Analyzing Iowa Football’s Recent History with ’20 Opponents

September 24, 2020

Written by Anna Kayser

Hawkeye Nation

With a unique Big Ten football season a month away, the Hawkeyes are in a unique position to break the yearly 8-4 stigma surrounding the program while only playing eight games. That, however, is all up to their performance on the field. 

With a new quarterback at the helm but a veteran corps at almost every other position group, Iowa is primed to have a run at the Big Ten West. The schedule is unique, eliminating all non-conference competition to ramp up the season and shoving each team right into Big Ten action. 

In the AP’s Week 1 Top 25 Poll, the only week in which Big Ten teams were included in the rankings, Iowa was ranked at No. 24 with five Big Ten schedules in front of it, three of which are on Iowa’s current schedule. 

So, it’s worth taking a look at Iowa’s 2020 opponents and breaking down the recent history with each team, how Iowa has fared in those matchups in the past and what it has to overcome to emerge with a win.  

Oct. 24 – at Purdue

In the past handful of years, Purdue has been a dark horse team to beat Iowa, and this year is no exception. 

Last season, the Hawkeyes narrowly escaped with a 26-20 win vs. the Boilermakers in Kinnick Stadium, but the previous years they weren’t as lucky. A 38-36 upset vs. No. 19 Iowa in 2018 and 24-15 in 2017, both in November, were problems in the Hawkeyes postseason hopes. 

David Bell was key for the Boilermakers in 2019 and will be a difference maker again this year if the Iowa defense fails to figure out coverage against him. In last season’s matchup, he caught 13 passes for 197 yards and was the majority of the offense for Purdue. 

Oct. 31 – vs. Northwestern

Northwestern is another team that has potential to give Iowa a run for its money based on the performances from past season. 

Prior to a 20-0 win in Evanston last season, Iowa had lost the previous three matchups by one score, two of which came in Iowa City. 

Northwestern’s performance last season would be hard to replicate, with barely 200 yards of total offense carrying the offense to the loss. Iowa’s offense wasn’t its sharpest either, totaling only 302 yards, the majority of which came through the air. 

Nov. 7 – vs. Michigan State

The last three meetings between Michigan State and Iowa have gone in the favor of the Spartans, the worst coming 16-13 in the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game. 

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Michigan State could be another dark horse to beat the Hawkeyes, but this game will be interesting as the first matchup between the teams since 2017. 

Nov. 14 – at Minnesota

No. 19 Minnesota was a contender to win the Big Ten West in 2019 before losing its first game of the season to Iowa. It was the fifth-straight win against the Gophers for Iowa, and the 15th in 20 meetings since 2000. 

Minnesota has an offense that can catch defenses off guard at times, taking down Penn State during the 2019 season. Running back Tyler Johnson tallied 170 receiving yards from the hands of quarterback Tanner Morgan and put together a strong offensive showing in a game where Iowa flat out played better. 

This season, Minnesota could really go either way in the rankings. After having an improbable 2019, it could be looking to add onto that success this year and exact revenge from the loss in Kinnick almost a year before.  

Nov. 21 – at Penn State

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For the last decade, Penn State has consistently been a tough loss for Iowa. The past three losses have been one-score losses, decided late in the fourth quarter to hand Penn State the win. 

Those six consecutive losses to the Nittany Lions since 2011 shifted the all-time record to 17-12 in Penn State’s favor with returning quarterback Sean Clifford at the helm going into this season’s matchup. 

For Iowa, the road disadvantage comes at less of a cost with Beaver Stadium standing empty as opposed to droves of Nittany Lion faithful packing the stands. In their last meeting in State College, the Hawkeyes lost just 30-24. 

The AP listed Penn State at No. 7 overall, behind just No. 2 Ohio State in the conference. This should – barring any unforeseen losses at the hands of a should-be win for Iowa – 

Nov. 28 – vs. Nebraska

The Hawkeyes have won five-straight games against Nebraska, but not comfortably in the past two years. After deciding back-to-back wins by walk-off field goals, the Thanksgiving rivalry week returns to the battle of corn states in this weird season. 

Somehow, Nebraska can never be counted out, especially following the last two close wins. The offense comes mostly on the ground, with only 100 yards coming through the air last year. 

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For Iowa, the key is keeping up the offense. Nate Stanley threw for only 99 yards in 2019, with the rushing game picking up the slack with 225. 

Dec. 5 – at Illinois

Illinois is a game that Iowa should win with a no-doubter, but after the Illini upset Wisconsin in 2019, they can’t be counted out. 

This is a game that Iowa wins or loses all on its own, and this late in the season it’s one that it can’t afford to lose. 

Dec. 12 – vs. Wisconsin

Ranked at No. 12 in the AP’s Week 1 Top 25 poll, Wisconsin has been another roadblock for Iowa in recent years. 

The Hawkeyes have lost four-straight to the Badgers in a similar fashion to Penn State, losing just 24-22 in 2019 and 28-17 during the final moments of the fourth quarter in 2018. The last Iowa win in a series it trails all-time, 47-43-2, came at Camp Randall in 2015 in a low-scoring affair. The last win in Kinnick vs. the Badgers was in 2008. 

Last season, the Wisconsin offense was dominated by Jonathan Taylor, who despite not scoring any touchdowns brought the Badgers downfield with ease. He racked up 250 yards on 31 carries and was the difference in the game. 

Now, however, Wisconsin is without it’s trusty running back and could possibly enter Hawkeye territory for a game that will decide the fate of the Big Ten West. 


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