As we head into the 2011 season, quite a lot appears to be changing on the Big Ten landscape. Even more specifically, there are quite a few changes on the Iowa Hawkeye landscape.
The Big Ten now has 12 institutions, which necessitates that the football teams are broken up into two separate divisions. The nature of the divisions means that Iowa will have to preoccupy itself with the teams in its division, which could, conceivably, weaken old rivalries. Of course, it could also build new ones.
When November rolls around, the fortunes of Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern and Minnesota will mean a lot more to the Hawkeyes than the six teams in the other division.
Complicating this, the Big Ten has been considering changing the conference schedule from eight games to nine. Due to the logistical and economic issues that this brings up, it could have a huge influence on the annual CyHawk game.
Though the Iowa-Iowa State matchup is the biggest thing in the state next to the corn harvest, it just wouldn't make economic sense to keep it going in the face of a nine-game conference schedule. As it is, it barely makes economic sense for Iowa now.
In effect, as we move forward into a brave, new Big Ten, I felt it would be interesting to ask ourselves which are the most intense rivalries of all of Iowa's current, and in some cases, semi-regular foes. In other words, out of all of the current Big Ten teams plus Iowa State, which teams excite the most passion from Hawkeye fans?
All-time Record: 41-27-4
Last 10 Years: 6-2
Best Streak: 1953-1964. 10 straight wins
Worst Streak: 1931-1938. three ties and four losses
Biggest Win: 62-0 (1997)
Biggest Loss: 0-32 (1944)
For the Record: Interestingly enough, Iowa has a (much) better all-time winning percentage against both Iowa State and Northwestern. In fact, the Hawkeyes have only done slightly better against Indiana than they have against Michigan State.
That said, if there is one regular opponent that it is difficult to get excited about, the Hoosiers are it.
All-time Record: 33-45-3
Last 10 Years: 5-3
Best Streak: 1983-1991. Nine straight wins.
Worst Streak: 1961-1980. 20 straight losses.
Biggest Win: 56-0 (1922)
Biggest Loss: 0-40 (1945)
For the Record: Early in Kirk Ferentz' tenure, Purdue gave him as much trouble as anybody. In fact, it was Joe Tiller and the Boilers—and not Northwestern—that wrote the book on how to beat Ferentz and Norm Parker's Iowa.
Over the last five meetings, the Hawks have gone 4-1 and seem to have figured the Boilers out.
Purdue is certainly an odd choice for a "protected rival," but I can't complain about the way the Big Ten put together the divisions. Either Iowa or Wisconsin was going to get a raw deal. The Badgers got the raw deal but got the apropos protected rival. Iowa got a nice deal and Purdue.
I guess Hawk fans will have to learn how to hate the other "black and gold" team.
Also, Iowa's all-time winning percentage is .53109, making them the 59th winningest program in the country. The Big Ten team that is closest to them is Purdue at No. 56.
All-time Record: 22-18-2
Last 10 Years: 5-3
Best Streak: 1979-1983. Five straight wins.
Worst Streak: 1970-1975. Five losses and one tie.
Biggest Win: 41-0 (1980)
Biggest Loss: 7-56 (1966)
For the Record: Though Iowa is 4-1 against the Spartans in their last five meetings, three of those games have been decided by a touchdown or less.
My opinion is that the next few years will be very telling for these two programs and for the Big Ten West.
Michigan will inevitably rise back to the top. It might not happen this season, but it will happen eventually. Meanwhile, though I don't feel Nebraska will ever rise back to the level it was during the Bob Devaney/Tom Osborne years, the Huskers will always be a top 25 power.
Minnesota might rise up and Northwestern, due to the nature of the program, can be competitive, but will never be a conference force.
That leaves MSU and Iowa. In these formative years of the Western Division, these two teams have an opportunity to establish themselves as a regular threat to Michigan and Nebraska. However, there is only room for one at the top. That is to say, there are six teams. That means three are at the top and three are at the bottom.
Expect the Iowa-MSU games to take on a new level of intensity (see the 2009 game) in the near future.
