Fall camp is already a week old which means we are that much closer to Iowa Hawkeye football! It is during this point in the lead up to the season that fanbases really begin to let their minds run reckless. Dreams of college football glory become so vivid you can hear and feel the crowd going bananas. For members of the Big Ten West division, those dreams start first and foremost with earning a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game. Now at some point late in every season Hawkeye fans, we are forced to read an article usually explaining the path for Iowa to claim the West division crown because of some bad performance earlier in the season that caused the Hawks to depend on certain outcomes from games not involving them. Well because this is a blog that pays me and my fellow Pants members millions each year, meaning I can do whatever I want, I’m going to talk about those games right now.
First, cue the essential background music for this article...
This article must also be read with the understanding that yes, I know Iowa is going 12-0. This is obviously purely for preseason fun. These games are not in order of importance but rather the date of their scheduling.
1. September. 1st- Penn. St @ Purdue
This game may be the most telling for how the next three months will play out. The first Big Ten game played in the United States (weird Nebraska vs Northwestern game in Ireland week 0) features two potential dark horses of the league. For the West’s sake, lets look at what Purdue has at stake. This Thursday night battle in West Lafayette could act as a potential springboard to a West division title. A huge reason for this is that Purdue’s crossover schedule is the weakest for any team in the West with games vs Penn. St, @Maryland, and @Indinana. With Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota each playing two games against some combination of Ohio. St, Michigan, Penn. St and Michigan. St, this is the Boilermakers chance to effectively steal a game from the division.
2. September 17th- Oklahoma @ Nebraska
I know I know, this is not a Big Ten vs Big Ten game and yes it’s stinky Scott Frost and Nebraska but just hear me out... Do I think Nebraska is going to win the Big Ten West? No. Do I think they are a super fragile team with an even more emotionally fragile and whinny head coach? Yes. In my athletics experience, if these types of teams grab some form of hope/false validation early on in a season, they can ride it to the finish. Now all this will be a mute point if the Huskers take a plane across the pond in week 0 only for Patty Fitz to give them a Blarney beat down. IF they should win that game however and IF they do pull off some magic against the Sooners, the Corn Huskers only have games at home against Indiana and @Rutgers between them and a 6-0 start... I need the world to know that I wasn’t able to type that last sentence with a straight face.
3. September 24th- Wisconsin @ Ohio. St / Minnesota @ Michigan. St
This weekend houses potentially the most important of non-Iowa games for Hawkeye fans to pay attention to.
Both Iowa and Wisconsin must travel to the Horseshoe this year to take on what will be the nations most explosive offense. In just about every prognosticators predictions for the season, Ohio. St is beating both the Badgers and Hawkeyes. For this reason, if either team were to somehow sneak out of Columbus with a win, they will have stolen a game from the rest of the division and more importantly from each other. It feels gross to say aloud but with road games against Minnesota and Purdue and a home game against Michigan also on the schedule for Iowa, it is imperative that the Buckeyes win on September 24th... And now I have to go take a loooong shower.
4. Minnesota will have only played three games up to this point in the season with its stiffest competition being a home game against Colorado. And since Bowing Green is not one of the other two teams, the Gophers should be 3-0. Having PJ Flecks veteran laden boat spring an early season leak against Sparty would be huge for Iowa’s West division chances
5. October 1st- Purdue @ Minnesota
Last years iteration of this game was so disgusting that God tried to cancel it with an apocalyptic rain storm forgetting that in the midwest we play on since there is nothing else to do.
It’s mind blowing that Neil Armstrong attended the same school.
I firmly believe that the loser of this game will be eliminated from title contention but more pressure will be on the Gophers to win. Both teams will have already played a difficult East opponent (PUR vs PSU/ MINN @ MSU) but Minnesota will still have a trip to Happy Valley to face Penn. St on the schedule. If Purdue wins this game on the road, they’re for real.
6. October 22nd- Minnesota @ Penn. St
This is an intriguing matchup for so many reasons. First and foremost, this game has a very strange Kirk Ciarroca complex that this blog is all in on. Ciarrocca, who vacated the Minnesota OC job after 2019 for the same position at Penn. St, only to be fired after 2020 and find his way back to Minnesota, will surely be looking to deal out some pain. On the other hand though, Penn. St, who was beaten by Ciorraca back in 2019 and was duped into hiring him in 2020 will also be looking for their own comeuppance. Add in the fact that night games at Beaver Stadium are among the coolest spectacles sports has to offer in this country and this should be one doozy of a ball game. A Nittany Lions win would go a long way in determining the West Champion.
Side Note: Purdue @ Wisconsin is also this weekend but I’m saying Purdue is out of the race by this point. Again, because I can.
7. November 26th- Minnesota @ Wisconsin
This game has determined who has gone to Indy two of the last three seasons. Hopefully for Iowa fans the Hawkeyes will have taken care of business against Nebraska the day before. Lets hope that’s the case because although last year it was kind of fun to mockingly “row the boat” my soul wont allow me to do it again.
Cue the music for dramatic ending...
So mark’em down Iowa fans! All of these games will affect Iowa in one way or another. And they, along with the Hawkeyes matchup’s, will almost assuredly play a huge role in the 2022 story of How the West was Won!