Iowa Football: Breaking Down the Most Important Rivals in Restructured Big Ten

Nick JuskewyczContributor IIIFebruary 19, 2013

Iowa Football: Breaking Down the Most Important Rivals in Restructured Big Ten

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    With change all over the place for the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Big Ten Conference, rivalries will take interesting turns in the near future.

    Massive assistant coaching changes took place in the offseason for Iowa, including its latest additions of Jim Reid and Bobby Kennedy (via

    The Big Ten will be making some modifications as well starting in 2014.

    First, the conference will welcome in its newest members, Maryland and Rutgers.

    Second, according to Frank Schwab of Yahoo! Sports, the Big Ten will eliminate FCS games.

    Third, Tom Dienhart of BTN has reported that the Big Ten will begin playing nine or 10 conference games.

    Also, while this isn't official, Adam Rittenberg of points out that time zones could force a change in division realignments for the Big Ten.

    For the sake of rivalries and geographical sense, let's pretend that this becomes a reality for this article.

    While it hasn't been determined who exactly would be in the West and East, I'm going to guess that this will be the outcome:

    West: Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue

    East: Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers

    Essentially, Purdue and Indiana are the wildcards but with West Lafayette slightly farther west than Bloomington, let's slide Purdue to the West division.

    With that, here are the biggest rivals for the Hawkeyes heading into the modified Big Ten.

13. Maryland

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    Iowa and Maryland have never met, so clearly this game ranks at the bottom. 

    In case Hawkeye fans want to make the road trip across the country to College Park and the nation's capital, it's only a 906-mile journey.

    Don't worry Nebraska fans, you get the luxury of 1,204 miles. 

    The Inner and Outer divisions would have made perfect sense, right? 

12. Rutgers

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    The Hawkeyes and Scarlet Knights haven't squared off either.

    The only reason Rutgers gets a slight nod on Maryland for being a more important rival is the hiring of Darrell Wilson. Wilson, who spent 11 years with the Hawkeyes as a defensive and special teams coach, was recently hired by Rutgers according to Marc Morehouse of The Gazette.

    Obviously, this isn't much of anything to call it a rivalry yet, but it at least gives a tiny spark to edge out Maryland for the 12th position.

11. Indiana

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    Now for the more familiar opponents to the Hawkeyes.

    Iowa leads Indiana 42-28-4 in the all-time series and the Hawkeyes have won seven of the last 10.

    With the Hoosiers only posting one winning record since 1995, there hasn't been any significant hype around this match-up in a long time. 

    Despite the Hoosiers defeating the Hawkeyes in Bloomington last season, even though it was in poor weather, Indiana had its worst 2012 home attendance in that contest at 40,646 people.

    Geographically, the teams aren't very close and there is no reason to suggest this rivalry will heat up in the near future if Indiana is in the East.

10. Illinois

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    Does Iowa even feel like Illinois is in the Big Ten anymore? 

    The two teams have only met six times in the last 12 seasons (and won't meet in 2013) with the last contest coming in 2008. 

    What's worse is that even though the series has been somewhat even (Illinois leads 38-29-2 with Iowa winning eight of the last 11), the outcomes of the games haven't been close. 

    Excluding the last two matches, the last time the Hawkeyes and Fighting Illini played a one-score game was in 1991.

    The one aspect that will help this series get back on track is both Iowa and Illinois being placed in the West. 

9. Purdue

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    It took a long time, but the Hawkeyes and Boilermakers finally have a rivalry in the making. 

    The series started in 1910 with Iowa winning six of the first seven. Then Purdue ran off 39 of the next 52 that included a 20-game winning streak. The Hawkeyes battled back with nine straight wins after the Boilermakers' impressive run.

    Since then, the two programs are 8-6-1 and competitive balance exists.

    Furthermore, the games have had an impact on each other's seasons.

    Just last year, in a season with both teams struggling and fighting to make a bowl game, Purdue kicked a field goal as time expired for its first win in Kinnick Stadium since 1992.

    When the Hawkeyes went 8-0 in the Big Ten in 2002, Purdue arguably gave Iowa its best run in the conference.

    Purdue's Brandon Kirsch dominated most of the game through the air, but the Hawkeyes' four touchdowns came in exhilarating fashion. A blocked field goal, blocked punt, 95-yard catch and run by Dallas Clark and a 4th-and-goal reception by Clark resulted in giving the Hawkeyes a 31-28 victory.