All-time Record: 29-38-2
Last 10 Years: 5-1
Best Streak: 2003-2007. Five straight wins.
Worst Streak: 1942-1967. 12 straight losses.
Biggest Win: 59-0 (1985)
Biggest Loss: 0-80 (1902)
For the Record: Iowa has not played Illinois since 2008, and they will not be playing them until at least 2015. By then, it is entirely possible (and I would argue likely) that Ron Zook will no longer be the head coach of the Illini.
There would probably be more heat between these border rivals, if not for the fact that the Big Ten scheduling gods just don't seem to want these two teams to play very much.
That being as it were, Illinois is, as always, a sleeping giant, as they are the only Big Ten state school in Illinois, in which is Chicago, easily the most populous city within the Big Ten footprint.
Odds are pretty good that the right coach is going to eventually come along and shut teams like Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame—programs that have lived off Land of Lincoln recruits—out of the state. When that happens, it is likely that the sleeping giant in question will awaken, and playing the Illini—on the field and the recruiting trails—will become that much more competitive.
All-time Record: 12-11
Last 10 Years: 7-1
Best Streak: 2000-2004. Five straight wins.
Worst Streak: 1971-1975. Five straight losses.
Biggest Win: 24-3 (2010)
Biggest Loss: 21-61 (1994)
For the Record: People like to say that Ferentz fell off the Hayden Fry coaching tree, but Ferentz's style is much more reminiscent of Joe Paterno than Fry. After all, Ferentz grew up watching Joe Pa's Nittany Lions.
If one steps back and looks at Paterno's Penn State and Ferentz's Iowa, one can see they have a very similar style of play.
Yes, PSU is currently known for the spread HD, but take away the specific scheme and what do you have: a defense-oriented team that looks to develop players through years in the system (Paterno only started playing true freshmen fairly recently). The offense wants to establish the run and work off the play-action. Finally, Paterno has always emphasized strong special teams.
Does all of that sound familiar?
With that in mind, Iowa's recent success against the Nits really boils down to one thing. These are two teams focused on the same goal: execution. Whichever team executes better will win. Over the last ten years, in a very Star Wars sort of way, the student has bested the teacher.
All of that logical stuff aside, it is amazing to think that the team Iowa has fared the best against over the last decade isn't Indiana or Minnesota or Iowa State, but Penn State—the fourth winningest team in the Big Ten over that time span (after OSU, Wisconsin and Iowa).
All-time Record: 45-23-3
Last 10 Years: 3-5
Best streak: 1974-1994. 21 straight wins.
Worst streak: 1926-1932: Four straight losses.
Biggest Win: 78-6 (1910)
Biggest Loss: 6-44 (1932)
For the Record: Iowa is 1-5 against Northwestern over the last six meetings. The five losses have come by a total of 31 points. Fourteen of those 31 points came in the 2006 game. Thus, in the other four losses, the average differential has been 4.25 points.
In short, Northwestern is winning the close ones. Translation: Pat Fitzgerald is coaching the pants off of Kirk Ferentz.
Ten years ago, this one would have been down there with Indiana. However, over the last five or so years, Pat Fitzgerald has turned it into a rivalry by sheer force of will.
All-time Record: 12-40-4
Last 10 Years: 4-4
Best streak: Iowa has beaten Michigan twice in a row on three separate instances, one of which was 2009-2010. If the Hawks win next season, it will be the first time they will have won three in a row against the Wolverines.
Worst streak: 1928-1957. 12 losses and two ties.
Biggest Win: 26-0 (1984)
Biggest Loss: 0-107 (1902)
For the Record: Historically, Iowa has almost the same record against Michigan that it does against Ohio State, yet Iowa fans don't think of Michigan as the same seemingly unbeatable force as OSU.
Again, recent trends play into that considerably. Hayden Fry had exactly three wins against the Bucks. Ferentz has one. On the other hand, Ferentz has played almost .500 ball against the Wolverines (against an admittedly lousy Wolverines in the last two meetings), while Fry had four wins and a tie.
