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Iowa And The Problem With College Football Rankings

The crew from FiveThirtyEight's Hot Takedown podcast at how the college football rankings mix human and computer voting, and how that can leave teams like Iowa behind.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Three decades ago, as Kirk Ferentz cut his teeth in coaching under Hayden Fry, Iowa linemen occasionally wandered into the practice room of the wrestling team, eager to relive high school glory on the mat.

Generally, the experience did not go well for the football players.

“As a line coach, ” Ferentz said, “I thought that was the greatest thing in the world.”

Now in his 17th year as Fry’s successor and bidding Saturday night against Minnesota for the first 10-0 start in Iowa history, Ferentz appreciates the attributes of wrestling more than ever.

Toughness, discipline, confidence - all requirements as much in football as wrestling.

A unique marriage of sorts arrives Saturday for the two Iowa programs. Eight hours before the fifth-ranked Hawkeyes don their alternate blackout uniforms against Minnesota, the No. 4-ranked Iowa wrestling team opens its dual-meet season in the south end of Kinnick Stadium against top-ranked Oklahoma State.

The football stadium, to clarify, is not the Hawkeyes’ traditional wrestling venue.

Iowa, as of Thursday morning, had sold 35, 431 tickets to the wrestling event, on track for smashing success in its bid to the break the NCAA dual-meet attendance record of 15, 996 set by Penn State in 2013.

Iowa wrestling has led the nation in attendance for the past nine years. Last year, it averaged 8, 358 per meet at Carver-Hawkeye Arena (capacity 15, 400). This “Grapple on the Gridiron, ” as the school has christened it, was the brainchild of Tom Brands, the 10th-year wrestling coach and a 1996 Olympic gold medalist.

“Our fans are the No. 1 motivation for us, ” Brands said, “because they want to have the record. They take a lot of pride in it.”

Brands approached administrators about the idea to use Kinnick and quickly got approval from football.

The mutual admiration and connection between the programs is evident.

Hours before the No. 5 Iowa football team welcomes Minnesota to Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, the fourth-ranked wrestling teams hosts No. 1 Oklahoma State there. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

“I’m a Ferentz fan, ” Brands said. “I’ve said it again and again and again. The best compliment I can give him is I could have played for him. He’s a no-nonsense guy. He expects accountability. He expects a high standard every time.”

The same is true of Iowa wrestling, which has won 23 NCAA team titles, the most recent in 2010.

Ferentz attended his first Iowa dual at the school’s old field house, he said, in the winter of 1982, after joining Fry’s staff the previous year.

“It seemed like everybody in the place knew everything that was going on, ” he said, “like every move. They're coaching every move, and I was just like in total amazement. That blew me away.”

Ferentz developed a relationship with iconic former Iowa coach Dan Gable, for whom Brands won three individual NCAA titles.

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How to Appreciate College Football.

You wonder what all the hype is about for college football games. It's similar to the NFL (National Football League), however, because college football comes from universities and colleges, it's about personal school and individual pride.

What is college football?

College football was the venue through which American football first gained popularity in the United States. College football remains extremely popular today among students, alumni, and other fans of the sport.

What are the ranks on college football?

1. Alabama,2. Texas Tech,3. Texas,4. Florida, 5. Oklahoma, 6. USC, 7. Utah, 8. Penn State, 9. Boise State, 10. Georgia, MORE

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