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Free-For-All-Friday: Does Anyone Actually Enjoy the Non-Conference Schedule?

If you like watching football against Miami of Ohio, Middle Tennessee, UNI and North Texas, we have the football program for you!

Northwestern v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Hello Jerry: Oh my god… that’s not the beginning of JPinIC’s music...IS THAT?

IT IS. IT’S GospelOfMax. What is he doing here?

GospelOfMax: Is this my cue to say “Hello, Jerry?”

Hello… Jerry. Since JPinIC isn't here to participate in a long winded, terrible argument with you, I'm here to fill in. Hopefully I'm slightly shorter winded and at least half as compelling as your usual counterpart. What do we have on the docket today?

Hello Jerry: Man, shots fired at JP. The guy just had another baby… let’s leave him out of this. He’s already going through enough.

Anyways, there are two HOT topics that I could spend our usual 3,000-4,000 words on, so I’ll let you pick… since you know, you are a guest in this house:

  1. Fate of the Furious is FINALLY out. I’ve been salivating over the potential of this movie ever since that Super Bowl commercial came out. The Fast franchise is probably the single greatest franchise I’ve ever watched in my entire life and that’s coming from a huge Rocky guy. I’m so in on Fast that I haven’t missed an opening night since the first film came out and that includes the one in Tokyo that everyone hates. Now I’m not what you call a “carhead” or anything even close, but when things go VAROOM and you get the addition of The Rock, Vin Diesel and any assortment of submarines, planes, cars, parachutes, beautiful women, rappers playing nerds, family, loyalty, backyard BBQ’s and an ice cold Corona you can just take the money right out of my pocket. I’ve got thoughts. I’ve got rankings. I’ve got takes. I’ve got it all if you dare take the bait.
  2. There was a spring practice a week ago… so it seems like a perfect time to overreact even more about football and all that comes with it. I’m talking nomenclature, tight ends, potential wide receiver issues, Akrum Wadley, the defensive tackle position, the defensive secondary unit, what WWE wrestling duo Brian Ferentz and KOK can be for the NEW Iowa Hawkeyes offense, what games you’d want to be at night or even some Middle Tennessee talk.

Consider this a choose your own adventure novel.

Choose wisely, friend.

GospelOfMax: People didn't like Tokyo Drift? It's by far the best movie out of the whole franchise and it's not even close. Another hot take? Corona is bad. Give me Modelo or Tecate. I'll pass on the Coronas.

I'd love to sit here and talk about the Fast franchise (and maybe we should do this as a fan post someday soon), but we should give the people what they're here for - Iowa takes.

I've got an idea, and we can incorporate talking about night games. Let's talk about scheduling in general. I want to complain about why it's absolutely ridiculous that Iowa has scheduled Middle Tennessee State in football. Was the non-conference schedule too strong for their liking in 2019?

Hello Jerry: Hot Take Alert: 2 Fast 2 Furious is the best movie of the franchise if only because it gave us Tyrese, Ludacris and Eva Mendes as Monica Fuentes (who played a key role in Letty being ALIVE!). Plus, the end of the movie catapulted (literally) the Fast Franchise into borderline superhero mode with their little car-to-boat jump.

Anyways, I digress. Back to your designated topic: the schedule.

That Middle Tennessee addition in 2019 is… interesting. I suppose there’s nothing like adding a perennial Conference USA power house (lolz) to the schedule who ALSO hasn’t won a bowl game in a long, long time to a docket that already features Miami of Ohio and Iowa State. Oh, and the best part is, we’re paying them a meager $1.55 million to do so.

Since I’ve started paying attention to Iowa in 2005 (when I knew that I wanted to pay $40K a year to basically read books and talk about them in the EPB), I’ve never really enjoyed the non-conference scheduling tactics by the Gary Barta and Kirk Ferentz.

And that was back then.

NOW? Scheduling is way more important than it ever has been. To get any sort of credit from the national media and the selection committee, your schedule has to be rock solid from top to bottom. You’re basically allotted one cupcake game now (and that’s only because Alabama still has one on the schedule. If they ever drop the Mercer’s of the world, look out). Having two or even three of them? It’s like Iowa is hanging their own “Don’t take us seriously unless we’re perfect” sign on their back.

