IOWA CITY, Ia. — History can play mind games.
“It’s hard not to think about it,” admitted Iowa linebacker Cole Fisher.
The undefeated Hawkeyes host Minnesota at 7 p.m. Saturday, trying to become the first team in program history to start a season 10-0.
“I don’t think anyone saw us being in this situation at the start of the season,” Fisher said. “At the same time, you really have to treat it as winning this week. After you get that one, you can celebrate 10-0.”
Throw in all-black uniforms, playing under the lights, revenge for last season’s humbling 51-14 loss to the Gophers, a chance to regain Floyd of Rosedale and history on the line, and sold-out Kinnick Stadium will be high voltage on Saturday.
In a season that has seen Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz cautiously toe the line of confidence versus overconfidence, his challenge Saturday will be different. Ferentz might have to let some air out of the motivational tire to avoid a bumpy ride.
A victory, and Iowa will be one step away from the Big Ten Championship game. That has been a realistic goal since the Hawkeyes opened conference play with a win at Wisconsin and added another big one at Northwestern. Now it’s a matter of getting to the finish line.
During Iowa’s bye week in late October, Ferentz gave his team the luxury of looking ahead and dreaming big.
“But no matter how big they thought and whatever they may have been dreaming up, you can only get there week by week,” Ferentz said.
Nine games have put this team on the brink of history, with a No. 5 standing in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. Getting to 10 wins is not a given against an archrival who would like nothing more than throwing up a detour. That chance to make history?
“We’ll talk about it afterwards,” senior center Austin Blythe said. “At this point we’re working to get to 1-0 at the end of this week. And then we’ll evaluate where we are on Sunday.”
That sounds like a plan.
“We know we’ve won nine games,” quarterback C.J. Beathard said. “But Minnesota is the only game that matters.”
So one game at a time it is. History will have to wait another 60 minutes.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.