STATE COLLEGE —Iowa is just four quarters away from securing its berth as the West’s representative in the Dec. 3 Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis.
The Hawkeyes over the weekend snagged a 13-10 win at Minnesota to claim the Floyd of Rosedale trophy and their fourth-consecutive victory.
A win on Friday at home against Nebraska would send Iowa back to the conference’s title game for the second time in as many seasons.
“Really happy for our guys, really happy locker room,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz told reporters postgame. “That’s November football, whatever it takes to get it done, and it took the full 60 today for sure. Really pleased for our guys, pleased to get Floyd back in Iowa City with us. Told the players to enjoy tonight, hard-fought victory against a team that played extremely hard, so want them to enjoy that. Then we are back to work tomorrow, we have a short week here so we need to get back on task.”
Iowa opened the season with a four-point win against South Dakota State that featured two safeties and a field goal. The Hawkeyes followed that with a loss to Iowa State in a contest where Iowa’s offense only managed 150 yards. After wins against Nevada and Rutgers, Iowa then lost three straight before finally stabilizing.
While Iowa’s issues on offense haven’t been fully resolved — the Hawkeyes have only scored 30 or more points once this season — its defense this year has been one of the conference’s best.
The Hawkeyes rank fourth in the Big Ten in scoring defense (13.5 points per game), and they’ve yielded an average of 273.3 yards per game to opponents (third in the Big Ten). Linebacker Jack Campbell is tied for the Big Ten lead with 109 tackles this season. However, only Northwestern has a scoring offense worse than Iowa’s 17.5 points-per-game average.
Iowa’s road to Friday’s Big Ten West-defining matchup against Nebraska includes home wins against Northwestern and Wisconsin and road wins at Purdue and Minnesota. The Cornhuskers enter Friday’s regular-season finale at 3-8. Nebraska, which is on a five-game losing streak, is 2-6 in Big Ten games.
Michigan defeated Iowa, 42-3, last year en route to the Wolverines’ first appearance in the College Football Playoff.
Michigan and Ohio State barrel into Saturday’s regular-season finale in Columbus with matching records and a chance to represent the East in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes escaped Maryland by 13 points over the weekend while Michigan used a late-game field goal to ease past Illinois.
Last year’s win in Ann Arbor by the Wolverines snapped an eight-year skid. The dynamic this season will be drastically different as Michigan seeks to win its first game at Ohio Stadium since 2000.
“I think they’re a really good team, an improved team,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters on Monday afternoon. “It’s a tremendous team, and we’re really grateful to be in this position and to be playing in this game. Winner takes the East — winner takes all.”