There’s only a little over a week until Iowa opens its 2021 season in against Indiana at Kinnick and I’ve realized Tom Petty wasn’t lying: The waiting is the hardest part. As a result, over the past 30 days, as I do every July-August, I’ve immersed myself in as many classic Hawkeye football games as possible.
With that, I also have a bit of an obsession about television introductions to sporting events. In general, there are two hard and fast rules:
1. ABC Sports never fails and
2. anything Fox and or Big Ten Network is a non-starter.
There isn’t much of an effort put into game intros nowadays and it’s a crying shame, especially when you see the intros created from the 80s through the late aughts.
And so, with eight days until Hawkeye football, I’m counting down the five best television introductions to an Iowa football game ever (or that I could find). And while none of these live up to the greatness of the best college football and sporting event introduction of all time they should get you hyped nonetheless.
5) 2003 Orange Bowl - Iowa vs. USC
There’s a certain charm about the intro to this highly anticipated game. First, anything ABC Sports College Football, before ESPN got involved, is a major plus. Second, you have an unknown future A-lister in Steve Carell giving a very early aughts intro. Finally, you have the old-school BCS intro in-between Carell’s sketch and the game itself and it just takes me back to falling in love with this sports all over again. It’s a corny intro and isn’t in the same league as the others on this list, but for some reason I just love it though it's a crying shame this game suddenly ended following the opening kickoff (yes, that’s what happened).
4) 1985 - Iowa vs. Michigan State
“The Game” before “The Game”... one week after destroying Iowa State 57-3 the Hawkeyes were voted #1 in the country just as the Michigan State Spartans were rolling into town. As Brent Musberger put it best on the open of the broadcast, “it was a county fair atmosphere,” and the fans in attendance were rewarded with one of the great games in program history, culminating with Chuck Long’s naked bootleg touchdown run in the final minute.
As for the opening sequence, it checks off all the boxes for a good open including quintessential 1980s music, graphics, and transitions, as well as a highlight reel of the Hawkeyes just clowning opponents. It’s 1980s, it’s ABC Sports, it’s college football, Iowa is #1 and it’s wonderful.
3) 2009 - Iowa at Penn State
A classic Saturday Night Football intro and,man, is it a good one. It seems like a lifetime ago, but Iowa once owned Penn State for the better part of a decade and this intro captures the utter angst the Nittany Lions and their fans had with the Hawkeyes at the time. Musberger’s line “echos are not exclusive to sounds” is the perfect way to begin this prelude and the shots of the fans rushing Kinnick along with Daniel Murray’s winning kick in 2008 make this a delicious appetizer to what would be one of the great wins of the Kirk Ferentz era as well as the program’s last road win over a Top 5 opponent to date.
2) 2006 - Iowa vs. Ohio State
I remember being insanely excited for this game and I wasn’t even a Hawkeye student or fan at the time. The hype for this game, #1 vs. #12 was real and ABC delivered an intro that still gets me pumped even though the game (and Iowa’s season) eventually floundered. You have Musberger belting out a 00:50 ode to the Midwest and the state of Iowa culminating with my favorite delivery of his trademark line ever: “you are looking live to the largest crowd to ever watch a sporting event in the state of Iowa. For the Hawkeyes and their faithful, this tonight is their field of dreams.” Masterful.
1) 2016 Rose Bowl - Iowa vs. Stanford
It doesn’t get much better than this. As someone who grew up in the Midwest the flashbacks to Rose Bowls past conjure up my experiences seeing the picturesque weather of Pasadena, California on my television while at the same time being freezing and snowed in by frigid conditions at home. The combination serves as the perfect dichotomy for a kid from the Midwest and I wouldn’t change those New Year's Days for the world, nor would I change this introduction despite the disastrous affair that followed for Iowa. It’s Musberger, it’s Pasadena, it’s New Year's Day and it’s the Hawkeyes in the Rose Bowl. It’s magic.
Week Zero?. . .Then It’s Not Just A Clever Name
We’re just a few hours away from college football officially re-entering our lives with “week zero”—a fitting moniker for a weekend slate headlined by Nebraska and Illinois who, ironically, are two “zero” programs.
Besides the return of Hawkeye-legend turned successful Wisconsin and failed Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema (BERT!!), all eyes will be on the other sideline as Scott Frost embarks on what
will could be his farewell tour in Lincoln.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve struggled with what to make of this game from a Hawkeye perspective. One one hand, it’s funny watching the Illini struggle through bad coaching hire after bad coaching hire (should’ve never fired the Zooker, y’all [ED. Note: Still the last Illinois coach to beat Iowa, unbelievably. -- Ross]), but on the other hand part of me would like to see Illinois at least become a little more competitive for the good of its rivalry with Iowa and for the strength of the Big Ten West.
Regarding the Cornhuskers, a large part of me would love to see Frost’s program enter a tailspin before most of the country even takes the field. A loss in Champaign, against a horrible program in its head coach’s first game would be catastrophic. Whether Nebraska loses by one or one hundred it’ll be an unmitigated disaster and portend a three-month nuclear meltdown in Lincoln. Simply put, if the Cornhuskers lose Saturday. . .“Getcha popcorn ready.”
Still, I’m not sure this is what a Hawkeye really wants. Since Frost arrived at Nebraska he’s 12-20 (9-17 B1G) overall and 0-3 against Iowa. The Cornhuskers couldn’t be more irrelevant regionally and nationally so having Frost stick around a few more years to further drive Nebraska football into the ground would be pretty swell as well.
Ehh, who am I kidding?
At the end of the day Frost and the Cornhuskers remain detestable in almost every single way imaginable, and even though you’ll never catch me chanting I-L-L, until BERT takes a cheese grater to that Tigerhawk on his calf he’ll always have a very very small soft spot in this Iowan’s heart.
Pass the movie theater butter. Burn Big Red Burn.
Regardless of what happens though I think we can all agree that it’s great to not only have football back in our lives but also a sport that will look and feel a lot like it did before the pandemic uprooted the world. The 2020 season just wasn’t the same.
One week until Hawkeye football. Can’t wait.