Where were you 13,139 days ago?
Sure, we've all seen the game.
Some of you were probably watching it live at home—in Iowa or someplace else.
66,350 of you were fortunate enough to be in attendance.
And If you were doing either that mid-October afternoon in 1985, consider yourself lucky.
Because for the rest of us too young to remember or not even alive yet, our experience with the biggest game in program history is dependent upon
ESPN BTN Classic re-runs and YouTube clips.
1985's #1 Iowa vs. #2 Michigan game remains the gold standard in program history. If you grew up a Hawkeye it's probably the first Iowa game that you'd heard about from your father or mother, aunt or uncle. It's likely the first classic Hawkeyes game you saw replayed on TV. If you do any internet research into the program at all you'll undoubtedly work your way over to "the kick." And If you didn't grow up an Iowa fan, as is the case with myself, then reading Internet articles and watching YouTube highlights is how I had to learn about the '85 game.
But no matter how many times you watch the Hawkeyes sprint onto the field as Rob Houghtlin's game winner travels through the Kinnick Stadium uprights, you don't truly grasp the magnitude of games like that one until you've been around the program for a while and you've lived through the 6-6's and 7-5's and the good, solid, but not great Iowa teams of most years.
And after you've watched teams and opportunities for the program to take that next step come and go with the seasons, you realize that moments like the '85 Michigan game come around maybe a few times in a lifetime.
We all know the setting: The 5-0 Hawkeyes had won two straight games as the #1 team in the country by the time the 5-0 #2 Wolverines rolled into Iowa City on October 19, 1985. Iowa was the better team and playing at home, but still this was the 1980s and if you weren't a Big Ten school named Michigan or Ohio State you were simply one of "the little eight."
The Wolverines and Hawkeyes traded blows in a classic Big Ten game full of crunching hits, fullback dives and improvised Jim Harbaugh finger-flick touchdowns.
Still, it was Chuck Long and Iowa who had the ball at its own 22-yard line trailing 10-9 with just 5:27 left. Using a mixture of Ronnie Harmon runs, precision passing and some good old fashioned luck, Long navigated the Hawkeyes down to the Michigan 12 yard-line with two seconds remaining.
And then, of course, there's the biggest play in school history. . ."the kick"—Rob Houghtlin's 29-yard field goal—giving #1 Iowa a 12-10 win.
Iowa would eventually fall at Ohio State, but still finished 10-1 to win the program's last outright Big Ten title to date. We should all be so lucky that Saturday's game produces even half of the amount of pandemonium coursing through Kinnick Stadium as when Houghtlin's kick went through the uprights and into Hawkeye lore.
The only other Iowa game in the modern era that comes remotely close to matching the enormity of Saturday or the '85 contest was 2004's Iowa-Wisconsin game. A Michigan loss at Ohio State earlier in the day dropped the Wolverines into a three-way tie with the Hawkeyes and Badgers atop the Big Ten as the two teams met on the season's final day.
It was a true Big Ten Championship game. It was also a great day to be a Hawkeye as the Iowa defense swarmed Wisconsin all evening, forcing legendary Badgers QB John Stocco into two interceptions as part of five turnovers, while Clinton Solomon hauled in six catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Drew Tate threw three touchdowns and the Hawkeye defense locked down Wisconsin on the ground, holding them to just 41 yards on 30 carries as they pitched a second-half shutout in the 30-7 Iowa victory.
And while the win didn't send the Hawkeyes to the Rose Bowl, it gave Iowa a share of the 2004 conference title and will likely be the last one ever won on campus in Iowa City. The enormity of this game wasn't at the level of the '85 game or even Saturday's contest, but the '04 Big Ten title is the program's last to date so it's still pretty damn special.
And just like those two games, this matchup with Penn State is not normal.
Saturday's showdown is so important outside of simply #3 versus #4 for several reasons.
For starters, this is the first time in 36 years that Iowa is ranked in the top-five before the leaves have fully turned and, for one afternoon going into evening, the entire college football world will have its eyes on Iowa City. Also, not only is this Hawkeye team looking very, very good (and potentially great), but the program has now shockingly garnered a fair amount of national respect for the first time in forever.
Usually, as Iowa racks up wins the national abuse comes stronger and stronger through ESPN rants and YouTube bits. Heck, the 2015 team went 12-2 and they still receive no respect.
But this is different.
Additionally, Iowa is playing at home and is favored Saturday, factors that should not be overlooked. In seemingly every really important game this program has played in recent memory, including the two big showdowns over the past 12 years that could possibly rival this weekend's affair—2009 at Ohio State and the 2015 Big Ten title game—both were away from Iowa City and the Hawkeyes were clear underdogs.
Not only is Saturday a very different animal than those two in a literal sense, but I have a feeling that watching this #3 Iowa team line up against #4 Penn State Saturday will also transcend those of us who were too young to witness the '85 Michigan game.
This contest is our generation's best chance to be our "where were you?" moment.
10 and 20 years from now I can see Hawkeyes of all kinds asking one another:
"Where were you during that Penn State game in '21?
And just as Hawkeye fans talk about the '85 game and Houghtlin's legendary kick, some of us may boast that we were there for this game. Others might be proud to tell their friends how they watched it on the same television they've watched every Iowa football game in their lifetime. Perhaps they viewed the '21 Penn State game like they did the '85 Michigan game—in their living room in Cedar Rapids or their basement in Council Bluffs with their father, brother, mother, or sister.
Whatever the case may be and whether you're watching from Kinnick Stadium, somewhere in the state of Iowa or from the International Space Station, the enormity and magnitude of this game cannot be lost on any one of us.
Because national title chances and games this big don't come around these parts too often.
And 13,139 days is a long time to wait.