Iowa Football

Iowa football mailbag: The question on Big Ten tiebreakers is getting a little ahead of things

This is a sneaky big game in the Ferentz era, the 'Minnesota, Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue' table is going to get frustrating

A lone Iowa fan stands in the Wisconsin student section as the Wisconsin fans
A lone Iowa fan stands in the Wisconsin student section as the Wisconsin fans "jump around" Camp Randall Sadium in Madison, Wis., on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. (The Gazette)

My dad is from Wisconsin and my mom is from Dubuque.

They actually did go to Iowa-Wisconsin games while they dated. They drove that Dickeyville 151 stretch every time. I wasn’t born yet, so we’re talking 1965-67 maybe?

One time, my dad drove either my mom or grandfather’s car. I wish I could remember. I know it wasn’t a Model T Ford, so shut it.

It wasn’t a constant line of fans, but the 151 run would include Herky-Bucky vitriol.

I want to say somewhere near Kieler, Wis., they drove past a group of Hawkeye fans. “Honk if you’re a Hawkeye” said one of the signs.

Of course, my dad flipped the bird and laughed. Of course, my mom waved and punched my dad in the shoulder.

That’s my college football history. The sport wasn’t on TV regularly when I grew up, so what we were able to get (WGN, WISC TV) shaped lifelong fascinations with the Packers, Blackhawks and Cubs.




Let’s start with how this would look: You’d probably have Iowa lose to Wisconsin (loss No. 3) and beat Minnesota (potential loss No. 2 pending the Penn State result). You have Wisconsin beat Iowa and lose to Minnesota (loss no. 3). But if Minnesota beats Wisconsin and, let’s say it loses to Penn State and Iowa, is Northwestern capable of handing it loss No. 3? It is not. Everyone Hawkeye can vouch for that.

This is the problem with the math. Let’s say Wisconsin beats Minnesota. That could be the Gophers’ third loss, but do you trust Nebraska or Purdue to get the Badgers? No, no one does. So, for sure Iowa has to win this week. Viable opponents for Minnesota and Wisconsin are dwindling.

OK, the math is sketchy. Dean did preface this with “the unlikely event.” Let’s finish the exercise, because you never know.

If three teams are tied, there are eight tiebreakers, with No. 1 being teams compared based on winning percentage in games between the tied teams. So, in the above scenario: Iowa is 1-1, Wisconsin is 1-1 and Minnesota is 1-1.

Next is winning percentage within the division. Iowa would have one loss. The Badgers would have two (say thanks to Illinois). Minnesota would have losses to Iowa and Northwestern. So, Iowa.

You go through the eight tiebreakers. If one team is eliminated in the one through eight, then it’s head-to-head between the two remaining teams.

No. 7 is best overall winning percentage.

No. 8 is, and I quote, “will be chosen by random draw.”

Please, let it come to that. The meltdown would be glorious.

Good question, Dean. Let’s see if it can get there.



Minimum is 10. We say that in 2015. I think 28. I always think 28. With this defense, if 28 isn’t enough, then something drastic happened, like Iowa trying a new 1-0-10 defense.

I also like 24. If it comes down to kickers, I love Iowa’s Keith Duncan over the Badgers’ Collin Larsh. In fact, I like that a lot. Duncan is 19 of 22 this season, with those 19 tied for the nation’s lead in FGs made. Duncan also has hit 10 of 12 from 40-plus (his leg is so much stronger than when he was a freshman). Larsh is 6 of 10 this year and just 2 of 5 from 30-plus.

But then, the Badgers have 18 more TDs than Iowa (38-20). Iowa’s 20 TDs are tied for 11th with Michigan State in the league.

I think 24 can work, but only if Iowa isn’t trading field goals for TDs. That’s some Captain Obvious stuff right there.

I don’t want to rile everyone up, but one of the crazy tricky numbers from last season’s 28-17 loss to UW was the fact that Iowa probably should’ve won (special teams turnovers were the killer) and STILL allowed 211 yards on 44 carries.

