Brown: Iowa schedule lacks flow after well-timed 2013

Rick Brown
Iowa's Kirk Ferentz will open Big Ten season on road for 12th time in his 16 seasons as coach

IOWA CITY, Ia. -- Iowa's football team had two bye weeks for the first time ever last season, and the timing was impeccable.

"They were perfect," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

The first one came six weeks into the season. The second came after the 10th game. That gave the Hawkeyes ample time to clean things up on the field and get healthy.

The Hawkeyes' bye weeks aren't as generous this season. The first comes after the fifth game of the season, the Sept. 27 Big Ten opener at Purdue. Then, after hosting Indiana and playing at Maryland, Iowa is off again before playing on the final five weeks of the regular season.

It's a strange schedule, too. Iowa will play just one home game between Sept. 13 and Nov. 1. So much for prime time football watching weather at Kinnick Stadium.

On paper, bye weeks look unkind to the Hawkeyes in another way. Iowa plays four games this season against teams coming off a bye week. The first is at Maryland Oct. 18. Then comes three straight games against fresh teams - Northwestern Nov. 1; at Minnesota Nov. 8; and at Illinois Nov. 15.

The Wildcats also play four Big Ten teams coming off bye weeks this season. Ohio State does it three times, Michigan, Michigan State, Maryland and Indiana twice. Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Rutgers do it once and Purdue and Penn State avoid it all together.

That sounds like a disadvantage, but Ferentz won't make an issue about it.

"Can't worry too much about that," Ferentz said. "It's like, "What time is the game played?' We don't have a say in it anyway. So you might as well be ready, whatever time it might be."

The good news is that Big Ten teams coming off bye weeks didn't exactly set the world on fire last season. Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin were all 2-0 in those games. But the rest of the league was 6-12.

What seems to bother Ferentz more than the bye games is the fact that his team starts Big Ten play on the road again.

"If you're a betting man, it would be good to bet that we'll have an away game to open the Big Ten every year," Ferentz said. "You'd make more than you lose, I know that for a fact."

Iowa's Big Ten opener at Purdue is the third time in four seasons, and the 12th time in Ferentz's 16 years as head coach, that the Hawkeyes begin conference play away from Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes also open Big Ten play on the road in 2015, at Wisconsin.

"I don't know if that's a conspiracy or not," Ferentz said. "But it does seem to be a real strong trend."

The combination of expanding to 14 teams this season, and going to nine conference games in 2016, makes for some non-traditional scheduling as well. Some teams will actually play conference games before the non-conference slate is completed.

Iowa opens the 2019 season with Miami of Ohio on Aug. 31, plays the Big Ten opener at home against Rutgers the following week and then travels to Iowa State.

But the schedules between 2016 and 2019 might put Ferentz in a better mood. Iowa opens Big Ten play at home in three of those four years.

At least you're not Rutgers, Coach. The Scarlet Knights play their first Big Ten game ever at home against Penn State on Sept. 13. But the next five conference openers are all on the road.

Welcome to the Big Ten.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.