The Iowa Hawkeyes control their own destiny. Well, sort of.
They’ll need Illinois to drop at least one of their final two games, which is a likely scenario as they’re in Ann Arbor this weekend to try and defeat No. 3 Michigan. The unique part? That game kicks off at 11, four hours before Iowa’s 3 p.m. bout with Minnesota.
Illinois (4-3) owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Iowa (4-3) after beating them 9-6 in October, so the Hawkeyes will need to own a better record in Big Ten play than the Fighting Illini. They currently have a tiebreaker over 4-3 Purdue, and can obviously earn one over Minnesota this weekend.
The Hawkeyes will know for sure if they can clinch the Big Ten West. They’ll probably be able to catch the game on television, if they want. But it sure sounds like head coach Kirk Ferentz doesn’t.
“Last thing I really want to do is watch Big Ten football, quite frankly,” Ferentz said. “For the reason I don’t want to get emotionally involved with anything.”
Here’s another reason Ferentz is keeping a blind eye to the other games on the slate:
“Usually everybody looks unbeatable to me. If I see four games, there’s eight teams we’re not going to be able to beat this year, that’s usually what I see,” Ferentz shared. “But me personally I’d rather keep my thoughts still and just worry about what we’re going to do that day. I’m not going to tell our guys what to do. But bottom line is this, I’m pretty sure everybody in the Big Ten wants to win their division. I know this, we’re not going to win six games. It’s as simple as that.”
Iowa’s head man said he wasn’t going to tell his players what to do, but Spencer Petras said his coach’s message was to stay locked on to the task at hand.
“Our head coach’s message has just been consistent, that if it’s meant to happen it will happen. Iowa’s starting quarterback said. “Our goal and our focus is on Minnesota. That’s all we can control right now.”
Linebacker Jack Campbell says he likes to check scores around the Big Ten after the game. He’d rather concentrate on who he’s lining up against.
“For me, I just like to focus on the task at hand that day. But each guy is different. Each guy can withstand different things,” Campbell said. “But when I wake up on Saturday, my main focus is on Minnesota, and being able to perform my job at the highest level.”
“We’ve got a job to do and we have to go out there and play well. If they win or lose, it really doesn’t change my mindset at all,” linebacker Seth Benson added.
The Fighting Illini march into their battle with the 10-0 Wolverines as 18-point underdogs, per Caesars Sportsbook. It’s not a foregone conclusion Michigan will hand Illinois a loss, but the Hawkeyes best hope it happens. The 1-9 Northwestern Wildcats would serve as the last line of defense. Not great.