With the Big Ten Tournament out of reach, what is the next step for Hawkeye football?

Iowa’s bid to represent the West in Indianapolis is running out of air — what’s next for Hawkeye football?

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With the Big Ten Tournament out of reach, what is the next step for Hawkeye football?

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz watch the game during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz watch the game during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

Katina Zentz

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz watch the game during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

Katina Zentz

Katina Zentz

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz watch the game during Iowa's game at Indiana at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

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Now what?

Iowa football sits at 6-3, in fourth place in the Big Ten West behind Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Purdue.

The Hawkeyes had a prime shot at taking control of the Big Ten West, but a loss to Purdue on Nov. 3 essentially ended those hopes.

“What we’re trying to do is be the best we can be, and if it works out, great; it’s tough to get [to the Big Ten Championship],” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But if this door shuts, we’re working on the next one.”

Iowa still has a shot at winning the division and making a trip to Indianapolis, but those hopes are looking more and more like dreams rather than anything tangible.

The Hawkeyes need to win out, plain and simple, and yes, that is entirely possible. Iowa hosts Northwestern, its toughest remaining opponent, before traveling to Illinois and finishing the regular season with a home game against Nebraska.

RELATED: Hensley: ‘What ifs’ will haunt the 2018 Hawkeye football team

“We still have a lot to play for,” quarterback Nate Stanley said. “We still have the ability to win 10 games this year. That’s something that’s pretty special, no matter how you do it. We have a group of really good guys on our team. We play for each other, really. Everybody’s put in the time, the work, the effort — just stick together and play for your teammates.”

However, Iowa needs a lot to work in its favor outside of its control.

Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Purdue all need to lose two out of their last three games, but that isn’t as likely as Iowa’s chances of winning out.

Northwestern, the team to beat in the division, plays Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois. The Gophers and Illini will not be favored in their games against the Wildcats, and rightfully so.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin and Purdue play each other, but then the Badgers also travel to Penn State and host Minnesota. The Boilermakers travel for a contest with the Gophers before finishing the season on the road against Indiana.

RELATED: Hawkeye offense shows improvement in loss to Boilermakers

So, a lot has to happen for Iowa to reach Indianapolis, and a lot of those crucial factors are out of the Hawkeyes’ control.

“This is tough,” Ferentz said. “It’s going to take effort to get back on our feet, and be positive,  and go back to work.”

It’s been a season of what-ifs for Hawkeye football; all three of Iowa’s losses have been more than winnable games, and even Ferentz said after the most recent loss that he believes his team has had quite the chance at representing the West Division in the conference championship.

“I think we’ve had a chance at least,” he said. “I’ve felt that way about a lot of our teams … it’s hard to predict. I don’t think anybody figured Ohio State was going to go down [to Purdue] two weeks ago. That’s football — you just keep playing.”

But as Ferentz and the rest of his team said, there’s plenty of football to be played — the question, however, is if it’s enough for the Black and Gold to see Lucas Oil Stadium?

For the remaining three games, the mantra is simple.

“Just win. Win the games. Stop losing,” A.J. Epenesa said. “Just showing up to practice every day and improving like it’s always been since Week 1.”

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