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Iowa Football: All Pain Schedule

2020 hasn’t been depressing enough, why not relive some of the lowest lows of the Ferentz era?

Michigan State v Iowa
Sad fans will be sad.
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

With Iowa and the rest of the Big Ten currently slated for a spring football schedule rather than fall games, we took matters into our own hands a week ago and released our revised 2020 viewing schedule. It’s not perfect, but if the Hawkeyes were playing it they would be. As depressing as it may be to not have Iowa football this fall, it’s meant to be a small source of some joy for Hawkeye fans.

But what if you aren’t here for joy? What if the only way you can move forward is to face the pain head on and wallow in it? Well then buddy, we’ve got just what the doctor ordered.

What follows is, like the re-watch schedule, not perfect. But it is painful. Boy is it painful. Following the same rules laid out by BizarroMax for the re-watch, we’ve created an absolutely miserable way to spend the next 13 weeks.

As a reminder, those rules are:

  • Games must be in the same week they were originally played
  • Iowa State must appear
  • At least 5 road games
  • No team may appear more than once

Except one thing: we’re breaking rule #3. Why? A couple reasons. First, losses at home are simply more painful. When you’re looking at the schedule before the season, those home games look a lot more winnable than the road ones when the competition is legit. Home losses against teams you were supposed to beat? Brutal. Secondly, and this is tied to the first issue, Iowa simply has a lot more painful losses at home than on the road. The pickings were slim in true road games.

So, no max on home games. Besides, you aren’t actually going to follow along with this and watch these every week are you? Are you? Oh God, don’t answer that.

Alright, without further adieu, here’s the most miserable schedule on the planet:

Week 1: Northern Illinois, 2013 - 27-30

Week 2: Iowa State, 2002 - 31-36

Week 3: North Dakota State, 2016 - 23-21

Week 4: Penn State, 2017 - 19-21

Week 5: Ohio State, 2006 - 17-38

Week 6: @ Michigan State, 2008 - 13-16

Week 7: Wisconsin, 2010 - 30-31

Week 8: Minnesota, 2011 - 21-22

Week 9: @ Illinois, 2008 - 24-27

Week 10: Northwestern, 2009 - 10-17

Week 11: Purdue, 2017 - 15-24

Week 12: Nebraska, 2014 - 34-37

Week 13: Big Ten Championship, 2015 - 13-16

Bowl Game: Rose Bowl, 2016 - 16-45

A few observations after putting that together:

  1. It’s actually a lot harder than it sounds. While the Hawkeyes have had no shortage of losses over the years, and even close ones given KF’s preferred style of play, they tend to come in bunches. For example, pretty much all of 1999, 2000, 2007 and 2012 were miserable. Including a game from those years doesn’t make a ton of sense given no single loss really stung - the whole year was a waste.
  2. For whatever reason, certain weeks are nearly impossible to find losses. Week one seems obvious, but it comes with inherent pain if there is a loss given the opponent has historically been lower quality (18 of the last 19 week 1 opponents have been either FCS or MAC teams - the other from the Mountain West). Week six, on the other hand, is in the heart of the Big Ten schedule and somehow, Iowa has gone an absurd 16-4 over the last 20 seasons in week 6. All four have come at the hands of Penn State (2019 and 2007) or Michigan State (2013 and 2008).
  3. Context matters. There will be plenty of debate about the Rose Bowl from 2016 because it wasn’t a heartbreaker. Christian McCaffrey ran wild early and often and anyone that wasn’t in Pasadena had switched the channel by the end of the first quarter. But it was the Rose Bowl. It was the unicorn we’ve been chasing. It was within our fingertips and on the heels of feeling like we had nearly proven the pundits wrong by coming within an inch of a Big Ten Championship and playoff berth. Getting totally dismantled was a sobering, miserable experience in a totally different way than the last second, heartbreaking nail biters have been. The same can be said of that blowout loss to OSU in 2006 with the whole country tuned in and GameDay in town. It. Was. Terrible.
  4. We’re genuinely lucky to have experienced the kind of success we’ve seen over the last 21 seasons. There are a number of programs in the conference who absolutely could not come up with a list of games lost that were truly painful because of #3. Programs that lose all the time don’t have heartbreak, they have indifference. The Hawkeyes have been good often enough to make us all feel the pain on a pretty regular basis. It would be great if we could be national title contenders every year and never feel anything but joy, but not feeling anything is worse than suffering heart ache on occasion.

So that’s that. That’s the schedule of misery. Feel better now? What would make you feel worse? Which games stick out in your memories?