Here is the history of the football series between Iowa and Rutgers:
Sept. 24, 2016 at Piscataway, N.J.: Iowa 14, Rutgers 7.
That’s it. I’d like to say I remember it vividly, it being just three years ago and me having been there. But I don’t. I remember walking around on campus before the game. Then I draw a blank. Do you remember it?
After the game, I talked to some of Akrum Wadley’s friends from Newark. Wadley rushed for one of Iowa’s two touchdowns, and a few dozen people who made the short trip to the game got a big payoff.
Looking at the box score, Iowa had 193 rushing yards and no turnovers, yet scored just 14 points against a team that went on to lose Big Ten games by these scores: 58-0 (Ohio State), 78-0 (Michigan), 49-0 (Michigan State) and 39-0 (Penn State).
Iowa went 8-5 that season, so it wasn’t as if it was rolling around with the Rutgers of the world in the Big Ten’s lower region.
Since the Scarlet Knights went 1-11 last season and don’t have a lot to suggest they’ll leap into prominence this season, I declare this the Hawkeyes’ 11th-most interesting game of the 2019 season:
Rutgers, Sept. 7 at Kinnick Stadium, 11 a.m.
I’ve often written of Rutgers dismissively in its five-year Big Ten football history, but that was as much a rap on the conference for being gluttonous in adding the New York-New Jersey market to its Bigfoot paw print.
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But Rutgers hasn’t helped matters since its inclusion. In its Big Ten football history, it has seven wins and 36 losses. In five games against Ohio State, the Buckeyes have outscored the Scarlet Knights by a total of 271-27. Michigan has outscored Rutgers 204-37 over their last four meetings.
Rutgers’ men’s basketball has been no better. The Knights are 21-76 in six years of Big Ten play, though they reached new heights in the 2018-19 season with a 7-13 mark.
Couldn’t New York City schools Columbia or Fordham or SUNY Maritime have done at least as well, football-wise? SUNY Maritime, located in the Throggs Neck neighborhood of the Bronx, easily beat Maine Maritime and Massachusetts Maritime, so think of the advantages it would have against landlocked schools.
OK, let’s take this mildly seriously and say this is a game of mild interest because it’s Iowa’s Big Ten-opener. Botch this if you’re the Hawkeyes, and you’ve put yourself behind the 8-ball in the battle for the West Division title. Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin don’t get to play Rutgers. This game is a tender mercy that has been extended Iowa’s way, something to offset having to play at Michigan. The Hawkeyes cannot look this gift horse in the mouth, whatever in the world that means.
Here’s a red flag that isn’t really red, but may contain pinkish hues:
Despite going 0-9 in the Big Ten last year, Rutgers competed against certain teams. It lost at home to eventual West champ Northwestern by just 18-15. It lost at Wisconsin by just 31-17, and it was a one-score game entering the fourth quarter. In its season finale, it lost at Michigan State by a mere 14-10, and MSU had to get a touchdown with 3:57 left to win.
In that game, the opening coin toss had to be done twice. The first time, the coin plugged into the turf on its edge. That should have told everyone the kind of football game that was about to be played.
A month later, Michigan State went to the Redbox Bowl and lost to Oregon, 7-6. Two things about this are troublesome. One, obviously, is the final score. The other is the name of the game. The Redbox Bowl? The only thing in all of bowldom that tops that is the Cheez-It Bowl.
“You’re not going to win many games scoring six points,” Spartans Coach Mark Dantonio said after that Redbox Bowl, showing why football coaches often double as math professors.
You won’t win too many scoring seven points, either, but Oregon did.
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Seven is the number of points Rutgers scored the time it played Iowa. That wasn’t enough. Seven could be that number this time, too. The Hawkeyes ought to get more than 14.
Rutgers in the Big Ten. What a concept.
Iowa football's most interesting 2019 games