The phrase “we need Iowa to go undefeated” is one that probably was not uttered by anyone other than Iowa alumni. Coming into the season, there was a legitimate possibility that Kirk Ferentz was going to get the axe, but his contract, more specifically his buyout clause, was stopping that from happening. Now, Iowa is undefeated, has a guaranteed spot in the Big Ten championship game, and looks to be the Big Ten’s best chance at being in the College Football Playoff as an undefeated team and eliminating the counter argument of “they just got in because they play in the Big Ten.”
The beauty of the college football playoff is how much scheduling plays a part. Luckily for Iowa, very few thought that they would be legitimate contenders and did not schedule them into any true primetime, late season matchups. The Hawkeyes finish the season at Nebraska, the team that has managed to lose a surprising number of close games throughout the season and had a season-defining win in which they managed to ruin Michigan States’ title chances by handing them a late season loss. While Nebraska will view the game against Iowa as their “championship” game, Iowa should be able to win and go into the Big Ten championship undefeated.
In comparison, the other teams around Iowa in the rankings have far tougher matchups. Notre Dame finishes its year at Stanford without two of its best players, C.J. Prosise and KeiVarae Russel, while Oklahoma and Oklahoma State play one another in what should be a high scoring rivalry game that will determine who will be the Big 12’s playoff candidate. Florida, the 8th ranked team in the Week 12 rankings, ends its year at Florida State.
My bound-to-be-wrong prediction for Iowa
Iowa wins at Nebraska convincingly, but not overwhelmingly with a 31-14 win. In the Big Ten championship game, they play Michigan State. The Spartans, coming off a huge win at Ohio State and a win over Penn State win a close, low scoring and what most of the country considers to be an “ugly” game. In the process, the Big Ten manages to have three 1-loss teams. Considering the huge media hype that constantly surrounds Notre Dame and the possibility of an undefeated Oklahoma State team, Iowa misses the playoffs and no Big Ten team gets to compete for the championship.
While having no team in the championship would be somewhat embarrassing for the Big Ten, it will not be as horrible as people make it out to be. Clemson and Alabama are clearly the top teams this year and Iowa does not have the weapons or the personnel to keep pace with teams of that caliber. Iowa getting into the playoff would probably look at lot like a bowl game featuring an automatic qualifier; it will be obvious from the start which team had a “miracle” year that is coming to an end and which team is entrenched as a top contender year after year. As fun as it would be to have a team from the Big Ten in the playoff, it will probably be better to not have to endure a 60-minute beatdown at the hands of Clemson or Alabama that loses its suspense after the first quarter when Iowa is down by 21.