Hlas: Hawkeyes' path to glamour games: Do more winning

It isn't Iowa State keeping Iowa from seductive September dates

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The following is beating a dead horse around here, but here we go.

The news was made official Monday that Wisconsin and Notre Dame will have a two-game football series with each other. The 2020 game will be at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, the 2021 game at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

That’s fun stuff for Badgers fans. Their team nipped LSU in Lambeau last year, and a great time was had by all except those from Louisiana.

Notre Dame people are used to this sort of thing, facing marquee teams in storied venues. But playing in Lambeau is new even for them.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ... You and I know a segment of Iowa fans see yet another attractive nonconference game or series scheduled by another Big Ten program, and are jealous.

The Iowa State-Iowa series, extended through 2023 last spring, is an albatross to them. In theory, it stops their team from playing a brand-name heavyweight in early September. There can’t be a featured attraction like Notre Dame if there are nine Big Ten games and a game against Iowa State.

Hey, if I were the czar of all things unimportant I’d make Iowa play Iowa State, and two teams among Notre Dame, Florida State, Clemson, Oklahoma — pick your superpowers.

But the real world says the Hawkeyes will play two nonconference home games a year against less-formidable foes for the sakes of their home box office and won-lost record.

If there were a Wisconsin State and Minnesota A&M and University of Nebraska-Ogallala that were Power Five football programs in conferences other than the Big Ten? Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska would play them or else face a public-relations firestorm for ducking them.

Louisville plays Kentucky, Clemson plays South Carolina, Georgia plays Georgia Tech, Florida plays Florida State. After a 16-year hiatus, Penn State started playing Pittsburgh again last year. The good people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania approve.

Oh, and there’s this: Iowa isn’t Wisconsin.

Iowa has a good, well-respected, accomplished football program, the envy of many. It’s in the upper half of the Big Ten, no small feat. But it isn’t Wisconsin. Maybe one day in the not-so-distant future. But not now.

In this decade, Wisconsin is 71-24 overall, 43-14 in the Big Ten regular season. Iowa is 54-37, 33-24.

Now, 33-24 (14-3 over the last two years) over seven years isn’t bad in a conference of that ilk. But 43-14 is cooking with gas.

So is Wisconsin going to four Big Ten championship games and winning two titles in that time, especially compared to Iowa’s one and none.

The Badgers played Alabama in Arlington, Texas, two years ago, and played LSU in 2014 and 2016 in Houston and Green Bay, respectively. Why? Because they’re Wisconsin, a team with six seasons of double-digit wins in the last eight. Iowa has two.

If you want to beat this dead horse with even more force, you could note Wisconsin has won its last three bowls. Iowa has lost its last five, by an average margin of 19.4 points.

That isn’t to say the Hawkeyes haven’t left some national stages with their helmets held high. Against Michigan, last November, ‘nuff said.

But are major television networks plotting ways to associate themselves with Iowa for more-prominent September matchups? Probably not.

There are only so many slots for great nonconference matchups and plenty of headliners to fill them. Jerry Jones’ Arlington stadium has Michigan-Florida in Week 1. That will get TV eyeballs. Alabama and Florida State in Atlanta the same Saturday? Um, yeah.

Peel off a few 11-2 and 12-1 seasons, win a couple of Big Ten titles, get to a national-title game, and network executives will make Iowa offers it can’t refuse.

Meanwhile, CBSsports.com’s Jerry Palm released his preseason bowl projections last week. Palm has Iowa playing Notre Dame ... in the Pinstripe Bowl.

So maybe you don’t want to play the Irish after all.

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