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A Deep Dive on Iowa State’s Prior Success When Ranked in the Top-10

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With an historic matchup fast approaching in Ames, we’re taking an extensive look at the best wins for the Cyclones in program history.

We’ve seen Matt Campbell’s resume, now let’s look at the program.

After a dominating week one win over a ranked opponent, the Iowa Hawkeyes are set to make history this weekend. For the first time ever, the Hawkeyes will head to Ames to take on a top-10 opponent.

In the 67 prior meetings between these two rivals, Iowa State has entered the game ranked just once. The Cyclones won that meeting back in 1978. Given the rarity of the event this weekend and Iowa State’s success in the only other similar meeting between these two teams, we thought it would make sense to take a deeper dive into the program’s history of success in high profile games.

More specifically, we’re examining each of Iowa State’s many high profile, high pressure wins. That is, the wins when the Cyclones themselves are ranked inside the top-10 nationally. So, let’s take a look, shall we?

Here’s every win for Iowa State as a top-10 team in the program’s history, in reverse chronological order.

16-10 vs Northern Iowa - September 4th, 2021

As Hawkeye fans will recall, the Cyclones took down the UNI Panthers in week one of this season. Iowa State entered the season with their highest ranking in program history at #7 in the nation.

Despite bringing back virtually everyone from what was considered the greatest team in program history a season ago, when the Cyclones finished with a .750 winning percentage and an incredibly impressive 34-17 win over 4-3 Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl (just the fifth bowl win in program history), Iowa State was taken to the wire by the FCS Panthers last week. The Cyclones trailed much of the first half, but managed to take a lead into halftime after grabbing a field goal as time expired in the second quarter. After playing to a stalemate through the third quarter and more than half the fourth, Iowa State clung to a 6-point lead as the Panthers saw two drives in the final two minutes end without points.

The Cyclones came away with a 16-10 win over their in-state foe and for the second time in as many meetings saw their national ranking fall ahead of the Cy-Hawk game.

Let’s continue our journey back in time.


Ope. Actually that’s it. That’s the list. That’s the only game Iowa State has ever won as a top-10 team. Every other time the program has managed to climb as high as the top-10, they have immediately lost the following game.

The Hawkeyes, by contrast, have been ranked in 25 different seasons throughout the program’s history. That includes eight separate years in the Kirk Ferentz era alone now that they’ve entered the ranks this season. Counting up the number of wins as a top-10 team would frankly be too tedious for an underpaid blogger, but in the Ferentz era the Hawkeyes have a baker’s dozen such victories.

Under Ferentz, the Hawkeyes have won nine bowl games - nearly double the Cyclones in their entire program history. And just as that incredible ISU team did, the Hawkeyes went .750 a season ago. Iowa has not claimed any national titles based on Ferentz’s prior playing or lower division coaching experience.