The Monday Kickoff is always the voice of reason.

Again, it’s understandable that there is frustration after Iowa’s 30-24 loss at Penn State on Saturday.

Yes, quarterback Nate Stanley struggled.

Yes, Iowa still had a chance to win in the closing minutes and didn’t.

Yes, it felt like the 28-17 loss to Wisconsin back in September.

But … no, the season isn’t doomed.

Here’s reality.

Iowa can go 10-2, and if everything falls right still win the Big Ten West Division.

The Hawkeyes could go 9-3, and still play in a New Year’s Day bowl game somewhere warm.

And yes, they could go 8-4 or 7-5 and play in the Music City Bowl.

Really, those options were possible before the Hawkeyes played Penn State.

It was easy to dream of a magical 2015-esque table-running, this time including a win in the Big Ten championship game, that would put Iowa, somehow, into the College Football Playoff. But that was a long shot, given the Hawkeyes’ schedule once October began.

Special seasons like that are hard to put together. There doesn’t have to be perfect play, but there also has to be a way to find a win on a day when the A-game is nowhere to be found, the B-game has also disappeared, and now you have to scramble.

That was Saturday, when Iowa was flummoxed in trying to find a way to knock out the Nittany Lions in their home stadium.

So again, here’s reality:

• Stop with the “bench Nate Stanley” nonsense. Stop. Stop. Stop.

Oh, by the way … STOP.

No, the junior quarterback wasn’t good against the Nittany Lions. Stanley was 18-of-49 passing for 209 yards and two interceptions.

You loved him a couple of weeks ago, when he threw for more than 600 yards and had 10 touchdown passes in road wins over Minnesota and Indiana. He’s the same quarterback, the only difference between then and Saturday is he made quite a few bad throws and bad decisions on a day when the conditions weren’t ideal.

Besides, go back to the 10-2-win-the-West scenario. I think Peyton Mansell, Stanley’s backup, has plenty of talent. But he’s thrown all of five passes in the two games he’s mopped up in his career. If you want to win out, you do it with the guy who brought you there.

Nate Stanley is Iowa’s quarterback. It’s silly to have to say this, but he should be Iowa’s quarterback.

I can’t believe I just had to make that justification, but here we are.

• This is still a good defense. Yes, Penn State scored 30 on the Hawkeyes. But Iowa held the Nittany Lions to 312 yards of offense.

The Hawkeyes sacked Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley three times and Penn State was 4-of-14 in third-down conversions.

Those are numbers that the Hawkeyes have put up all season.

Those are numbers that, in most games, get a win.

• This is still a good offense. For all of the struggles on Saturday, Iowa ran 88 plays to Penn State’s 64. The Hawkeyes had 23 first downs to 16 for the Nittany Lions. They won the time of possession battle, 35:18-24:42.

Those are numbers that the Hawkeyes have put up all season.

Those are numbers that, in most games, get a win.

• Iowa’s offensive line is still good. Stanley was sacked three times, but coming into the game the Hawkeyes had allowed just three sacks all season.

The eight-game sample size says this line works.

But, let’s also realize this — the eight-game sample size says this is still a good football team.

It’s easy to make the case that Iowa should be undefeated.

It’s also easy to have made the case before the season that, at this point in the season, they would be 6-2, because everyone knew their toughest Big Ten games to this point would be Wisconsin and Penn State.

You knew the season would twist and turn — every Hawkeye season does.

This one wasn’t going to be any different.

RUNNING THE TABLE — THE LEATHERNECK EDITION

Western Illinois knew that, to get back to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, the season would have to end with a five-game winning streak.

The Leathernecks are two wins into it, and their resumé is improving.

Saturday’s 37-17 pounding of then-No. 17 Northern Iowa moved the Leathernecks (4-4 overall, 3-2 conference) into a three-way tie in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

Western Illinois also jumped three spots among FCS teams in the Sagarin ratings, moving up to 17th. The win over the Panthers is a nice mark on a resumé that also includes a home win over Montana and a victory at Missouri State.

The Leathernecks’ final three games are at Southern Illinois (2-6, 1-4), at South Dakota (3-5, 2-3) and at home against Indiana State (4-4, 2-3).

NOTES AND THOUGHTS

• The FCS playoff outlook for the Missouri Valley Football Conference is still muddy.

North Dakota State (8-0, 5-0) is still No. 1 in the FCS poll. The Bison are No. 22 overall in the Sagarin ratings, one spot below Wisconsin and ahead of such FBS teams as Kentucky, Purdue, Michigan State and Iowa State.

South Dakota State (5-2, 3-3) is No. 3 among FCS teams in the Sagarin ratings. Illinois State (5-3, 2-3) is at No. 4, but right now in a five-way tie for fifth place in the league.

Four teams — Western Illinois, Northern Iowa, Missouri State and Indiana State — are at 4-4 overall. Only Western Illinois and UNI have winning records in Valley play.

• Former Iowa quarterback Ryan Boyle has been the key to Indiana State’s resurgence.

Boyle was named the Valley’s newcomer of the week for the second consecutive week after throwing for 325 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday’s win at Youngstown State.