By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – What if there wasn’t a global pandemic and Iowa and Iowa State were preparing this week for their annual showdown in football?
This coming Saturday, needless to say, would’ve marked the 68th time that Iowa and Iowa State squared off in football.
The game was supposed to be played at Kinnick Stadium, and there is a good chance that both teams would’ve been undefeated and ranked.
It had all the makings of a Cy-Hawk classic.
Iowa would’ve had home-field advantage, but Iowa State would’ve had the more experienced quarterback in rising star Brock Purdy.
Iowa would’ve returned eight starters on offense, but Iowa State would’ve countered with nine returning starters on defense.
Iowa would’ve featured a talented sophomore running back in Tyler Goodson, while Iowa State would’ve featured a talented sophomore running back in Breece Hall.
Iowa would’ve had a rising star at tight end in sophomore Sam LaPorta, while Iowa State would’ve had a proven star at tight end in junior Charlie Kolar, and two talented backups.
Iowa would’ve returned four starters on the offensive line, while Iowa State would’ve had three returning starters on its defensive line.
Iowa would’ve returned its top four receivers from last season, while Iowa State would’ve countered with all four returning starters from its secondary, including two-time All-Big 12 selection Greg Eisworth at strong safety.
Iowa would’ve had experience at linebacker with veteran starters Djimon Colbert and Nick Niemann, and with sophomore Jack Campbell poised for a bigger role, while Iowa State would’ve been well-stocked at linebacker with veteran starters Mike Rose and O’Rien Vance, and key senior Jack Hummel forming a strong unit.
Iowa would’ve had All-America kicker Keith Duncan leading the way on special teams, while Iowa State would’ve had three-year starting kicker Connor Assalley on its side.
These kinds of comparisons could go on and on because both teams are pretty solid from top to bottom, or at least Iowa looked pretty solid on paper before its season was canceled due to health concerns with the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The big question with Iowa, of course, is at quarterback where sophomore Spencer Petras was expected to replace Nate Stanley, who had a 27-12 record as a three-year starter, including 10-3 last season.
That still is likely to happen at some point, it’s just not certain when it’ll happen under the current circumstances.
But in Iowa State’s case, some answers will start to surface on Saturday when it faces Louisiana in the season opener at an empty Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.
But let’s pretend for the sake of this column that Iowa and Iowa State were just two days from playing each other, and that the media was hyping the game like it was the first moon landing, as we always do.
What would’ve happened on the field this year, besides the Wave and all of its heartwarming emotion being performed after the first quarter?
I slipped into a trance and asked myself that question, and then took a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses for each team and then tried to envision the game unfolding before a sellout crowd at Kinnick Stadium.
Call me a homer, but I envisioned Iowa prevailing 27-25 on a last-second field goal by Duncan from 39 yards.
I had Goodson making a huge impact as a runner and receiver, finishing with over 100 total yards, and also had backup running back Mekhi Sargent scoring a key touchdown, just like he did in Iowa’s 13-3 victory over Iowa State in 2018 at Kinnick Stadium.
I had Petras making a solid contribution at quarterback, due partly to all of the talent and experience at receiver, and due to Goodson’s ability as a receiver.
And I had the Iowa defense making a key stand late in the fourth quarter that would help to set up Duncan’s latest game-winning field goal.
I then slipped out of my trance and returned to the regular programming called reality.
The only thing that would’ve surprised me about the Iowa-Iowa State game would have been a lopsided score because both teams look so evenly matched on paper.
Iowa has won the last five games in the series, so you could argue that the law of averages were about to flip in this year’s game.
I gave that serious consideration during my trance, but also took into account that I had mistakenly picked Iowa State to beat Iowa in each of the past three seasons, so maybe it was time to show more faith in the Hawkeyes.
Sadly, this will be faith unrewarded.