And even if that happens again, nobody is going to take them seriously anyways.

These non-conference games (Wyoming, North Texas, Northern Iowa, Northern Illinois, Miami of Ohio, Middle Tennessee and Iowa State), are no win situations for Iowa. If they lose any of them, they basically write their ticket to the Outback Bowl (or worse). If they win, they were supposed to win and that’s that. There is little to no credit given. We saw it with North Dakota State this past year… and the Beth Mowins Bizon are actually GOOD.

I know what the Iowa State game means to the state as a whole. I loved “Hate Week” when I was on campus. I went to Iowa State for one of the games and had a great time with the Cyclone fans, but it feels like more and more that the Athletic Department is handicapped by that game HAVING to be on their schedule every year, right?

Serious question: When’s the last time that game truly mattered or held any weight for the Hawkeyes?


It just seems like we’ve entered a world where Iowa State v. Iowa only matters to the same people that actually stop into the World’s Largest Truck Stop that aren’t actual truck drivers.

I know this is a developmental program and I know that Kirk Ferentz scoffs at the non-conference schedule. I also realize that we’re not Ohio State. But something's gotta give eventually, no? If Iowa is going to sign up with Iowa State (who has been a consistent bottom feeding Power 5 team) beyond the 2021 season, that third game has got to start having a little more pizazz.

It NEEDS to have a little more pizazz.

Or am I just a meatball that knows practically nothing (maybe don’t answer that)?

GospelOfMax: I know that we're a couple of guys from Illinois, so what we say about Iowa State has a lot less meaning than say, someone who was born into the rivalry. I know there are a lot of Iowa fans who are over the yearly games, but can you imagine the collective outrage from both fan bases if they didn't play it every year? I'm positive that there are plenty of Hawkeye fans who would be livid if the Cyclones were taken off the schedule that it just isn't worth it for the athletic department. That's fine. I get it. It's a travesty that it's a lose-lose situation for Iowa, but it's not going anywhere…

JPinIC: Speaking of not going anywhere… What, you guys thought something as minor as a new human being could shut me up for a whole week? Let's be serious. A newborn in the PinIC household simply means I have less actual work to do and more time to rant at 3am after I change the 17th diaper of the day. Especially when I see my phone blowing up about scheduling fun. So let me just interject for a few thousand words for some perspective from a native Iowan living in the epicenter.

The scheduling issue presented by the ISU series is just a symptom of the broader ISU problem. Here we are in little ol’ (not sexy) Iowa, with 3 million people and for some God forsaken reason we have two power five conference level universities. We compete for students, resources, recruits and fans in a state with limited numbers of each. That type of competition at all levels leads to the type of rivalry we have with the Cyclones. The kind of rivalry where it doesn't matter if the other guy hasn't been relevant in over a decade, they can still muster enough adrenaline to knock off a much better opponent.

And therein lies the real problem in all this talk. If Iowa is going to play Iowa State every year, they are staring straight in the face a real chance at losing a game nobody believes they should simply because it's a rivalry, and as Forrest Gump would tell you, it happens. Win that game and sh*t didn't happen but nobody cares. Our bff Colin Cowherd will continue to rail on Iowa for scheduling ISU, giving them no credit for locking in a power 5 opponent and will just as easily gloss over their existence while talking about the Big 12’s superiority to the Big Ten (massive eye roll).

So just cancel the damn series!

[In my best drooling, slurring, stuttering Lee Corsica voice]

Not so fast my friends!

Who here remembers being all up in arms when Iowa and Wisconsin weren't playing every year? How about Iowa and Illinois? Now who, and I'm asking for honesty not the “I gotta sound tough for little brother” bs, considers either of them a bigger, more natural rival than ISU? You're lying. They're great rivalries to be sure, but the competition with those schools essentially boils down to on the field and on the crootin trail. You get rid of the ISU series and you royally p*ss off some people who have both money and clout with the U. And the same people complaining about the series now will be whining about the idiocy of not having it annually in a few short years.

