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Climbing the Charts

November 10, 2002|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

The eternally shifting BCS scenario -- who's in, who's out, who's back in again -- obscures college football's most amazing turnaround story.

Hint: It's not Notre Dame.

It's Iowa, a team that was 0-8 in the Big Ten only three seasons ago.

After a 62-10 romp over Northwestern Saturday, the 10-1 Hawkeyes will go for a perfect 8-0 in the Big Ten next week against Minnesota.

"Being through what we've been through, the bond we have is unbelievable," David Porter, a senior offensive tackle, told the Cedar Rapids Gazette. "It was one of those things where it could kill you or bring you together. Well, it almost killed us."

Almost would be the key word.

"At the beginning, we were all ready to quit, ready to stop. It was about to kill us," senior guard Andy Lightfoot told the Gazette. "But for some reason ... we stuck it out. It's definitely rewarding us right now."

Let others bemoan the fact the Big Ten schedule doesn't include a game between No. 3 Ohio State and No. 6 Iowa to determine which team really is the Big Ten's best. (Quite a few people believe it's Iowa, especially after Ohio State's 10-6 Houdini act against Purdue Saturday.)

The Hawkeye players, whose only loss this season was a nonconference game to Iowa State, focus on how far they've come in four years under Coach Kirk Ferentz (rhymes with parents).

One way or another, Iowa figures to play in a New Year's Day bowl -- quite likely the Rose Bowl if undefeated Ohio State either slips in its final two games or reaches the Fiesta Bowl to play for the national title.

If the teams tie for the Big Ten title, Ohio State would win the tiebreaker because of its better overall record.

If Ohio State plays in the Rose Bowl, Iowa probably would go to the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 in Orlando.

About the only Iowa player who gets any national air time is quarterback Brad Banks, who is beginning to sneak onto some lists of Heisman contenders.

Banks entered the Northwestern game leading the nation in passing efficiency rating at 159.3. And that rating will be going up after he completed 10 of 10 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns.

He also ran for another two touchdowns, accounting for five in the game.

Banks has thrown for 2,269 yards and completed 60.6% of his passes, but his most impressive statistic is probably how error-free he is.

He has 23 touchdown passes and a mere four interceptions.

The most famous quarterback in the state, Iowa State's Seneca Wallace, is more spectacular but also more error prone, with 13 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. Wallace was picked off three times in Iowa State's latest big-game disaster, a 58-7 loss to Kansas State Saturday.

Banks left the Iowa game against Northwestern midway through the third quarter Saturday to a standing ovation at the Hawkeyes' Kinnick Stadium.

"It was almost ridiculous, the way they were cheering," said Banks, who transferred to Iowa from a junior college two years ago. "But there is still one game to go."

Give Me an H

Predicting the five players who will be in the room for the Heisman Trophy presentation rarely has been so difficult so late in the season.

Miami's Ken Dorsey is on the rise again, and he's the most likely winner in a nod to his career achievements, barring a Hurricane slip-up down the stretch.

With Ohio State's Maurice Clarett fading because of injuries, it's time for a look at the nation's leading rusher, Colorado's Chris Brown.

Brown probably shouldn't win, but he should be in the top five. He ran for 211 yards in the Buffaloes' 42-35 overtime victory over Missouri Saturday, his seventh consecutive 100-yard game.

Brown has 1,617 yards this season.

Should he care to pad his statistics, he should consult Colgate.

Colgate quarterback Chris Brown ran for four touchdowns and 52 yards and passed for another 117 in a 28-14 victory over Lehigh Saturday.

Most Improved

Pause, if you will, and recall the debut of Robert Hodge.

He took over for injured Craig Ochs as Colorado's starting quarterback Sept. 14 against USC and completed one of nine passes in a 40-3 loss.

On Saturday, Hodge, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior from Manhattan Beach Mira Costa High and El Camino College, passed for 203 yards and ran for another 29 in Colorado's victory over Missouri.

It's a victory that keeps Colorado, which started the season 1-2, on track for the Big 12 title game, where it could play spoiler for an Oklahoma or Texas team trying to reach the national championship game.

And He Doesn't Even Limp

Michigan State's Charles Rogers set the school record with his 24th and 25th touchdown receptions in a 56-21 victory over Indiana in interim coach Morris Watts' debut.

Who owned the Michigan State career touchdown reception record?

None other than Kirk Gibson, gimpy-legged Dodger hero of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

Letdown Warning

A week after its undefeated season ended against Boston College, Notre Dame barely escaped against Navy.

A week after Virginia Tech's first loss, to Pittsburgh, the Hokies lost to Syracuse in triple overtime.

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