and Michigan State have made it to November unbeaten is no surprise. Iowa, however, is another matter. The Hawkeyes lost four of five to finish 2014 and were not in the preseason conversation when it came to picking the West Division winner.
There still is lots of room on the Iowa bandwagon, largely because of a schedule ranked 79th toughest nationally and 13th in the Big Ten, based on the records of past and future opponents.
''It's amazing to me that Iowa isn't getting talked about more,'' said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, whose team lost 40-10 at home to the Hawkeyes three weeks ago. ''They're incredibly efficient, they're very physical, they have very good talent, very good schematically. All they've done is won.''
Iowa will enter Saturday's game at Indiana with a half-game lead over Wisconsin in the West. The Hawkeyes also own the tiebreaker over the Badgers, and they finish the regular season against opponents that are a combined 3-14 in Big Ten games.
Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday it's too early to think about getting to the conference championship game, let alone the College Football Playoff.
''We're only halfway home right now,'' Ferentz said, referring to the Big Ten schedule. ''I don't know how good we are, but our guys do play hard and they play together, so that gives you a chance in any ball game.
''Now we start the four-game schedule of November. It's all about how we approach things and knowing every game is going to be tough. I said weeks ago that my guess is we could beat anybody, but we also could lose to anybody. Based on what I know, that's still the case.''
In the East, there might not be any separation at the top until Ohio State hosts Michigan State on Nov. 21. Penn State and Michigan are behind those two, each with one loss.
''We're still working our way through it,'' Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said, ''but it's very competitive, as advertised. Better than advertised.''
PICK A POSITION, PEPPERS: Jabrill Peppers is doing it all for Michigan. He's played corner, safety and nickel on defense and since mid-October also has lined up on offense at running back and receiver and taken snaps in the wildcat formation.
''He memorizes things easily and well,'' Harbaugh said. ''He's got an ability to be told an assignment, look at an assignment, see it on paper or video and visualize himself doing it and literally go on the practice field and accomplish the task the first time.''
Some other notes from the Big Ten coaches' teleconference with reporters:
- First-year Nebraska coach Mike Riley said he appreciated the vote of confidence he received in athletic director Shawn Eichorst's letter to fans Monday. The Huskers are 3-6, their worst nine-game record since 1960. ''You combine the year we're having with the history at Nebraska and a new coaching staff,'' Riley said, ''I think it probably was timely and well-said.''
- Several coaches offered best wishes to Jerry Kill, who retired as Minnesota's coach last week for health reasons.
- Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said it won't take long for QB J.T. Barrett to get back in the good graces of teammates. Barrett is suspended for Saturday's game against Minnesota after being cited last weekend for drunken driving. ''He has a lot of built-up bank with everybody in this program, more so probably with the older guys,'' Meyer said.