What a past couple of weeks. Colin Cowherd puts Iowa on blast for scheduling Middle Tennessee State, Iowa fans who are not at all sensitive respond in kind, and the discussion once again picks up that "hey maybe the Cy-Hawk Series should be canceled". David Schwartz of Hawkeye Nation proposed as much in a well thought out piece, citing Iowa’s nine-game conference schedule and the Hawkeye’s desire to play seven home games a season.
For all the discussion of canceling the series, in the words of The Rock: It doesn’t matter what you think. Iowa and Iowa State announced an extension of the Cy-Hawk football series for another two years, meaning they’ll be playing one another until 2023. For better or for worse it’s happening because Gary Barta and Jamie Pollard like money and they don’t care what you think. The validity of the series is a pointless debate. It’s something we have to live with.
The question then becomes: Should Iowa go out of their way to schedule another non-conference game against a Power 5 team to simply to improve their national perception? Well, here’s the thing. Iowa shouldn’t even have to ask themselves that question. We, as fans, shouldn’t have to ask that question.
Maybe, just maybe, Iowa State should just quit being so shitty.
It was actually Pat Harty, a master of questionable takes and proprietor of Hartylanches, that made this point originally:
I know it's asking a lot, but the Iowa football team's scheduling controversy mostly would be solved if Iowa State just stopped sucking.— Pat Harty (@PatHarty) April 14, 2017
And you know what? He’s right.
First off, Iowa v. Iowa State is one of the rare (active) non-conference rivalries in the nation between Power 5 teams. The Red River Shoot Out (screw calling it the Red River Rivalry), Bedlam, The Big Game (Cal v. Stanford or Ohio State v. Michigan), the Civil War, the Egg Bowl, the Iron Bowl, the Apple Cup and pretty much every great rivalry you can think of, is a conference game.
By my count, not including Iowa v. Iowa State, there are only five active non-conference games played between Power 5 teams. They are Georgia v. Georgia Tech, Clemson v. South Carolina, Florida v. FSU, Louisville v. Kentucky, and Penn State v. Pitt. A lot of rivalry games are played intermittently and set to pick up in the next few years but for now, that’s the list I’m coming up with. This is excluding Notre Dame, who refuses to be in a conference so they don’t get to be included.
Six. That’s the total number of non-conference rivalry games between Power 5 teams. Six. Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Penn State, Kentucky (really!) and Pitt have all won national championships. Hell, at least South Carolina and Louisville own conference titles in the modern era of platoon football and have Heisman Trophy winners. Iowa has to play a team that hasn’t won their conference since 1912 and claims a share of a divisional title with Colorado from 2004…a team they lost to.
By now you’re probably saying “WOW TYPICAL IOWA STATE HIT PIECE” and that’s justified but that’s not really the point. The point is that a team scheduling multiple Power 5 non-conference opponents is a rare occasion. Of all of the Power 5 teams ranked in the final 2016 AP Poll, only three of them will play multiple P5 non-conference opponents in 2017 (four if you count USC playing Notre Dame which we don’t because JOIN A CONFERENCE NOTRE DAME): Florida, Florida State, and Louisville.
And keep in mind that the SEC and ACC continue to play an eight-game conference schedule. For the conferences that have moved to a nine-game conference schedule, the template is Power 5 team, Group of Five team and FCS team or Power 5 team and two Group of Five teams. Again, there are exceptions, but that’s the norm for a non-conference schedule.
This is saying nothing of Iowa’s Big Ten counterparts. With the exception of Purdue, who apparently thought playing Missouri and Louisville in a single year would be a good idea, every other school only has one Power 5 team on its non-conference schedule. Wisconsin and Illinois don’t even play a single Power 5 school in 2017.
Now, you probably didn’t need to be told this, but of those previously mentioned non-conference rivalry games, Iowa State is, by far, the worst team. Out of the 125 teams ranked in terms of winning percentage, Iowa State checks in at 109th with a winning percentage of .449. The next closest team on that list is Kentucky, who ranks 92nd with a winning percentage of .494. And in the event you’re curious, Kentucky has won 82 more games than Iowa State and lost 27 fewer.
In fact, there are only three Power 5 teams worse than Iowa State in the NCAA: Northwestern, Indiana and Wake Forest. And hey, kudos to Northwestern for the drastic improvements over the past 10 years and Wake Forest for being slightly better than they’ve historically been. Shame on you, Indiana. And shame on you, Iowa State, for that .326 winning percentage since 2005.
The biggest problem with the Cy-Hawk series is that due to Iowa State being so historically bad, the only national recognition they receive is when they beat Iowa (which is far too often) or upset a dying powerhouse (see: Longhorns, Texas). This opens the door to the argument of what Iowa has to gain by annually playing a team they’re expected to beat and only have infinite embarrassment to suffer when they lose…which is often. But I digress, that’s an argument for years down the road.
To summarize: Iowa v. Iowa State is one of the rare non-conference Power 5 rivalries in college football, Power 5 teams rarely schedule multiple Power 5 opponents, and Iowa State is the worst non-conference Power 5 opponent in the nation (and the 4th worst Power 5 team in NCAA history).
For better or for worse, Iowa is married to Iowa State. There’s no point in arguing for the cancellation of the series because it’s under contract. Nor should Iowa or their fans have to defend themselves for only playing one Power 5 team in their non-conference schedule, when that’s the norm in college football.
The solution here is simple: Just quit being so shitty, Iowa State.