Despite what some of the talking heads will tell you, Iowa is carrying its weight in 2017 when it comes to its non-conference football slate.
While working on a series of previews of Iowa’s 2017 opponents for this very site, I realized that both Wyoming and North Texas played in bowl games at the end of last season. Additionally, the annual matchup with Iowa State gives the Hawkeyes a Power 5 opponent in the non-conference every season.
These two facts piqued my curiosity, so I decided to use those numbers as a standard and see how the rest of the Power 5 non-conference schedules measured up for the 2017 season.
I set out to answer one question:
How many other Power 5 programs (including Notre Dame and BYU) boast non-conference schedules in 2017 that include at least one Power 5 opponent and two bowl qualifiers from the previous season?
I’ll even add a bonus: The Power 5 opponent can be one of the two bowl qualifiers – sort of like a two-for-one deal (Iowa did not need this deal).
I cracked open a fresh bottle of off-brand Kentucky bourbon (sponsors welcome) and began my research.
*SPOILER ALERT: You are reading this article because I decided to write it, so chances are, as an Iowa fan, this little escapade came out slanted in your favor.
Here is what I found:
Of the 64 Power-5 schools—plus Notre Dame and BYU—only 26 of them – less than 40 percent – met that very achievable standard set by, well, I guess Iowa. LESS THAN 40 PERCENT. Incidentally, I did not count Notre Dame as a non-conference opponent for any ACC team they played, because of the weird little shady, independent-but-not-really deal the Irish have.
Here are the 26 teams broken down by conference:
ACC – Duke, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Big Ten – Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers
Big 12 – Baylor, Oklahoma State
Pac 12 – Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA
SEC – Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Now, before any of those SEC swamp-people who might be reading this start their little S-E-C chant in the comments section, you should know I’ve added one more measurement to the process:
Does your non-conference schedule include any FCS teams?
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to thin the herd.*
Of the 26 schools who have a Power 5 team and two bowl qualifiers on their non-conference slate, only six of them were able to accomplish the feat without an FCS opponent on the schedule.
Those six teams are as follows:
Oklahoma State, UCLA, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue (I know, right?) and YOUR Iowa Hawkeyes.
Hmm — four of the six are Big Ten teams. Interesting.
This begs the question: If — as one famous pundit has said — Iowa is the fake ID of college football because of its schedule, are the other 125 or so teams trying to get into the Double Deuce with a Sears credit card?
Iowa fans, you’ve been bullied about your team’s football schedule long enough. In a sport where the average annual roster turnover is about 25 percent, focusing on the past doesn’t make a lot of sense when talking about the present and future, especially when judging teams by schedules that were pieced together years ago.
In 2017, your Iowa Hawkeyes will take on a non-conference schedule of three teams whose resumés measure up to those of any group of non-conference opponents you’ll find on the slates of any other Power 5 programs in the country.
Bookmark this article for reference the next time someone wants to give you grief about Iowa playing Iowa State every year and playing nothing but cream puffs in the other two games.
Also, ignore the talking heads — especially the big ones.
*(Editors note: get it?)