Turnovers can break any amount of rushing yards, but you can’t count on turnovers like you can a great running back behind a good offensive line.



Thank you, Andrew. Hearing good things about One Barrel Brewing. My ritual the last two trips has been a stop at Karben4 Brewing for beer and food. I recommend the Fantasy Factory.

I was a kid with no money when I used to hang out in Madison. I think only B Side Records and The Parthenon are still around from those days. I’ve already dated myself enough in this mailbag.


You kind of answer your own question with the Alaric Jackson observation. Jackson is a great player, but that was a tough first go after missing three weeks. Jackson was down for a few of the eight sacks at Michigan.

The Iowa running game isn’t going to be saved by one player, but steady play from the right guard spot wouldn’t hurt.

I think I wrote a few weeks ago that the game of chicken for the Iowa offense this season is going to be sticking with the run just enough. If you’re Iowa, you certainly want to dictate that. If Wisconsin and the scoreboard dictate, game over. Iowa is not a good chase team.

I think Iowa goes heavy first and tries to pick a spot for play-action. If pass protection holds up, the possibilities open up.




1) I do think it’s a pivotal game for Iowa’s program. It didn’t work against Wisconsin last year with four NFL draft early entries. If it doesn’t work this year with at least two NFL early entries, when is it going to work? Forget the NFL early entry thing, when is it going to work against Wisconsin?

There can’t be too many more concession speeches in the Wisconsin postgame.

Iowa’s O-line has seemed to have been in a constant state of build in the last three seasons. Yes, injuries took a chunk out of this year. It’s hard to compete with Wisconsin when the O-line is constantly trying to figure out who can do what. Wisconsin’s line play hasn’t had these kinds of blips. Iowa is on track to average less than 4.0 yards per carry for the third straight year. Wisconsin has been held to less than 4.0 yards per carry just once in the last 11 seasons (2015).

How much weight does Iowa AD Gary Barta put on the Wisconsin result? He says he wants to win championships. You know how much weight Kirk Ferentz puts on it. Even if it does work this year, something has to change against the Badgers. Too much program momentum has died against Wisconsin.

It’s getting close to a crossroads. If you’re Iowa, you can’t give up this ground. Or, actually, you can’t allow Wisconsin to keep taking it. Or it’s going to be awfully frustrating at the “Minnesota, Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue” table.


Is this where I say, “Too soon?”

Or do I say “Target?”


One of those. But yeah, watch the fake.


Multiple choice!!

1) Plus-2 turnover

2) Five-minute advantage in time of possession (this probably means Iowa held UW to less than 200 rushing yards)

3) Hold Wisconsin to less than 200 rushing yards

4) Iowa 100-plus rushing yards

I probably should have No. 4 up higher. Iowa less than 100 rushing yards is a tough boulder for the Hawkeyes to crawl out from under. My argument for turnovers is Camp Randall. Turnovers make stadiums nervous. A relatively quiet Camp Randall would be good for Iowa. Also, turnovers are worth about five points just in field position alone. Iowa has won with 10 points in Madison.

I'm leaning into the disruption factor as Iowa’s way to win. The defense has that capability, and the offense is going to need all of the help it can get.


e) All of the above and at the same time.



Iowa almost survived two special teams disasters last year. Can’t dwell there too much. It’s history.

I picked this question because I think it’s probably time for some special teams chicanery. And I’m not talking just some rando fake field goal (OK, I’m being capricious). I’m talking onside kick on the opening kick. I’m talking one of those kick returns where Ihmir Smith-Marsette starts upfield for about 10 yards and then laterals across the field to Tyler Goodson.

It’s time for something drastic and completely out of character. Of course, this is easier said than done and Iowa isn’t snapping the swinging gate to T.J. Hockenson this year.



Yes, April 10. I’ll be there.

I’m gonna ride off into the sunset

While it all burns to hell behind me

Somewhere I haven’t been yet

Somewhere they can’t even see

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