How does a team win a Big Ten Championship in a year when it's not supposed to? Plan your work, then work your plan. Simple, right? Coach speak 101 says you just go out and win all your games, that is all you can do. With that wisdom in mind, I looked to see how many times the Hawkeyes have done that.
I searched through the archives on College Football Data Warehouse and found just two seasons since 1889. That is 121 years of football at Iowa with two undefeated seasons (1921: 7-0 and 1922: 7-0). Even then, they only won the Big Ten title outright once as the 1922 team tied for first place.
Conclusion: "Just go out and win all your games" is a heck of a lot easier said than done. Last year's national champion lost a game. Many times, the national champion has lost one game, sometimes they have lost two games (LSU 2007). Yet conference titles are won year after year with one or even two loses.
Here's the really good news: Iowa has won the Big Ten championship 11 times, and a Football Writers Association's national championship once (1958). In nine of those championship seasons, and the writer's national championship, Iowa lost a game or two during the season.
With that in mind, I decided to look at how I thought Iowa could play in the Big Ten Championship Game this year with this team. My conclusion is the Hawkeyes must win at home and they must win in November. They can afford one and possibly two Big Ten losses earlier in the year and likely still make it into the title game if they win at home and win in November.
Can Iowa get to the Big Ten Championship game this year?
Let's use last year as an example. Michigan State lost early at Nebraska but won its late games and made into the championship game. When you win late in the year, you put enormous pressure on teams that are close to you to do the same. Many times, they will slip up somewhere along the way.
Nebraska beat Michigan State handily last year, then fell to Northwestern and Michigan. The result: Michigan State goes to the championship game.
I have no doubt that one of Iowa's goals this year is to win its division and get to the Big Ten Championship Game. Hey, once you get to the game, you always have a shot. So, Iowa fans, be like all the other fans everywhere and go into the season hoping your Hawkeyes will win every game. But, should they happen to stub their toe in October, just know they still have a shot.
A 2-1 or even a 1-2 conference record in October can likely be overcome by a 4-0 November. Does it sound tough to win four conference games in a row in November? Not nearly as tough as "just go out and win all your games."