This is a 12-to-1 countdown of Iowa’s most-appealing football games this season. No. 1 is the most-appealing. We started with
No. 12 Ball State. Purdue was No. 11, Northern Iowa No. 10, Iowa State No. 9, Indiana No. 8, Illinois No. 7, Pittsburgh No. 6, Minnesota No. 5, Northwestern No. 4. All previous posts in this countdown can be found here.
No. 3: Maryland (Oct. 18 in College Park)
Here’s the most-significant piece of history between Iowa and Maryland in sports: The Hawkeyes beat the Terrapins in a 2013 NIT semifinal in New York.
Football-wise: There is none. They’ve never met.
Which makes me think of an old Martin Mull love song.
No, they never met
Not even briefly, I know what you thought, you thought that they might
But that’s not the problem, the problem was chiefly
She worked the day shift and he worked the night
So, no, they’ve never met in football. Yet, this game has appeal for the old-fashioned reason it could be a good, tight matchup and the Hawkeyes will be strangers in a strange land. They’ll have much to overcome to escape the Eastern Seaboard with a victory.
The Terrapins could have a nice team. They have 17 returning starters — nine on offense — from a club that went 7-6 last season after scuffling through 2-10 and 4-8 marks in Randy Edsall’s first two years at Maryland.
That is a parallel to the start of the Kirk Ferentz era at Iowa. The Hawkeyes were 1-10, 3-9 and 7-5 before exploding to 11-2 in 2002.
This is no prediction Maryland will have similar success in Edsall’s fourth season. Because it almost surely won’t. Not playing Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and having one of the league’s toughest nonconference schedules, with trips to both South Florida and Syracuse and a home game with West Virginia.
If the Terps go to another bowl, they’ve done well. Because it’s got to be a more-interesting trip than the 28 miles from College Park to Annapolis for the Military Bowl.
However, Maryland was grateful to be in that bowl last year because it has (had?) cash-poor athletics department and didn’t have to burn up a lot of money to travel to Shreveport or some other far-flung outpost with a third-tier bowl.
None other Phil Steele ranks Maryland 31st in his preseason power poll of all 128 FBS teams. Iowa is 32nd.
Anyway, after playing its first six games this season, Maryland gets a week off before it hosts Iowa in its homecoming game. The Hawkeyes have a game the week before they travel East. That will get mentioned in Iowa a time or two.
Iowa seldom plays regular-season games in unfamiliar surroundings. When it does, the results haven’t been great. There was the loss at Arizona in 2010, the loss at Pittsburgh in 2008 and that’s about it for the last six years.
But Maryland has much to prove before we can say it’s a good team. For one thing, it needs some decent health. Few programs in the nation have been as injury-plagued the last two years.
Plus, the Terps are 4-44-1 all-time against Big Ten teams. Penn State is responsible for 35 of those defeats. The last time Maryland beat the Nittany Lions was in 1961.
I don’t know how good these Maryland players are because I’ve never watched them. I somehow didn’t slot three hours of free time for last year’s Military Bowl. And if I stumbled upon any of the Terps’ 63-0 loss at Florida State, I quickly blotted it from my memory bank.
But Maryland is a new location and a new world for the Hawkeyes, just the kind of game that should have Iowa fans on pins and needles.