No team in college football has a more bountiful table set before it than Iowa, but if you pull up a chair you run the risk of biting off more than you can chew.

Until further notice, the three biggest games in the Big Ten Conference race will be hosted by the 13th-ranked Hawkeyes and played at Kinnick Stadium over the next six weeks.

The run starts Saturday when the University of Wisconsin brings its No. 10 ranking to Iowa City. The Badgers (6-1 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) just knocked off then-No. 1 Ohio State.

The following week brings  No. 8 Michigan State to Iowa City. The Spartans (7-0, 3-0) have toppled two ranked opponents, including UW.

After consecutive road games at Indiana and Northwestern, the Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-0) return home to face No. 11 Ohio State (6-1, 2-1).

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz entertained the idea that his players might look ahead and let their minds wander.

"What's at the end of the road is so far down the road,'' he said Tuesday during the weekly Big Ten coaches teleconference.

Many pieces of circumstantial evidence are available to help Ferentz keep his players focused on one day at a time.

Two weeks ago, South Carolina knocked off then-No. 1 Alabama only to follow it up with a loss to Kentucky.

Last week, Ohio State ascended to the peak of the polls only to lose for the third straight time when ranked No. 1.

"I think we've seen the last two weeks (that) it's a long year,'' Ferentz said, "(that) there's a lot of good teams in the country and ... a good lesson (can) be learned there.''

Closer to home, Ferentz could alert his players to the reality that they've shown one face at home (4-0, 17 points allowed) and another on the road (1-1, 62 points allowed) this season.

He could tell them that while the Hawkeyes have won six straight over Michigan State going back to 1994, they've split the past six meetings with UW at Kinnick and have lost 11 of the past 12 games against Ohio State going back to 1992.

To take it another step further, the Hawkeyes have dropped four of their past five meetings with Northwestern.

In other words, don't get ahead of yourselves.

"I think the Big Ten is a lot like the NFL,'' Ferentz said. "Every week there's absolutely no way to predict who's going to do what.''

Iowa sits in the middle of the Big Ten race mainly because it tops the Big Ten in rushing defense (83.8 yards allowed per game) as well as scoring defense (13.2 points allowed per game). The unit ranks second in the league in total defense (288.8 yards allowed per game) while allowing the fewest touchdowns (eight).

The Hawkeyes have leaned heavily on the better aerial tandems — quarterback Ricky Stanzi to wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos — as well as the sturdiness of tailback Adam Robinson.

In the months leading up to preseason training camp, the focus of Iowa media and fans was how Ferentz would be able to accommodate three tailbacks: Robinson, Jewel Hampton and Brandon Wegher.

Then, Hampton suffered a season-ending knee surgery and Wegher abruptly left the team, though he remains enrolled in school. Now all those associated with the Hawkeyes hold their collective breaths regarding the health and workload of Robinson (129 carries, 623 rushing yards).

"Our media really put the kiss of death on us,'' Ferentz joked. "Everyone was so concerned about what we were going to do with three tailbacks. That's all people here talked about in the offseason. I knew that was going to blow up and it did.

"Now it's shifted over the last two weeks. What do we do with one tailback? How are we going to make it with one?''

The answer to those questions is the same Ferentz would give to those looking down the road at Iowa's engaging home schedule.

One day at a time, people.

Wisconsin Iowa

When: Oct. 23, 2:30 p.m.

Where: Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa

TV: ABC (WKOW/Ch. 27) regionally; ESPN elsewhere Click here for coverage map

Radio: WIBA-FM/101.5 and AM/1310 with Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas

Wisconsin: Stats | Roster | Schedule

Iowa: Stats | Roster | Schedule

Wisconsin Purdue

When: Saturday, 11 a.m.

Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: WIBA-FM/101.5 and AM/1310 with Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas

Wisconsin: Stats | Roster | Schedule

Purdue: Stats | Roster | Schedule

Wisconsin Michigan

When: Nov. 20, 11 a.m.

Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.


Radio: WIBA-FM/101.5 and AM/1310 with Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas

Wisconsin: Stats | Roster | Schedule

Michigan: Stats | Roster | Schedule

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