Ross: Looking Ahead

October 23, 2015

Written by Ross Peterson

Hawkeye Nation

I’ve heard almost every expectation for the remainder of Iowa’s season. While I think buying tickets to the College Football Playoff Semi-Finals is a bit premature, the prospect of playing for a Big Ten title in Indianapolis continues to grow. In fact, it may be likely.

There are five games remaining on the Iowa schedule, Maryland, at Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and at Nebraska.

As of right now, the Hawkeyes would be favored in every one of those remaining games, with the only possible exception being the game at Nebraska.

As we head into the Hawkeyes bye week, the Big Ten West Standings look like this:

1 – Iowa 7-0 | 3-0
2 – Wisconsin 5-2 | 2-1
3 – Illinois 4-2 | 1-1
4 – Northwestern 5-2 | 1-1
5 – Minnesota 4-3 | 1-2
6 – Nebraska 3-4 | 1-2
7 – Purdue 1-6 | 0-2

Here are the remaining schedule for the one loss teams in the Big Ten West:

Wisconsin
@ Illinois
vs Rutgers
@ Maryland
vs Northwestern
@ Minnesota

Illinois
vs Wisconsin
@ Penn State
@ Purdue
vs Ohio State
@ Minnesota
vs Northwestern

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Wisconsin and Illinois all play each other so only one of those teams can make it to the end of the season with just one loss. And remember, Iowa has the head-to-head tie breaker against each of those teams. That means the only way the Hawkeyes are not playing for the Big Ten title is if they lose two of their final five games, and one of Wisconsin or Illinois runs the table.

Wisconsin is the team to watch. They have just the one loss to the Hawkeyes and will also be favored in every remaining game. If the Hawks were to lose two games, the Badgers will be waiting to scoop up the division.

If you’re wondering about the two-loss teams in Minnesota, Northwestern and Nebraska, don’t bother. Minnesota has a gauntlet of a schedule remaining; Michigan, @Ohio State, @Iowa and hosting Wisconsin. More losses are coming for Minnesota

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Nebraska has a much more favorable schedule. Their three toughest games are all at home. They host Northwestern, Michigan State and Iowa. Their road games are Purdue and Rutgers.

The bottom line is simple; the Hawkeyes control their own destiny. They can lose one of their final five games and still head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Title game on December 5th.

THE STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE ARGUMENT

You’ve heard it. “Iowa has not and will not play a tough enough schedule.” “Whatever post season reward they receive will be diminished because of their lack of big wins.” “Even if they win the Big Ten they’ll be left out of the playoffs.”

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It won’t matter. It simply won’t!

If the Hawks handle business and get to the Big Ten Title game undefeated, it won’t matter who they beat to get there. They’ll be squaring off with one of the best teams in the country. Win, and your strength of schedule will take a jump. Lose and you’ll still be treated like a one-loss Big Ten team.

I know it has to be a “one-game-at-a-time” mentality. I know we’ve all been burned by looking too far ahead in the past. I know I’ve been guilty of serving the Kool-Aid too quickly. I know all of this, b I can’t control it.

The reality is this season has already been special. If the Hawks stub their toe in a few games and a team sneaks past them for the West, I won’t look at this season as a disappointment. That would mean a few disappointing losses, but it wouldn’t ruin the fun I’ve had watching this team blow out my expectations.

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