Colin Cowherd is at it again:
Iowa Football: The gift that keeps on giving pic.twitter.com/PW8YMBdEy0— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) April 12, 2017
First, he’s wrong to say Iowa has never scheduled at top 20 program, whatever that means. When Iowa scheduled Pittsburgh for four games in eight years (2008, 2011, 2014, and 2015), they had no clue what Pittsburgh would become. But, they are a team who sits on the fringes of the AP Top 25. They had just completed a solid run which saw them go to 5 straight bowls (2000-2004) and contend in the Big East. Their trajectory, though it did not reach the heights of Iowa’s, resembled the Hawkeyes in the mid-2000s.
Second, thank you for comparing Iowa against: Alabama, Michigan, and Texas. That’s fantastic and, frankly, undeserved when looking at each historically. And the comparison against Nebraska and Wisconsin isn’t unfair. Marc Morehouse has regularly referred to the iceberg these teams, plus Michigan State, have to fight on as the second tier of the Big Ten. That’s well and good.
Yet, it fails to consider a couple different factors. Comparing 2017 Iowa to 2017 Wisconsin is not valid. Iowa in 2017 is not Wisconsin in 2017. Wisconsin is clearly winning the battle for the aforementioned iceberg. As the king of it, they have some cache and can schedule a pseudo home-and-home with LSU and neutral site Alabama game. But, here is who Wisconsin played in the seasons they became the WISCONSIN we now know:
- 2010: at UNLV, San Jose State, Arizona State, Austin Peay
- 2011: UNLV, Oregon State, Northern Illinois (Soldier Field), South Dakota
- 2012: UNI, at Oregon State, Utah State, UTEP
Quite the murderers’ row. I bet they found those teams through 1-800-CREAMPUFF.
The other area where Iowa differentiates from all of these teams is simple: they have a Power 5, out-of-conference rival they play every year. Wisconsin, Alabama, Nebraska, Michigan, and Ohio State (to name a few) have the luxury of scheduling their 3 or 4 (looking at you SEC) non-cons as they please. As recently as 2015, LSU’s only Power 5 non-conference game was Syracuse. In that same season, Clemson, a team who faced similar constraints as Iowa (nine conference-scheduled games, Notre Dame did not count in their conference record), played world-beating Wofford and Appalachian State plus their season finale against South Carolina.
Why not mention this?
Because he knows he can dial 1-800-PAGEVIEWS and rile up the Hawkeye fans who will share his video (including myself earlier in this article, God help me) and get the outrage machine churning five months out from the football season. Again, fine, it’s your show, not mine.
My last point is to add it is not necessarily Iowa’s fault they have been “bounced” from bowl games because of their “fake ID” procured via early season cupcakes. Because of the B1G’s bowl tie ins, Iowa hasn’t been favored in any five of their bowl game losses.
2011: tied for 6th against #19 Oklahoma who tied for 3rd in the Big 12. Oklahoma was a 15 point favorite.
2013: tied for 4th against #14 LSU who tied for 5th in the SEC. LSU was a 7.5 point favorite.
2014: tied for 6th against Tennessee who tied for 9th in the SEC. Tennessee was still a 3.5 point favorite.
2015: conference runner-up against Pac-12 conference champion Stanford. Stanford was a 6.5 point favorite.
2016: tied for 5th against SEC runner-up Florida. Florida was a 1 point favorite.
None of this is to rid Kirk Ferentz of the bowl game results and general lack of enthusiasm the teams have displayed since their bowl drought began in that 2011 matchup against OU - that’s another discussion for a very different day. This is done to better understand the context from which Iowa is faced with going into bowl games. Frankly, this context is distinctly not determined by Ferentz’s annual phone call with 1-800-CREAMPUFF. It is determined by the Big Ten’s current landscape, which now grants Iowa annual matchups against Purdue and Illinois.
The only way calls of “We want Bama” will be heard in Tuscaloosa from Iowa City will be if Iowa follows the template Wisconsin did in the early 2010s. The Badgers faked it until they made it, and are scheduling games with teams on or near their level. At this point, I would be surprised if any top tier team actually wanted to play Iowa. The Hawkeyes currently represent to them, how we view the Iowa State game: a no-win proposition.
As the early returns have demonstrated, the conference season is almost all that matters come Playoff time. Any team’s performance in conference will likely dictate whether they make it. Unless you lose to a team you have no business losing to. Conference play is the path. As such, the non-conference season is turning more and more irrelevant. This makes it easier for big teams to face each other. Iowa just is not there yet. For Iowa to start scheduling top-tier opponents, they must turn from a no-win proposition to a win-win proposition in the eyes of upper echelon programs. The way you do that is by winning at a high level, in conference, with regularity.