Iowa Football

Iowa football's No. 3 most-interesting 2019 game: Michigan

In last decade, Iowa has been the primary victor in this series

Iowa defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson (67) celebrates his safety with Hawkeyes defensive back Desmond King (14) during t
Iowa defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson (67) celebrates his safety with Hawkeyes defensive back Desmond King (14) during their team's 14-13 win over Michigan at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 12, 2016. Both players are now in the NFL. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Some things happen in plain sight, yet it’s as if they were invisible or simply never occurred.

That’s how I felt when, while looking back on the football history between Iowa and Michigan, I saw the Hawkeyes have won five of the last six meetings.

That couldn’t be right. I knew the last time the two played, Iowa stunned the then-unbeaten and second-ranked Wolverines in Iowa City on a Saturday night three years ago with a last-second field goal for the win. But five of the last six?

Not against those guys. Not against one of college football’s true iconic programs. Yet, the two are both 48-35 in the Big Ten over the last 10 years.

Nonetheless, if you travel to some faraway place, you’ll probably pass someone wearing a blue ball cap with the maize ‘M’ on it, way more than encountering an Iowa Tigerhawk. But on the field, Iowa is 5-1 against Michigan since 2009, and two of the Hawkeyes’ wins were against ranked Wolverines clubs.

The Big Ten schedule being what it is, Iowa hasn’t played at Michigan Stadium since 2012, which also happens to be the Hawkeyes’ last loss to the Wolverines. Seven years ago. Yes, they’re in the same conference.

So, with Michigan being a popular pick to win the Big Ten this season, I declare this to be the No. 3 most-interesting game on Iowa’s schedule:

Oct. 5, at Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.


It’s Jim Harbaugh’s fifth season as the Wolverines’ coach, and only the second time he has dealt with Iowa. The first time, he had told people he was nervous about the game. He was right to be.

Harbaugh is 38-14 at Michigan, and it isn’t good enough. He’s 0-4 against Ohio State, which means he is 0-0 in Big Ten title games. He also is 0-for-Michigan’s last three bowl games.

Iowa’s road schedule is Iowa State, Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Those teams are ranked 24th, 7th, 25th, 17th and 26th in the preseason coaches poll. There is no No. 26-ranking, actually, but Nebraska leads the “also receiving votes.”

That schedule is the reason Iowa’s over/under number for wins in Nevada is 7.5. Of the five road games, Michigan would seem to be the hardest to win. It would also seem be the one that did the most for the Hawkeyes to get taken seriously if they do win it.

Should Iowa get out of Ann Arbor with a triumph, I will note the following:

Iowa’s last five appearances in major bowls came during seasons in which they beat Michigan.

1981: Iowa 9, fifth-ranked Michigan 7. Iowa shared the Big Ten title and went to the Rose Bowl.

1985: Top-ranked Iowa 12, second-ranked Michigan 10. Iowa won the Big Ten and went to the Rose Bowl.

1990: Iowa 24, 10th-ranked Michigan 23. Iowa shared the Big Ten title and went to the Rose Bowl.


2002: Iowa 34, eighth-ranked Michigan 9. Iowa shared the Big Ten title and went to the Orange Bowl.

2009: Iowa 30, Michigan 28. Iowa went to the Orange Bowl.

The only time the Hawkeyes lost to the Wolverines in their last six meetings was 2012, when Iowa had its worst season of this millennium at 4-8. The millennium began in 2001, by the way.

Looking at the schedule, the Hawkeyes ought to be 1-0 in the Big Ten when they reach Ann Arbor. Their previous conference game will have been Sept. 7 at home against Rutgers.

Michigan? We’ll see. The Wolverines host Rutgers the week before they welcome Iowa, but they open Big Ten play Sept. 21 at Wisconsin.

It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that it will be 4-0 Iowa at 4-0 Michigan when they collide. It also is a long way from being a sure thing.

Oddly, both teams will have hosted Middle Tennessee by then. All the nonconference possibilities, and Iowa and Michigan both will play Middle Tennessee. That’s weird.

Anyway, if you happen to be reading this in Europe, I’ll bet you see a Michigan Block ‘M’ before you see an Iowa Tigerhawk. But don’t spend any time focusing on it. That’s a dumb way to occupy your mind.

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