Deep down, do I actually believe Iowa football will make the 2021 College Football Playoff? No, not really.
Despite my doubts, I do think there’s still a path the Hawkeyes can take to the College Football Playoff.
First, Iowa will definitely have to win out.
The Hawkeyes will need to beat 3-3 Wisconsin in Madison after their bye week, which will probably be difficult. Then, they’ll need to pick up wins over Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois, and Nebraska — all of which currently have losing records.
Even if Iowa wins all its games, it’ll need some help from Purdue to get to the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Purdue’s 24-7 win over Iowa last Saturday gives it the standings tiebreaker over the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten West Division. So, if both teams were tied atop the Big Ten West standings at the end of the regular season, Purdue would go to the Big Ten Championship Game.
Should Iowa win out in the regular season, pass Purdue in the standings, and then win the Big Ten Championship Game, the Hawkeyes could still make the College Football Playoff.
Iowa would likely face a ranked opponent in the Big Ten Championship Game. So, with a win in Indianapolis, the Hawkeyes would boast four wins over ranked teams in 2021.
Without a Big Ten Championship appearance, an 11-1 regular season record probably won’t be good enough to help Iowa make the College Football Playoff. A Big Ten Championship Game loss would also eliminate Iowa from playoff contention because no two-loss team has ever made the College Football Playoff.
But I think it’d be hard for the College Football Playoff Committee to turn a 12-1 Big Ten Champion Iowa team with four wins over ranked teams away — especially considering Iowa’s lone loss in this hypothetical scenario would be to a Purdue team that was ranked in the top 25 after it beat the Hawkeyes.