    If Purdue is in the West, this could develop into one of Iowa's better rivals going forward.

8. Penn State

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    If this was two seasons ago, Penn State would be a lot higher on this list.

    Kirk Ferentz had the upper hand on Joe Paterno with an 8-3 record head-to-head.

    That stretch included games like the one in 2008, where Iowa gave Penn State its only loss in the regular season on a last second field goal. This prevented Penn State from making the national championship.

    Times change though, and this is a matchup that will lose its spark.

    Bill O'Brien is leading the charge for the Nittany Lions, and the program is dealing with NCAA sanctions in the upcoming years.

    The Hawkeyes are facing multiple assistant coaching changes and trying to rebound from a 4-8 season. Additionally, Iowa hasn't scored as many recruits from western Pennsylvania recently, such as Bob Sanders or Ed Hinkel.

    With Penn State in the East and both programs facing different types of adversity, this game is likely to suffer a setback. 

7. Ohio State

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    The Buckeyes have owned the Hawkeyes in the all-time series 46-14-3, but Ohio State is really one of those teams Iowa just can't stand.

    Similar to Illinois, these two teams have only faced off six times in the last 12 seasons with Ohio State winning five of them.

    That fact alone though doesn't show how frustrating it's been for Iowa the last decade.

    When the Buckeyes won the national title in the 2002 season, the Hawkeyes went 11-1 and 8-0 in the Big Ten, but didn't get the chance to face Ohio State. Had Iowa not blown a second-half lead to in-state rival Iowa State, the BCS would have had too much fun deciding who was No. 2 in the nation.

    In 2006, No. 1 Ohio State came into Kinnick Stadium for a Saturday night game with College GameDay, only making its second appearance ever to Iowa City. Despite an experienced Iowa team with high aspirations, the Buckeyes whipped the Hawkeyes 38-17.

    After another two years off, the two teams met in Columbus in 2009 with the winner earning a berth to the Rose Bowl.

    As a freshman, James Vandenberg was making his first start at quarterback, taking over for the injured Ricky Stanzi. Even though the Buckeyes were 17-point favorites, Vandenberg led Iowa to overtime, but came up short.

    It was another heartbreak for Iowa in 2010. In terms of expectations, the Hawkeyes were salvaging their disappointing season and had the lead against the Buckeyes for a majority of the fourth quarter.

    However, Iowa's defense broke down late and gave up a touchdown in the final two minutes to give Ohio State the win.

    The two teams are set for a battle in Columbus in 2013, but these are two squads that ended 2012 on opposite sides of the standings.

    With Ohio State in the East and coming off of an undefeated season, it's tough to see this matchup being competitive in the near future.

6. Northwestern

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    Similar to Ferentz having Paterno's number, it's the exact opposite when it comes to Pat Fitzgerald. 

    Iowa has dominated the series 47-24-3, but Northwestern has won six of the last eight with Fitzgerald responsible for five of the wins.

    Many of the games have been close too.

    In 2005, the Wildcats scored 14 unanswered points in the final 2:10 to beat the Hawkeyes 28-27.

    Ricky Stanzi led the Hawkeyes into the red zone in the final minutes of the 2008 contest, but couldn't cash in on a touchdown and Iowa lost 22-17. 

    The 2009 Iowa team was off to a school-best 9-0 start, but after Stanzi went down in the early part of the second quarter, the Hawkeyes didn't score another point. The Wildcats ended Iowa's dream season and national title hopes.

    With Northwestern in the West and Fitzgerald building a consistent winning program, this will turn into a competitive series.

    The short travel helps the rivalry as well. Along with several Hawkeye fans residing in the Chicago area, there's always a lot of black and gold in Ryan Field when the two teams tangle. 

    After all the trouble the Wildcats have given the Hawkeyes, Northwestern is the thorn in Iowa's side.

5. Michigan

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    Michigan owns the series all time 41-13-4, but Iowa has won three of the last four. 

    It doesn't seem to matter who is favored. For whatever reason, in recent matchups, these two teams play right down to the wire.

    Since 1994, with the exception of two blowouts, each game has been decided by two scores or less. Iowa crushed Michigan 34-9 in 2002. The Wolverines clobbered the Hawkeyes 42-17 in 2012.

    This game might not be considered a typical Big Ten rivalry game, but it's one that has picked up with the help of Kirk Ferentz. 

