Mission One, accomplished.
Coming into today’s game against Purdue at snowy Kinnick Stadium, No. 5 Iowa need either a win or a Wisconsin loss to claim a spot in its first-ever conference championship game. Not wanting to rely on somebody else to do their work for them, the Hawkeyes jumped out to a 20-0 lead early but, because of a second-quarter lapse, had to fend off the feisty Boilermakers before pulling away for a 40-20 win.
With the win, Iowa claimed at least a share of its division title since the Big Ten went to that format for the 2011 season and will represent the West in the league title game against the winner of the East. That game, with potential opponents Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan, will also very likely serve as a play-in game for a berth in the College Football Playoff.
In what is fast becoming a historic season in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes are 11-0 for the first time in school history, just as they were 10-0 for the first time ever the week before. The current 11-game winning streak ties for the longest in school history, and a significant reason behind that sustained success is the steady play of quarterback C.J. Beathard.
Saddled with the ofttimes-derisive tag of “game manager,” the junior has managed to win his first 12 starts, the first Hawkeye signal caller to accomplish that feat. In the win over the Boilermakers, Beathard was his normal efficient self as he completed 60 percent of his 20 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns. Beathard didn’t throw an interception, the eighth game this season in which he’s been pick-less. All told, Beathard has thrown just three interceptions in 267 attempts this season.
Purdue, though, actually outgained Iowa 403-387. The Boilermakers, however, were doomed by, in part, converting just four of their 18 third downs.
The lone obstacle standing between Iowa and the first perfect regular season in school history is a road trip to Lincoln in Week 13 ta take on Nebraska. The biggest question coming out of the game, aside from their kicker missing a pair of extra points, is how much, if at all, the playoff committee will hold their mid-game lapse against the Hawkeyes. The guess here is not at all, but it’ll be something to watch for when the next set of rankings are released Tuesday.