Iowa State is a lose-lose-lose. But it's unavoidable. So to me, the only option is to schedule another power 5 team IN ADDITION to ISU. It'll never happen, but to me it's the best way forward.

College football programs fall into 4 categories: those you should always beat and get no credit for doing it, those you should regularly beat but won't get any credit for it and they could legit be an embarrassing loss, those you could beat and might actually get credit for it and could potentially be overlooked if you lose, and those you'll likely not beat but nobody cares if you lose and you get a ton of credit for beating. Iowa ain't getting anybody from the last group. BoilerHawk made the case for why in his Cowherd retort yesterday. Iowa State is in that second group. So the two remaining games should be filled with one each from the first and third group in my opinion. Forget NDSU, if you’re going to play someone you get no credit for beating, make sure they can never beat you. Just schedule whoever the SEC is using for their annual cream puff. And then try to find an additional game each year from group 3. Some middle tier team from the SEC (Mizzou would be great on a number of fronts) or ACC (Pitt was a good series) would be perfect. The problem is the money. But the athletic department doesn't need it. Especially after the latest round of tv negotiations. So take the short term hit, schedule up as much as you can and keep ISU. Have your cake and eat it too.

But what do I know, I'm just a delirious guy with a keyboard and a newborn. Carry on.

GospelofMax: But come on. Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa, North Texas, and Miami (OH) again? There's a reason these non-con home games don't sell out. It's been a couple years since the Hawks have played UNI and NIU so they have different players, but each and every time it feels the same. When you play these teams and ISU every season, it gets boring. Variety is the spice of life and here at The University of Iowa, we’re huge fans of rice cakes.

Honestly, there's one big thing you said that I think perfectly explains Iowa’s non-con scheduling problem: “Kirk Ferentz scoffs at the non-conference schedule.” This is it. He's said that Iowa’s goal is to win the Big Ten and that he views the non-conference slate as a preseason. They're just tune up games in the eyes of the program so why bother schedule anyone of note?

If you could handpick a couple of non-conference opponents right now, who would you pick? Someone similar to Iowa, like Kansas State? Maybe someone completely different like Oregon?

Hello Jerry: I think you hit the nail right on the head. One of my best friends is the brother-in-law to a Kansas State player and from what I’ve been able to gather from him, Bill Snyder’s approach on how a program should be built and the development that is necessary to play is strikingly similar to that of Kirk Ferentz. It’s all about putting in the work when you’re a freshman and sophomore to eventually get to the point where you can shine as an upperclassmen. Defense wins games. Don’t turn the ball over. Do as I say and if you don’t, you go straight into the doghouse.

Also, a quick shoutout to Snyder. The dude is 77-years old with “one year” left on his contract, but he has a provision/clause that basically just rolls it over for as many more years as he wants to patrol the sideline. I wish that all of us eventually figure out a way to structure a deal for ourselves like that… and I’m shocked Ferentz hasn’t pulled this off yet.

Back to it: If given the choice, I would sub the Wildcats in for Iowa State after the contract is over. Currently Kansas State is doing a basement tour around the SEC (Vanderbilt in 2017 and 2020 and Mississppi State in 2018 and 2019) before taking on Stanford in 2021. That’s perfect timing to add the Hawkeyes to their 2022-23 seasons (the Wildcats only have Tulane and Abilene Christian on the docket for 2022 and nothing for 2023 according to FBS Schedules).

In terms of Oregon (or any Pac-12 team for that matter), I’m staying away. Iowa doesn’t need to face those crazy spreads that early in the season. For better or for worse, the non-conference is usually when Ferentz solidifies his secondaries.

But I’ll tell you one program I wish Iowa played because it would be so damn fun… Bert and his Fightin’ Hogs. The SEC’s Big Ten Team. This could even be another annual trophy game. I’m envisioning one side running over to the other to collect their Bronze #Karma Keyboard and it’s amazing.

Who says no to this?