    Plus, Hawkeye fans still remember arguably the greatest game in Iowa history back in 1985. No. 1 Iowa versus No. 2 Michigan in Kinnick Stadium, down 10-9 late in the fourth quarter, Chuck Long led the Hawkeyes down the field to set up the game-winning field goal. Iowa converted, won 12-10 and went on to the Rose Bowl. 

    The history and volume of the Michigan program speaks for itself. With the success Iowa has had against them recently, this is a game the Hawkeyes have circled in their minds.

4. Michigan State

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    Talk about raising the blood pressure.

    In the last six meetings, the Hawkeyes and Spartans have had two double-overtime heaters, a contest that ended with a game-winning touchdown pass and a game-clinching fourth-down stop.

    The Spartans also remember their only regular-season loss in 2010, when the Hawkeyes pummeled them 37-6.

    Whether the close games come from having tough defenses or sticking with running the football first, this rivalry has been developed great excitement on a consistent basis.

    Unfortunately, these two teams will be in separate divisions, and the last-minute thrilling plays may not happen as often. Either way, when they do meet, the Spartans remain as one of the biggest opponents on the Hawkeyes' schedule.

3. Minnesota

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    Had I made this list after Iowa embarrassed Minnesota 55-0 in Minneapolis at the end of the 2008 season, I would have swapped Minnesota with Penn State.

    Amazing how rivalries can change this quickly in college football.

    The Hawkeyes dominated this series from 2001-09, having won eight of nine. The Golden Gophers were the little brother, and they couldn't get over the hump of being just a bowl-eligible team at the end of November.

    While that still might be the case, Iowa has taken a step back and this should be more of an even-playing field. Since the Gophers have moved to TCF Bank Stadium, the Hawkeyes are 0-2 in Minneapolis and seem to find a way to lose.  

    The Hawkeyes stole the Floyd of Rosedale back last year and will try to protect it in Minneapolis in 2013. 

    Even though Iowa has had an advantage on Minnesota for most of the 2000s, you don't have to remind historian Hawkeye fans for why the Gophers have a 61-43-2 lead in the all-time series.

    Minnesota won 28 of the first 37 meetings with Iowa failing to score a single point in 15 of the contests.

    Then there's the 1960 season. Iowa was ranked No. 1 in the nation for most of the year, until its loss against No. 3 Minnesota. The Hawkeyes and Gophers shared the Big Ten crown, but it was Minnesota who was selected to represent the conference that year.

    With Iowa's last Rose Bowl victory coming on January 1 in 1959, the Hawkeyes still remember that season. 

2. Nebraska

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    Iowa and Nebraska may have just started facing off as in-conference rivals, but this is a rivalry that doesn't need time to develop.

    The two teams in the farmlands west of the Mississippi River. The only two teams in the Big Ten that reside in states without an NFL team (pending how you perceive Rutgers and New Jersey).

    Quite frankly, if there wasn't a desire to schedule smaller schools in the nonconference, these two programs should have been playing annually like they did in the early 1900s.

    Nebraska is 2-0 against Iowa since joining the Big Ten, and leads the series 28-12-3. 

    Providing there aren't anymore significant changes to the Big Ten anytime soon, this series will become a special Thanksgiving tradition for both parties. 

1. Wisconsin

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    This rivalry has just about everything you need. 

    History? The two teams have squared off 86 times.

    Competitive Balance? It's all locked up at 42-42-2.

    Trophy? The Heartland Trophy.

    Distance? 178 miles (Wisconsin is the closest Big Ten school to Iowa City).

    Recent winning success? The two teams have combined for 13 January bowl games, five BCS games and five Big Ten championships in the last 11 years.

    The best part? Both the football teams and the schools have many similarities.

    They both pride themselves on the offensive line and running the football, Iowa City and Madison are great college towns and both schools have some of the best tailgating experiences in college football. 

    Interestingly enough, despite Wisconsin's three straight Rose Bowl appearances, it's Iowa who has had the upper hand recently. The Hawkeyes have won six of the last nine, but the Badgers won the last meeting 31-30 in 2010.

    It's a shame this rivalry took a two-year absence in 2011 and 2012, but the two schools are scheduled to meet in Iowa City for 2013.

    Also, as if the teams needed another thing in common, the Hawkeyes aren't the only team in the middle of coaching changes. Bret Bielema has departed for Arkansas and the Gary Andersen era is underway. 

    With Wisconsin moving to the West, hopefully this rivalry won't be interrupted again.