Obviously, Michigan is down, right now, and perhaps, Hawkeye fans have gotten used to the luxury of being able to go toe-to-toe with them.
Nonetheless, it is fairly safe to assume that Michigan will be back. As they share the same division with Iowa, when they do return to form, they will inhabit a bigger place on the schedule than OSU.
All-time Record: 42-59-2
Last 10 Years: 8-2
Best streak: 1918-1922 and 2001-2005. Five straight wins.
Worst streak: 1901-1916: 11 straight losses.
Biggest Win: 55-0 (2008)
Biggest Loss: 0-75 (1903)
For the Record: Minnesota used to be really good. I don't mean Wisconsin or Iowa good. I mean OSU or Florida good. Between 1934-1936, the Gophers won three straight national championships. No team has accomplished that since.
In effect, the competitiveness between the two teams—from a statistical standpoint—is a bit skewed. Between their first meeting in 1901 and Hayden Fry's first year as head coach (1979), the Gophers won .681 percent of the games. If you take out the Howard Jones and Forest Evashevski years, it is even uglier.
On the other hand, between 1980-2010, Iowa has won .645 percent of the games.
It is due to this lack of modern competition that the annual game for arguably the best traveling trophy in all of college football is not higher on this list.
Nevertheless, if new head coach Jerry Kill can turn the Gophers into regular contenders, then it won't be difficult to raise Hawk fans' feathers in the battle for Floyd.
All-time Record: 14-46-3
Last 10 Years: 1-6
Best streak: Iowa has won back-to-back games against the Bucks twice: 1922-23 and 1959-60.
Worst streak: 1963-1980. 16 straight.
Biggest Win: 33-7 (2004)
Biggest Loss: 0-49 (1975)
For the Record: The all-time record doesn't do justice to the degree to which Iowa has been dominated by OSU. If you take out the first eight years of play, Iowa loses four of its wins and one of its ties. Since 1963 (three seasons after Forest Evashevski stepped down), Iowa's record against Ohio State is 4-33-1 for a .118 winning percentage.
At that point, Ferentz's .125 winning percentage against the Bucks is right about on par, and Fry's .219 is sensational.
The fact is this is hardly a "rivarly" of any sort. To the Buckeyes, Iowa is a flyspeck on their way to the Michigan game, no more or less so than Indiana or Purdue.
However, to Iowa, a win against OSU means that the team in question has accomplished something decidedly special. This is despite the fact that only one of the last four teams that beat the Bucks actually won the Big Ten (2004).
In the end, Iowa-OSU is not the "rivarly" that Iowa-Minnesota is. However, a win over Ohio State is more uncommon, and thus arguably more valuable than a win over any other team that Iowa plays with any regularity.
All-time Record: 42-41-2
Last 10 Years: 6-4
Best streak: 1985-1996. 10 straight wins.
Worst streak:1962-1967. Five straight losses followed by a tie.
Biggest Win: 41-0 (1968)
Biggest Loss: 0-34 (1932)
For the Record: Talk about parity. These are two of the most evenly matched programs in the Big Ten, not only now, but throughout their respective histories. In fact, outside of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, there isn't and hasn't been as consistently even a rivalry in the conference.
Unfortunately, it will no longer be annual starting in 2011. As previously mentioned, it was inevitable that one of these two programs would get a raw deal with the new conferences. Wisconsin was the unlucky one, which was surprising given the back room power that UW athletic director Barry Alvarez is known to wield.
Speaking of Alvarez, when further looking at the current similarities of the program, Alvarez was the linebacker coach under Hayden Fry at the same time that Ferentz coached the O-line.
Current UW head coach Bret Bielema was a nose tackle for Fry, 1989-1992. He went on to coach under Fry and then Ferentz from 1996-2001. In case you were wondering who recruited all of those Florida athletes from early in the Ferentz years—Brad Banks, Abdul Hodge, Fred Barr, Colin Cole, C.J. Jones—it was Bielema.
As for recruiting, they both not only recruit the Midwest, but both heavily recruit the northeast, Texas and Florida. Former Badger safety Jay Valai originally committed to Iowa. Former Hawkeye running back Albert Young originally committed to Wisconsin.
