Players and coaches always talk about taking it one game at a time, but the Iowa Hawkeyes knew that if they wanted to have a chance to win a national championship, they had to beat Nebraska on the road last Friday.
And they did, 28-20, to improve to 12-0 and secure a spot in this Saturday’s Big Ten Championship against Michigan State (11-1).
“For us, we knew – even though we have the mindset of just taking one game at a time and not focusing on the big picture – we still know in the back of our minds that if we lost one game, our hopes for the playoffs and being able to get a shot at winning it all would be done,” Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We knew that Nebraska was going to be tough team. Every time we play them, they’re always tough to play against, especially from an offensive standpoint looking at their defense. They gave a lot of teams tough outings and they lost by (by not) a lot. Their games usually came down pretty close. We knew it was going to be a tough game no matter what. . . . Our objective during the week is to have a great week of practice and put ourselves in great position to win and just focus on what we can control and play our best football. If we play our best football, then that puts us in a position (to win).”
Canzeri certainly did that last Friday, rushing 17 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns against Nebraska. The second one was a 68-yard scamper that came just one play after Nebraska scored to pull within 21-17.
Canzero made it 28-17, and the defense took it from there. A date with Michigan State awaits.
The Spartans have led a charmed season, beating Oregon by three points and escaping both Michigan and Ohio State on the road on the final play of the game. In fact, Sparty didn’t lead either game until there were zero ticks left on the clock.
“That just shows what they’re capable of,” Canzeri said. “They have a great four guys up front and their defense is just very physical and sound. We know that it’s going to be a battle. We know it’s going to be a grind. We know that it’s going to be a very physical game and that’s what’s expected. So far, we’ve started the week off with a great day of practice. We just have to continue that.”
Iowa, it is worth noting, might be the most disrespected unbeaten in college football history. That’s what happens when you survive a season unscathed without having to play any of the top three teams in the conference.
“We hear about it all the time, but for us, we know how the game of football is,” Canzeri said. “For a lot of people, they see certain names of schools and they expect (them) to win because of who they’re going against. But all over, every single year in college football, there’s upsets. That’s something that can happen very easily. If one team doesn’t bring it, they can easily lose. It doesn’t matter who they’re facing. We understand that there’s the doubters, and there’s people who don’t believe in us, and – even though we’re undefeated – still might not think we have a shot at the playoffs. But again, we just focus on what we can control and win every single game that comes our way. If we do that, winning (speaks) for itself.”
Kickoff from Lucas Oil Stadium is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.