GospelofMax: Oh man. Iowa vs. Bret Bielema? Now that is something that I’m here for. I think Bielema would be down to do this if it were pitched, too, I think Iowa politely declines to make this trip. This is mostly because I don’t feel like Iowa has any desire to play a game down south, but I could be wrong. When is the last time Iowa played a non-bowl game in the deep south? Nothing immediately comes to mind which probably means that it was about 10 years ago and as much of a deep dive as I’m assuming.

I think that Kansas State is definitely the matchup that always comes up when Iowa fans talk about non-conference opponents they’d like to see scheduled. It makes sense. Old school football, close in proximity. It’s definitely not the sexiest matchup, but it’s one against a team that consistently makes bowl games and that would be a major step up from these “cupcakes” that Iowa schedules. It would satisfy a lot of people, and most importantly to some, the people in charge of picking who goes to the good bowl games. As for Ferentz and that contract, it’s basically the equivalent to a rollover contract. Dude is here until he doesn’t want to be. It just looks a whole lot uglier on paper, but that’s a different conversation for a different Friday.

And I’m not sure if I agree with you on not scheduling teams that run fast spreads, such as Oregon or Wazzu or whoever you’d like to pick. I think that could be a fun matchup - undersized team that likes to throw the ball all over and use its speed versus Big Ten team that will run the ball down your throat and win in the trenches. Nebraska and Michigan State have both played the Ducks in the past couple years and those were fun games. Put the Hawks up against Mike Leach and Wazzu. Would Iowa be able to stop the Cougs from throwing 80 times? Could Iowa drop 60 points on ‘em? Make it a home-and-home, or do a couple primetime games - one in Chicago and one in Seattle. I don’t want it, I need it!

Hello Jerry: What’s that saying about being afraid of things you’re not familiar with?

But to your point, a Soldier Field/CenturyLink Field primetime event to kick off the season or even an Arrowhead double neutral with Kansas State would be absolutely amazing and I would love to see Iowa fans take over those cities. As a collective unit, we drank downtown Indianapolis out of beer, could you imagine what type of damage we could do to Pike Place?

Let’s move off this though, as it seems like we’re both on the same page. Stop booking MAC-level teams and that includes Iowa State.

Let’s talk a little bit about potential home night games for the season to close this out. What game would you personally like to see be a night game and what game do you actually think will be the night game.


GospelofMax: I’m assuming this is in regards to the 2017 slate, right? Let’s peruse the schedule to see who Iowa plays this year.

Alright, now that we’ve taken a moment to look at the schedule for this upcoming season, let’s start with the home games. Iowa shouldn’t have any non-conference games in a primetime slot - there just aren’t any marquee home games in there. In conference play, there are two games that I can see turning into night games. Iowa starts out the conference schedule with Penn State, and after last year’s declararuin that football is back in Happy Valley, that could get picked up by ABC or BTN. I also think Ohio State would be the other game that could get picked up since it’s the first time they’ll be back in Kinnick since… 2010? It’s been a while. That’s the one I’d like to see most under the lights this year.

On the road side of things, Wisconsin is the only game that I think would get the nod for primetime. Nebraska is always an early game, and I don’t think Michigan State is going to be getting a lot of primetime after last year’s disaster. The Iowa State game could if Week 2 is as awful and boring as it was last year, but I don’t think we’ll get consecutive seasons of primetime CyHawk. Wisconsin would make some sense, but I’m not counting on it.

Hello Jerry: I want to avenge last year's blowout loss to Penn State under the lights fully equipped with a raging Iowa City crowd. I want Matt Nelson to block a punt for a touchdown. I want Brian Ferentz and KOK to unleash all the crossing routes. I want Akrum Wadley to shimmy and shake his way through that Nittany Lion defense. I want “Rick Roll’ems” to Noah Fant down the seam.

I want Keegan Michael Key to feel the pain that will come from such an embarrassing loss in primetime.


But… I probably won’t get it.

As always, we look forward to seeing what you guys come up with in the comments below. Happy Friday and long live the weekend.