Race to Big Ten West title tightens for Iowa football

Iowa and Wisconsin are tied atop the Big Ten West Division standings with 5-2 league play records.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa enters the field during a football game between No. 19 Iowa and Minnesota at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gophers 27-22.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Before Week 11 of the college football season began, there was a four-way tie at the top of the Big Ten West Division standings. Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Minnesota all boasted 4-2 conference records.

When Week 11 concluded, only two teams were tied for first place in the Big Ten West: Wisconsin and Iowa.

Iowa defeated Minnesota, 27-22, at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes’ league record improved to 5-2, while the Gophers’ win-loss total dropped to 4-3. Wisconsin handily defeated Northwestern at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, 35-7, to move to 5-2 in league play. Purdue fell to 4-3 in the conference after its 59-31 loss to No. 4 Ohio State in Columbus.

Iowa and Wisconsin both have two games left on their 2021 regular season schedules. The Badgers have a home matchup with 3-7 Nebraska next week and a road game against Minnesota the following week.

Iowa will play 4-6 Illinois in Iowa City and Nebraska in Lincoln in Weeks 12 and 13, respectively.

The Badgers currently hold the Big Ten West Division tiebreaker over the Hawkeyes. Wisconsin beat Iowa head-to-head in Madison Oct. 30.

To make the Big Ten Championship Game, Iowa will likely need to win out and hope Wisconsin loses to Minnesota or Nebraska. If the Hawkeyes and Badgers have identical league play records at the end of the regular season, the Badgers would be the west division’s representative in the Big Ten Championship Game.

“I talked to the guys about November football, just in general,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said Saturday. “One of three things are happening. You’re either ascending, you’re tanking, or you’re just kinda like getting through it. In a lot of conferences, this is where things get decided … We’ve had two good weeks now this month.”

“I’m not worried about it,” Ferentz added. “I’m worried about it, but I’m not going to say we’re going to run the table or end up in Pasadena. It’s possible, I guess. I know this, we gotta try to win nine [games] first.”

RELATED: Iowa defeats Minnesota for seventh consecutive year, keeps Floyd Of Rosedale in Iowa City

Even with the race for the Big Ten West title heating up, Ferentz’s team has bought into his week-by-week view of the regular season.

“We were just coming into the day getting ready to play Minnesota,” sophomore defensive lineman Logan Lee said. “We’re not looking down the road at all right now. We’re just doing our best to focus on the game ahead of us. That’s what we’re gonna end up doing this week too. We’re not looking down the road at all. We’re just going to take it one game at a time.”

Kick times have already been announced for the Hawkeyes’ last two games of the season. Nov. 20’s Iowa-Illinois matchup will begin at 1 p.m.

Iowa and Nebraska will play their Week 13 matchup on Black Friday at 12:30 p.m., as has been tradition for about 10 years. The Hawkeyes have won the Heroes Trophy for the last six seasons.

The 2021 Big Ten Championship Game will be played Dec. 4 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

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