Jerod Ringwald

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz and Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst coach their teams at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.

Point/Counterpoint: Who will win the Big Ten West?

DI Pregame Editor Robert Read and Sports Editor Austin Hanson debate whether Wisconsin or Iowa will win the division.

November 18, 2021


What once seemed so secure is now so out of reach.

I’m referring, of course, to Iowa’s chances of winning the Big Ten West this season. The Hawkeyes started the season 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the conference. The division title that has eluded the program since 2015 seemed to finally be here, especially with Wisconsin only 3-3 at the time. That was actually an improvement from the Badgers’ 1-3 start.

But now, with Iowa and Wisconsin both having 5-2 conference records — and the Badgers having won the head-to-head matchup between the teams — it seems like Iowa will just miss out on winning the West. Again.

Wisconsin controls its own destiny to reach Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game for the fourth time in six years. The Badgers simply need to beat Nebraska and Minnesota over the next two weeks and they would be division champions. The Hawkeyes would need to win their next two games and hope for a Badger slip-up to win the West.

Nebraska is better than its record, and Minnesota put up a good fight against Iowa, but I’d still pick Wisconsin in both of those games.

The Badgers have a 75.8 percent chance to win the West, per simulations run by The Athletic’s Austin Mock. Iowa’s chances? Only 18.8 percent.

Wisconsin is heating up at the perfect time of the season. As far as Iowa? The Hawkeyes are playing better than what we saw during their two-game losing streak. But that’s not saying much. And even if Iowa does blow out Illinois and Nebraska (both teams that could give the Hawkeyes a sneaky good game), that won’t really matter if Wisconsin doesn’t lose.

And I don’t think the Badgers are going to.

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Odds are, Iowa football probably won’t win the Big Ten West Division this year.

Yes, the Hawkeyes are tied with Wisconsin for first in the West. But, one of these 5-2 teams isn’t like the other. 

Wisconsin beat Iowa head-to-head, 27-7, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison Oct. 30. As a result, the Badgers hold a tiebreaker over Iowa. 

If Iowa and Wisconsin have identical records at the end of the year, the Badgers will go to the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Dec. 4.

Despite the Hawkeyes’ slim chances, Iowa fans shouldn’t count their team out of Big Ten West title contention just yet.

This year of college football has been crazy and unusual. After all, Iowa was once ranked No. 2. And Penn State was a top-four team. Remember that whack game in October? Good times.

If Iowa can rise as high as No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, then Wisconsin can certainly lose one of its last two games. Sure, the Badgers will be favored to defeat both the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

But upsets happen. Iowa football was favored against Purdue way back on Oct. 16.

Given all that’s happened this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if Iowa wins its last two games against Illinois and Nebraska, Wisconsin loses one of its final contests, and the Hawkeyes make the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis.

Get your tickets and hotel rooms now, Iowa fans. The Hawkeyes are going to the Big Ten Championship Game Dec. 4.

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