Calculating Iowa Hawkeye wins needed for College Football Playoff at-large bid

What is the bare minimum Iowa needs to do to reach the College Football Playoff's new 12-team field?
Iowa v Northwestern
Iowa v Northwestern / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Iowa Hawkeyes aren't exactly a favorite to reach the College Football Playoffs in 2024, but it's not as though it's impossible for them to join the first-ever 12-team field this winter.

On paper, Iowa doesn't have the toughest schedule. Still, the Big Ten is far from a cake-walk, and Iowa's rivals want to play upset.

But the path to another 10-win season is in front of them, and one ratings system believes that would be just enough for the Hawkeyes to secure a spot in the playoffs under the right circumstances.

It's worth noting that KFordRanking's graph ranks each team by how valuable those 10 wins are. Iowa with just 10 wins would need some help to secure a berth. For example, if teams like Texas, Tennessee, Oregon and Ohio State have 10 wins, they have a stronger case than Iowa to secure a spot. Iowa's relatively easy schedule does have its downsides.

Where will the 10 wins for Iowa come from in 2024?

There is little excuse for Iowa not to grab 10 wins in 2024 so long as the starting lineup remains as healthy as possible. Injuries can derail even the best teams, but as 2023 showed, particularly at the quarterback position, Iowa can't afford to lose players.

That said, while optimistically assuming the best in that regard, these are the 10 most likely wins for Iowa in 2024:

  • Illinois State
  • Iowa State
  • Troy
  • Minnesota
  • Washington
  • Michigan State
  • Northwestern
  • UCLA
  • Maryland
  • Nebraska

Of course, wins against teams like Iowa State, Minnesota, Maryland, and Nebraska aren't exactly gimmes, but Iowa will be the better team on paper.

The trip to Ohio State in Week 5 is by far the toughest contest on the schedule. The Buckeyes are one of the favorites to win the Big Ten and earn a first-round bye in the playoffs. Iowa doesn't have a strong history of beating Ohio State either, with just 15 wins in 65 meetings.

The biggest toss-up ahead of the season is Wisconsin. They, like Iowa, have a strong defense and a questionable offense. If Tyler Van Dyke and Luke Fickell mesh well, Wisconsin could be a dangerous Big Ten team. With a much more difficult schedule, nine wins could get the Badgers into the playoff race based on the KFordRanking model.

While 10 wins may be the bear minumum for Iowa in 2024, finishing 11-1 with a strong showing against Ohio State is a safer minimum.

Of course, winning all 12 wouldn't be a bad idea either.

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