While Saturday's Purdue game is the center of attention for the Hawkeyes, they have no plans on stopping if they clinch the Big Ten West.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Three weeks from now, those are the only College Football Playoff rankings that really matter — especially to Iowa, which was ranked No. 5 for the second straight week on Tuesday night's reveal.
But for the 10-0 Hawkeyes, so much can change in the next 11 days, with games coming up Saturday against Purdue (11 a.m., ESPN2) and on Black Friday at Nebraska (2:30 p.m., ABC). That was not lost on coach Kirk Ferentz, who said earlier Tuesday that there would be no public trophy presentation if Iowa clinches the Big Ten West by beating Purdue on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
The only way Iowa can be 99.9 percent certain it qualifies for the College Football Playoff — the Final Four of football — remains winning these next two games, then the Big Ten title game Dec. 5 in Indianapolis. But to get to Indy, beating 2-8 Purdue comes first.
“We've talked really openly about it this week, and it's mathematical. I mean, if we win, then we're in, I guess, right?” Ferentz said. “Not to get cute, but that's the way it is. That's a really good thing, and that would mean we're 11-0 and that would mean we're 7-0, and boy, that would be great.
“But we're not done yet, so we'll acknowledge that privately, and we're going to have to move fast towards that next game.”
Privately, that’s a sensible approach. Publicly, Iowa fans had very little to complain about during ESPN’s broadcast of the rankings.
Analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who not long ago called Iowa’s remaining schedule “embarrassing,” said this: "If Iowa wins out (to finish 13-0), they don't have anything to get on Twitter about and get upset (about). If they win out, it's in front of them."
The top four remained the same from a week ago, with No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Notre Dame. Oklahoma State (10-0) jumped two spots to No. 6 after narrowly beating Iowa State. Oklahoma (9-1) shot up to seventh after beating Baylor.
Committee chairman Jeff Long said his 12-member panel spent a lot of time debating Nos. 5-7.
Having Northwestern (20th) and Wisconsin (25th) in the CFP rankings continues to help Iowa, which beat both of those teams on the road in October. ESPN asked Long if he thought Iowa was “better” than Oklahoma State and Oklahoma or “more deserving” in the committee’s eyes.
“I think better,” Long said. “You look at their resume, they’ve got the two wins on the road that certainly has impacted us. And then their balance, their offense and defense — they seem to be strong on both sides of the ball.”
The complete list:
3. Ohio State
4. Notre Dame
6. Oklahoma State
9. Michigan State
14. Florida State
17. North Carolina
22. Ole Miss