Iowa football team not worried about Big Ten West race after win over Wisconsin

Following the Hawkeyes’ 24-10 victory over the Badgers, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, along with his players, said they aren’t focused on divisional standings.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz smiles after a forced fumble during a football game between Iowa and Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. After recording the win, Iowa secured bowl eligibility. The Hawkeyes defeated the Badgers, 24-10.

Sam Knupp, Sports Reporter

Iowa football is now in a four-way tie for the Big Ten West lead after its 24-10 win against Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium Saturday. But the Hawkeyes say the race to a division title is not among their concerns.

After starting conference play 1-3, Iowa has rattled off three consecutive wins. The Hawkeyes are now tied for first place in their division with the Illinois Fighting Illini, Purdue Boilermakers, and Minnesota Golden Gophers.

“It’s like last year, it doesn’t look good, and then all of a sudden, we’re in [Indianapolis],” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “My experience is, don’t worry about it. Let’s just worry about Wisconsin. We had our hands full today, and we knew that going in. We’ll have our hands full again next week and the week after. I just try to keep looking at what’s in front of us.”

Iowa started Big Ten play at 2-2 in 2021. The Hawkeyes then won four contests in a row at the end of the regular season to make their second-ever Big Ten Championship Game.

“Right now, our main focus is on just playing our best football,” Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell said. “We’ve got to finish strong. And obviously, if we want to get to where we want to get, it all depends on if we can win or not. So right now, it’s just focusing on Minnesota and getting ready for them. They’re going to present a challenge. I already know that.”

Since Oct. 29, the Hawkeyes have outscored their opponents by a combined 81-16 margin. Iowa has won each of its last three games by two possessions or more.

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Senior defensive back Kaevon Merriweather said the Hawkeyes came together as a group after they dropped under .500 on Oct. 22. He added that, despite their improvement, the Hawkeyes haven’t changed what they’re working on it practice.

“We didn’t put our heads down,” Merriweather said. “We didn’t look at the season as a failure. We came in every day from those losses and just continued to work.”

Iowa climbed into a first-place tie in the West because Illinois lost to Purdue early Saturday afternoon. The Illini hold a divisional tiebreaker over the Hawkeyes because they beat them, 9-6, at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Oct. 8. So, if Iowa and Illinois finish the season with identical conference records, the Illini would advance to the conference title game via the tiebreaker.

Ferentz said his players probably weren’t thinking about the result of the Illinois-Purdue game on Saturday. Multiple Hawkeyes said they didn’t know the result of the Illinois-Purdue game until after their bout ended.

“I found out after the game that Purdue beat Illinois,” Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras said. “I think it’s a total waste of time just for us to think about that. Only because we have to beat a good Minnesota team and a good Nebraska team coming up here.”