IOWA CITY, Ia. — We’ve heard it over and over again, all season long.
One game at a time. Period. End of story.
And you can’t argue with the results. Iowa’s football team is undefeated, and it will tie a school record for victories in a season if No. 11 comes Saturday against Purdue at Kinnick Stadium.
A win would also clinch a share of the West Division title and a berth in the Big Ten Championship game Dec. 5. But that’s where things get a little snowy, at the intersection of One-Game Street and Title-Clinch Avenue.
You see, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz doesn’t want to share anything. So the message to his team all week has been this: Winning is great, but we’ve got two to play. That would be the Nov. 27 regular-season finale at Nebraska. A short week against a team coming off a bye.
“We’ve talked really openly about it this week, and it’s mathematical,” Ferentz said of Saturday’s title-clinching opportunity. “I mean, if we win, then we’re in, right? That would mean we’re 11-0 and that would mean we’re 7-0 (in the Big Ten), and boy, that would be great. But we’re not done yet.”
With that in mind, there will be no West Division trophy presentation if Iowa beats Purdue. That moment will take place in the privacy of the locker room.
“And we’re going to have to move fast towards that next game, because it’s going to come quick for us,” Ferentz said. “They’ve already got their sights on it, so we’re going to have some time to make up for it.”
Nebraska, 3-4 in the West and 5-6 overall, needs a victory to become bowl-eligible.
Iowa has a one-game lead over Wisconsin in the West race, and it holds the tiebreaker, thanks to a 10-6 victory over the Badgers in Madison on Oct. 3. Wisconsin still has Northwestern at home on Saturday and finishes at Minnesota.
But Iowa wants to win this on its own, with no help.
“Get this one done, and we clinch,” running back Jordan Canzeri said. “But we don’t want to ease up after that, just because we clinched. We want to finish the season strong. Every single game, it’s been about playing to the best of our ability.”
So it’s one game at a time … with an eye on the next one.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.