Brown: Hawkeyes' Kinnick edge not what it used to be

Rick Brown
Mark Weisman said it's up to the players to give Iowa a home edge again

IOWA CITY, Ia. – The home team has won the last four games in the Iowa-Northwestern football series.

So there's a positive trend if you're a Hawkeye fan, since Saturday's 11 a.m. game (televised on BTN) is at Kinnick Stadium.

This will be the Wildcats' third trip to Iowa in the last four seasons, thanks to a reshuffled schedule brought on by Big Ten expansion. That's also why the Hawkeyes play at Minnesota for the fourth time in five seasons a week from now.

But that trip to TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis won't be nearly as important if Iowa doesn't take care of business Saturday at Kinnick. Yes, Kinnick, once a house of doom for visitors but more friendly these days.

Sellouts have become rare, though average attendance is projected to be up slightly this year from a season ago. Still, that number will be south of 70,000 for just the second time since 2003. There were no home sellouts in 2013 and just one this season so far. Approximately 3,000 tickets remain for Saturday's game, 1,200 for Wisconsin on Nov. 22 and 3,500 for Nebraska on Nov. 28.

The theories behind the numbers dip are many, from growing lack of student support to an uneasy fan base wanting to get more bang for their buck. The Hawkeyes' dominating home-field advantage isn't what it once was, either.

Iowa won 22 consecutive home games between 2002 and 2005 until Michigan snapped the streak in overtime. And between 2008 and 2011, Iowa was 23-5 at home. The only losses were to Top 10 opponents Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State, as well as a pair of upsets to Northwestern.

Over the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Iowa is 7-4 at home in the regular season, 6-2 on the road. Since 2012, the Hawkeyes are 9-9 at Kinnick. Iowa lost a total of 13 home games between 2001 and 2011.

Late last season, Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz went on Twitter and questioned the gameday atmosphere at Kinnick: "I know that the stadium experience is lacking but this team needs your support — do it on your own. Best fans in the country! #MelroseMagic"

Ferentz made some legitimate points, but winning cures a lot of ills.

Senior running back Mark Weisman said it's time for the players to take matters into their own hands.

"We've got to get the fans into it," Weisman said. "That's on us. It's an advantage only if we make it an advantage."

That home-field advantage would come in handy Saturday against a Northwestern team that believes it can win at Kinnick.

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