Commentary: Time for some meaningful November football


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CHAMPAIGN, Illinois — We’ve talked about how college football changes quickly before, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise at all when I tell you that Iowa, at 7-3, has a better chance — yes, there’s still a chance — to play in the Big Ten championship game than 8-2 Nebraska.

In August, when Iowa was still in the “talking” stage of the 2014 season, there was a lot of chatter about expectations and what the Hawkeyes could accomplish. We looked at the roster and saw great talent. We looked at the schedule and saw great potential. Things had fallen into place.

The goal, in short, was to make sure these last two games in November had meaningful implications in the Big Ten’s West Division.

For as inconsistent as Iowa has been this season — for all the weird and quirky things that have happened, both on and off the field — that particular goal has been met. The Hawkeyes enter this final two-game stretch with a chance to shake up the conference.

“Right now, we’re enjoying this one today,” quarterback Jake Rudock said. “This week, we’re going to focus on what we need to do [on Saturday]. When you start looking global, it’s going to bite you in the butt. We just have to focus on one game at a time.”

That’s the normal coach speak that Rudock spits out every week, of course. But it makes so much more sense now, if only because — well, it’s true. If Iowa doesn’t beat Wisconsin this coming weekend, the dream of Indianapolis dies, too.

See, the Big Ten West is in somewhat of a cluster right now. Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota are all 4-2 in conference, and Wisconsin is a game up at 5-1. They all play each other over the next two weeks, and with it comes 16 — yes, 16; I counted — different possibilities.

Three of those 16 sends Iowa to Indianapolis to play Ohio State, the current leader and probable winner of the vaunted East Division. In all three of those scenarios, Iowa must win both games, and Minnesota must lose once.

(For clarification: the Cornhuskers have just one scenario that sends them to Indy. They must beat both Minnesota and Iowa and pray to the football Gods that Wisconsin loses to both Minnesota and Iowa.)

In short: There is meaningful football to be played in Iowa City. Really meaningful. This Saturday’s game against Wisconsin might be the biggest game at Kinnick Stadium since probably 2010, when the Badgers beat Iowa, 31-30, in a battle of top-15 teams.

“We’ve seen them earlier this season, too. They look like a really good Wisconsin football team,” Ferentz said. “It’s going to be a tough game at home. I do know that.

“The good thing is that we’ll be at home twice.”

That might be the only good thing, because both of these games are probably going to be the toughest two games Iowa plays all season. The tougher, meaner, smarter team is going to win each game, and the Hawkeyes have to do that twice if this season is going to be considered a success.

But you don’t have to tell them that.

“We were focused and got this win, but the good thing is that we’re not all too excited about this win,” defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat said. “We’re trying to finish the season strong.”

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