clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:


Iowa's strength of schedule is terrible. Except it isn't.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Goodness. There are people who are mad. Mad on the internet. Mad on TV. Mad about Iowa's schedule. It's been a hot topic all week. The first complaint came on Saturday when the crew of College Gameday looked at Iowa's remaining schedule and Kirk Herbstreit labeled it as "almost embarrassing."  Following the game, ESPN looked at it again and I believe the word "easy" was used in excess of 69 times. Nice. When I woke up on Sunday this was actually the first Tweet I saw:

MORE LIKE PACIFIC HOT TAEKS, AM I RIGHT? This Tweet is misleading for a couple reasons that we'll talk about later but for now let's break down what the arguments are here (Also, I'm pretty sure this is a screenshot from Google and they don't even include rankings on their schedules). First off, what Iowa has done up to this point is worth praise and their SOS should be defended. Second, what Iowa has to do to close out the season is less than impressive and can be scrutinized.

Jeff Sagarin, who actually explains his strength of schedule formula, ranks Iowa's SOS at 36th in the nation. That's higher than Baylor (105), TCU (52), Ohio State (68), Clemson (40), Florida State (66), Oklahoma State (62), Ole Miss (67), Michigan State (57), Georgia (46), Wisconsin (87), Mississippi State (56) and Boise State (59).  Of the nine remaining undefeated Power 5 teams (excluding Iowa), Iowa has a tougher SOS than seven of them.

So if your argument is IOWA AIN'T PLAYED NOBODY well, you're wrong and that's a stupid argument. Here's a look back at Iowa's opponents.

Illinois State: 5-1 (3-0)

Opponent W-L Record: 12-15

The Redbirds are currently first in the MVC and haven't beaten a team with a winning record. Their schedule gets more difficult in the upcoming weeks, but they're still an FCS team (albeit a good one), and we shouldn't look too much into their numbers to boost Iowa's SOS argument.

Iowa State:  2-4 (1-2)

Opponent W-L Record: 20-12

The habitual dent in Iowa's SOS (you see me trollin), who would win 7-8 games in the Big 10 but apparently can't beat Toledo, has beaten Kansas, arguably the worst P5 team in the nation and lost to TCU, one of the best.

Pittsburgh: 5-1 (3-0)

Opponent W-L Record: 13-20

The jewel of Iowa's non-conference SOS has beaten up on the lesser teams of the ACC in Virgina Tech, Virgina and Georgia Tech. Things don't get tough for them until November when they play Notre Dame, Duke, Louisville, and Miami.

North Texas: 0-6 (0-3)

Opponent W-L Record: 19-13

Ok fine. I got nothing for North Texas. They're awful and lost to an FCS team 66-7.

Wisconsin: 5-2 (2-1)

Opponent W-L Record: 14-24

You wanna talk about ain't played nobody, Wisconsin has only played two teams with winning records and lost both games.

Illinois: 4-2 (1-1)

Opponent W-L Record: 18-15

Illinois isn't much better than Wisconsin on the schedule front. They've played one FBS team with a winning record, North Carolina, and got smoked 48-14. However, none of the remaining teams are bad, per se, and all have records of 3-4.

Northwestern: 5-2 (1-2)

Opponent W-L Record: 24-15

Ah, the anomaly. Northwestern boasts wins over #11 Stanford, who leads the Pac-12 North at 4-0 and #21 Duke, who is undefeated in the ACC Coastal at 2-0. Their only losses are to ranked Michigan and Iowa.

Overall Opponent Record: 26-18 (.590)
Overall P5 Opponent Record: 21-11 (.656)
Opponent's Overall Record: 120-114 (.513)
P5 Opponent's Overall Record: 89-86 (.509)

Compare this to Florida State, whose opponents are 16-21 (.433), TCU, whose opponents are 19-28 (.404), Baylor, whose opponents are 15-22 (.405) or Clemson, whose opponents are 21-19 (.525). Iowa has played a better schedule than the majority of undefeated teams in the nation up to this point and has also done this:

Iowa has already beaten two ranked teams. On the road. One of those teams beat two P5 division leaders. So to criticize Iowa's schedule as a whole by disregarding what they've already done is simply disingenuous.

Now, if you're criticizing Iowa's schedule because of the back end, like Herbie and plenty of others are...yeah, that's understandable. The remaining teams on Iowa's schedule have a combined record of 14-17 (.452). Maryland lost to Bowling Green, Indiana blew a massive lead and lost to Rutgers, Minnesota starts a Mitch Leidner, Purdue will probably be coachless soon and Nebraska's head coach is Old Kirk. The teams with the best chances of making a bowl are Indiana (!) and Nebraska (!).  Iowa will likely be favored in all five remaining games.

Fortunately, the season has yet to be played and while the back-end of Iowa's schedule is less than impressive, their body of work as a whole could garner some praise. Hypothetically:

  • Pittsburgh could win 9-10 games and make the ACC Championship.
  • Wisconsin could win out and finish 10-2.
  • Northwestern only has to win another game for bowl eligibility and while it's fashionable to criticize them for the wheels coming off, they can at least beat Purdue (uh...I think).
  • Illinois has to travel to Purdue but gets Northwestern at home to close out the season. Win those and they go bowling.
  • If Indiana can win at Maryland and Purdue they'll go bowling.
  • Nebraska gets Northwestern at home and Purdue and Rutgers on the road. Win and they're bowling.

If all of those things happen and Iowa wins the remaining games on their schedule they'll have beaten a P5 division winner, a 10 win team, and six bowl eligible teams.


IF is the key word here. Because there are five games left on the schedule and college football is an unbelievable place. So yeah, Iowa has played somebody. In fact, they've played and beat more somebodies than many of the teams ranked ahead of them in the polls.  Admittedly, the back end of their schedule is weak and their SOS will definitely take a hit in November but if they go undefeated, does it really matter?

Just win baby.