For better or worse, college football has changed. Just winning games isn't enough anymore.
In order to compete for a national championship these days, schools need big name recruits and big numbers to go along with the wins. In order to be considered a contender, teams need to win big and have lots of big yardage plays by athletes with household names.
It's not that these things are required to win games. They aren't. It's that big numbers and big names are required to impress the computers.
It's about the computers, ya see.
Computers crunch complex calculations. They can factor in more information to make more accurate assessments.
Humans trust computers because computers use logic to make decisions. Humans make decisions based on logic, too, but that logic can be tainted by emotions, past experiences and underlying loyalties.
Computers don't have emotions, at least not outside the Matrix. They are relied upon and trusted to make decisions because of that fact.
It takes big numbers to influence logic. It takes big numbers to calculate complex equations. It takes big numbers to impress a computer.
The Iowa Hawkeyes do not put up big numbers. They don't have many big name players. They don't impress computers.
Because they don't impress computers, the Hawkeyes don't get mentioned much as a contender.
Iowa is one of only two major college football teams with a perfect 6-0 record. And they have beaten four BCS teams to obtain that record. Yet, very few talk about them as a contender because those types of numbers don't impress computers.
Neither do close wins. According to the computer, close games with seemingly lesser opponents count against you.
Iowa beat Northern Iowa by one point, beat Arkansas State by three points and beat Michigan by two points. All three are wins, but all three wins count against the Hawkeyes.
The lack of big numbers on the score board is also hurting Iowa in the eyes of the all-knowing computer. Iowa is known more for making their opponents turn the ball over rather than for scoring numerous touchdowns on flashy plays.
Iowa has collected 19 turnovers in six games this year. They have scored only 18 touchdowns in that same time frame.
Computers want touchdowns, not turnovers, even though both win football games.
To the Iowa coaching staff, football is more like a chess match. The objective is to win, and the strategy is different for each opponent. Sometimes that strategy isn't pretty, but it is usually always effective.
Kirk Ferentz isn't known for trying to impress computers. He is known for being one of the best coaches in the country. He is known for finding diamonds in the rough and molding them into professional athletes.
He is known for finding ways to win football games.
Those who think they have the BCS formula figured out have done early calculations. Those calculations have Iowa at number 10 in the BCS rankings. The first official BCS results don't come out until after this week, however.
At first glance, 10 is a good position. Upon looking closer, it becomes clear Iowa is being penalized for something. It becomes clear that numbers matter more than wins.
Four of the nine teams ranked ahead of Iowa have a loss on their record. Playing a good football team and losing a close game is better than playing against a lesser opponent and winning a close game.
That must be logic only a computer can understand.
Ferentz's style might not impress computers, but the 10 game win streak certainly does impress the Hawkeye nation.