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Commentary: The West is wide open

BY CODY GOODWIN | OCTOBER 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Big Ten West Division is wide open after another weekend of football.

Things change pretty fast in college football. Very fast, actually, so it’s important to know that everything I’m about to say might not mean anything a week from now.

Some crazy things happened in the Big Ten this week. Illinois, a Big Ten basement-dweller, handed Minnesota its first conference loss. Wisconsin put a beating on Maryland just a week after the Terps earned an impressive win over Iowa. Ameer Abdullah made another case for his Heisman candidacy.

The Hawkeyes, through all of this, enjoyed the luxury of a bye week that allowed them to watch the Big Ten West Division become even more wide open than it was a week ago.

The Golden Gophers' loss to Illinois drops them to 3-1 in Big Ten play, which ties for first in the West with Nebraska. Iowa and Wisconsin are both right behind them at 2-1. Northwestern remains within striking distance at 2-2.

Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin all control their own destinies, and all still have to play each other, too. Over the next five weeks, things could get even nuttier than they are now.

As I said before, things can change very quickly in college football. Today, we’re talking about a four-team race for the West Division crown and a spot in Indianapolis for the conference title game.
Next week, we could very well be talking about a three- or two-team race.

Welcome to the Big Ten West. Come for the possibilities, stay for the results. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You might even cheer.

Most, including me, might say this is a big reason we love college football — or just football, in general. None of those aforementioned teams really have much of a chance at qualifying for the college football playoff, which gives even more meaning to playing out these league games with gusto because getting to Indianapolis could mean the difference between a successful season and not.

(To clarify: Michigan State and Ohio State might be the Big Ten’s only shot at the playoff, and even then, both teams might need some help before earning a spot among the nation’s top four.)

This is perhaps where most doubt Iowa, especially after the last two weeks. The Hawkeyes have struggled mightily against the run, and having to face the likes of Minnesota’s David Cobb, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, and Nebraska’s Abdullah doesn’t make the season’s final five weeks any easier.

Even more, the offense remains without an identity. The unit once lauded for its depth and talent can’t seem to find any consistent rhythm from game to game — be it because of play calling, or a lack of execution, or both.

And it’s fair to make those arguments and have doubts. Personally, it wouldn’t shock me in the least if Nebraska played Ohio State for a Big Ten title game. As long as Abdullah keeps posting those gaudy numbers each week, it’ll be hard to slow down that Husker attack.

But then again, that’s the thought this week. Who knows what we’ll be talking about next week, after Iowa plays Northwestern, Nebraska plays Purdue, and Wisconsin plays Rutgers (Minnesota will be idle).

That’s part of what makes this whole thing so fun. Four different teams have a shot at playing for a Big Ten title with five weeks to play, and each one controls its own destiny.

Here’s to the month of November, and all the changes it should bring us.

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.


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