All things considered, the Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry is decidedly not contentious. It is just two evenly matched teams that regularly go toe-to-toe with each other in a classic Big Ten lunch pail style.
Hopefully, the different divisions and time off from playing each other won't diminish the rivalry.
All-time Record: 9-21
Last 10 Years: Haven't played since a home-and-home series in 1999-2000. Iowa lost both games by a combined score of 84-20.
Best streak: 1918-1930 and 1942-1944. Three straight wins both times.
Worst streak: 1931-1942. Eight straight wins.
Biggest Win: 27-0 (1942)
Biggest Loss: 0-47 (1917)
For the Record: I think that Iowa fans were more excited about Nebraska joining the Big Ten than any other institution. In effect, the loss of the Wisconsin rivalry is offset by what appears to be an annual end-of-the-season, Friday-after-Thanksgiving showdown with the Huskers.
I would guess that the team Iowa fans—especially fans in the southwest part of the state—despise more than any other in college football is Nebraska. Iowa fans hate Iowa State, but outside of brief spurts, it is difficult to take the Clones seriously.
On the other hand, Nebraska is, or at least was, a powerhouse.
They were extremely strong from 1921-1941, a time during which, for the most part, Iowa wasn't very good. Then the Huskers fell off the map for about 20 years, a portion of which coincided with the Forest Evashevski era in Iowa City.
Following Evashevski's reign, Iowa stunk until Hayden Fry came along in 1979. Concurrently, Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne built a dynasty in Lincoln that lasted through the end of the 90s.
Since then, Nebraska suffered through Bill Calahan while Iowa has had a nice run with Kirk Ferentz. However, now that Bo Pelini is on board, the Huskers seem to have things back in some sort of order.
As I've previously mentioned, due to modern recruiting and the inherent disadvantages of recruiting to Nebraska (the same disadvantages as recruiting to Iowa), I don't think NU will ever reach the heights that they achieved in the 60s-90s. Nonetheless, they are and can remain a consistent top 25 program, which is basically what Iowa has been for the last 10 years.
In effect, this might be the first time in the two schools' histories where they will both be playing each other and there is parity between the two programs. In addition, they are in the same division in the same conference for the first time since the 19th century.
Personally, I think this rivalry will get nasty in the near future.
All-time Record: 37-16
Last 10 Years: 6-4
Best streak: 1983-1997. 15 straight.
Worst streak: 1998-2002. Five straight.
Biggest Win: 63-20 (1997)
Biggest Loss: 0-31 (1978)
For the Record: While Ferentz's record (6-6) against the Clones isn't as good as Fry's (16-4), it is notable that Ferentz is 4-1 against ISU in their last five meetings. In the last three meetings, his Hawks have won by a combined score of 87-15.
Has Ferentz gotten over the Iowa State hump? Has Jamie Pollard's irrational firing of Dan McCarney led the Iowa State program to a new dark period? Needless to say, only the future can answer these questions. Though I personally like Paul Rhodes as the ISU coach, it is possible that Gene Chizik's disastrous two years in Ames will have far-reaching ramifications well into Rhodes' tenure.
That being as it were, it is difficult to say if this series would be as highly considered if not for the competitive edge Dan McCarney brought to it.
After all, for the majority of Hayden Fry's career, it was assumed that Iowa State would take a yearly beating at the hands of the Hawks, and that would be that. It was fun, and it was still intense, but there was little worry about losing. This, of course, diminished the actual series.
Furthermore, if the Big Ten goes through with its plan to move to a nine-game conference slate, it is possible that the Cy-Hawk game could have the plug pulled.
Of course, from an Iowa perspective, this would be a shame, but it would crush the Clones. As it is, ISU basically lives for two games a year: Iowa and Nebraska. Nebraska is now in the Big Ten and will no longer play the Cyclones with any regularity. If the Iowa game gets pulled, the only real excitement will be if Oklahoma or Texas comes to town.
In the end, this is still the game that Iowa fans take most seriously, but its future could be in serious doubt.