There is a benefit to playing in the same conference for 100 years: You know just about everyone. There is institutional knowledge that comes from playing the same opponents every year. Where a coach has been retained, each year adds to the tape library. Where a coach has been replaced, there is still holdover personnel that each conference opponent has seen before.
It's fairly safe to say that every team in the Big Ten prior to this July has ample institutional knowledge of Iowa. Kirk Ferentz has been here for 16 years and hasn't changed much of what he has done since he arrived in 1999. "We do what we do" has become a common Ferentz refrain; we've done what we do for so long that it, at least theoretically, has intrinsic value in and of itself.
On the other side of the coin, Ferentz and his staff, held together for two years now and largely in place for much longer, have working knowledge of most Iowa opponents. Iowa knows Darrell Hazell's Purdue teams from prior meetings, like it knows Kevin Wilson's Indiana (why else would we be chasing receivers downfield on obvious run plays?) and Bo Pelini's Nebraska and Pat Fitzgerald's Northwestern (which I actually believe has turned the tide slightly in that series). Even Iowa's non-conference opponents carry significant history with Ferentz. Iowa plays Iowa State every year (though ISU's change in offensive coordinator definitely impacted this year's game), has faced UNI's Mark Farley multiple times in the past, and saw Paul Chryst's system when he was at Wisconsin.
Iowa has not been particularly good in the past when facing a wholly new opponent. The 2010 Arizona game, one of the few during Ferentz's tenure where Iowa held a talent advantage that nearly overcame inferior gameplanning, was a prime example. Similarly, Iowa's first couple of meetings with Nebraska after their jump to the Big Ten were clear misfires. Even this season, Iowa struggled in the one game where it had no prior knowledge of the staff or team: Ball State, which has been proven to be fairly horrible, probably should have beaten Iowa.
That, of course, becomes meaningful this weekend, when Iowa faces Big Ten newbie Randy Edsall and his similarly new Maryland Terrapins. Iowa has no experience with Edsall, either at Maryland or Connecticut. It has some experience with Terps offensive coordinator Mike Locksley when he held the same job at Illinois during the Zook era, but it's not certain just how much control Locksley had over that offense (or Zook's, for that matter). Their defensive coordinator, Brian Stewart, was bouncing around the college ranks while Kirk Ferentz was in the pros, and was in the NFL while Ferentz has been at Iowa.
Maryland does some things that don't typically bode well for Iowa. The Terps have a run-stuffing version of the 3-4, which usually gives Iowa's running game fits (Iowa loves to chip a defensive tackle with the center and send an interior lineman into the second level; that's not easily done with a nose tackle directly over that center). They throw deep often - six different Maryland receivers have caught passes of more than 30 yards this season - and run as effectively with the quarterback as they do with the halfback. Iowa's struggled with those things in the past.
But the bigger issue Saturday is the blank slate between the two teams and coaches. Can Iowa use film and simple ingenuity to engineer a gameplan that can be successful against an opponent it hasn't scouted for years? If it can break that long string of failures in that circumstance, Maryland is there for the taking.