IOWA CITY – From Kinnick Stadium to Camp Randall to the Big Horseshoe in Columbus, results from Saturday's games involving the four teams that began the day tied atop the Big Ten's West Division cleared up a lot in the race to Indianapolis.

  • Wisconsin, a 35-7 winner over Northwestern, and Iowa, which topped the Gophers 27-22, now share the West lead with 5-2 records. The Badgers are in the driver's seat because of their earlier wins over the Hawkeyes and Purdue (4-3). If Wisconsin beats Nebraska next week in Madison and the Gophers on Nov. 27 in Minneapolis, it will represent the West in the Big Ten championship game.
  • Iowa helped itself by beating the Gophers but needs to finish a game ahead of the Badgers because the Hawkeyes would lose a tiebreaker. The Hawkeyes' route to that would be to win out at home against Illinois next week and at Nebraska on Nov. 26, then have Wisconsin stumble.
  • Purdue dropped to 4-3 in the Big Ten with its 59-31 loss at Ohio State. The Boilermakers, who finish with Northwestern and Indiana, own the tiebreaker over Iowa but would lose a tiebreaker with Wisconsin.
  • That leaves the Gophers (4-3), who have the tiebreaker over Purdue. To make it to Indy, Minnesota needs to win at Indiana next week and at home against Wisconsin, plus have Iowa drop both its remaining games.

"We've got two games left, and we don't control our own destiny anymore,'' Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. "However, if this [Iowa] team stumbles and [we] win out, we've got a chance. That's what's going to be our focus.''

Running game improves

The Gophers running game, limited to 89 yards last week in the 14-6 loss to Illinois, rebounded with 189 yards on 50 attempts on Saturday. Redshirt freshman Ky Thomas led Minnesota with 126 yards on 29 carries, and true freshman Mar'Keise Irving carried 17 times for 80 yards.

Minnesota used a lot of toss sweeps, trying to stretch Iowa horizontally.

"That front seven was really tough,'' Fleck said of the Hawkeyes. "We felt, especially with [Irving], we need to get him on the edge. We wanted to get them in space the best we possibly could and really spread the field out more. And Ky did a really good job between the tackles. Those two freshmen are really good players.''

Fleck credited the offensive line for a bounce-back game.

"Coming off last week's performance where I felt that was the first time all year we got out-physicalled, I thought the response was tremendous,'' he said.

Big game for Kieft

Gophers tight end Ko Kieft, a sixth-year senior from Sioux Center, Iowa, didn't get the coveted win in the Floyd of Rosedale bronze hog trophy series, but he was a factor Saturday. Known for his blocking, Kieft caught two passes for 48 yards, including a 37-yard TD reception on fourth-and-2 in the second quarter. Cole Kramer, operating out of the wildcat formation, found a wide-open Kieft over the middle. He also was targeted in the end zone in the first quarter, but a late throw didn't connect.

"Ko did a really good job of doing his responsibility and catching the ball,'' Fleck said. "It was a tremendous throw. … Ko being from Iowa, that was a big play for him. I'm sure he'll remember that all his life, but we would have loved to get him the pig.''