By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – There is no denying that Matt Campbell has something special brewing in Ames.
His 2021 Iowa State football team is loaded with experience and talent on both offense and defense, so much so that I recently picked the Cyclones to defeat what should be a good Iowa team this season. I predicted a 24-21 Cyclone victory on Sept. 11 in Ames.
That didn’t sit well with some Iowa fans, but I was just being honest about what could be a classic showdown in a series that sometimes fails to live up to the enormous hype.
On the flipside, I upset Iowa State fans recently by writing a column in which I said that Iowa State didn’t measure up to being a valuable and worthy option for Big Ten expansion.
With Oklahoma and Texas both planning to bolt from the Big 12 to join the Southeastern Conference, the future of the Big 12 appears to be in jeopardy.
Because the Big 12 without Oklahoma and Texas would be sort of like the Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
The rumor mill has been buzzing ever since the news broke that Oklahoma and Texas were bailing on the Big 12, including the possibility that Iowa State might be a part of Big Ten expansion.
This particular column also won’t sit well with Iowa State fans because it’s my response to the belief that Iowa State is now superior to Iowa as a football program.
I’ve heard that narrative a lot since having written that Iowa State needs the Big Ten a lot more than the Big Ten needs Iowa State.
Cyclone fans resented my view, and understandably so.
They’re proud and excited about what Campbell has accomplished, but they’re also wrong to say, or to even suggest, that the balance of instate power has shifted. That’s getting way ahead of yourself because a few good years of success doesn’t erase more than a century of results.
In no way am I suggesting that Iowa is a traditional football power, but Iowa is superior to Iowa State in virtually every category that measures the strength of a program.
The racial unrest that rocked the Iowa program last summer is certainly a problem, and can’t be fixed in a short time.
But Iowa still performed well on the field last season, winning its final six games after having started 0-2. That wouldn’t have happened without the players and coaches being unified.
Most prognosticators also pick Wisconsin and Iowa to contend the for the Big 10 West Division title this fall.
So while Iowa State is soaring under Campbell, Iowa hardly is crumbling under Kirk Ferentz, who at 66 is the longest tenured head coach in college football.
I’d be willing to consider a shift in power if Iowa were showing signs of sinking under Ferentz. But that just isn’t the case.
Iowa State is having more success in recruiting right now than Iowa, but it’s too early to know if it’s only temporary, or a sign of things to come.
The basis of my argument is simple in that Iowa checks way more boxes than Iowa State when measuring program strength.
From success on the field to tradition to attendance to revenue generated to brand name to conference security, Iowa beats Iowa State in all those categories.
Iowa hasn’t won a Big Ten title since 2004, which is getting to be a long time. But Iowa State hasn’t won a conference title since 1912, which is the same year the Titanic sunk, and six years before Nile Kinnick was born.
Iowa has won at least 10 games six times under Kirk Ferentz, while Iowa State has never won more than nine games in a season.
Iowa has a 53-21 record since the start of the 2015 season, while Iowa State’s record is 38-27 during that time.
Iowa has played in 17 bowls games under Kirk Ferentz, and it would’ve been 18 if Missouri wouldn’t have backed out of playing the 2020 Music City Bowl due Covid-19 issues, while Iowa State has played in 16 bowl games overall.
Kinnick Stadium has a seating capacity of 69,250, while Jack Trick Stadium has a seating capacity of 61,500.
Iowa has had 79 players selected in the NFL Draft under Kirk Ferentz dating back to the 2000 draft, including 10 in both the first and second rounds, while Iowa State has only had 18 players picked in the draft since 2000, and just one higher than the third round.
Iowa has produced 27 consensus All-Americans, including 12 under Kirk Ferentz, while Iowa State has only had four consensus All-Americans, and none since running back Troy Davis was honored in 1995 and 1996.
Iowa is a long-time member of the Big Ten Conference, which now consists of 14 teams and has its own television network that pays each conference member approximately $50 million annually, while Iowa State is part of a Big 12 Conference whose future looks bleak, to say the least.
Iowa in 25 seasons has finished ranked in the final Associated Press top 25 poll, including second in 1958, and nine times under Kirk Ferentz, while Iowa State has been ranked in the final AP poll just three times.
Iowa has a 45-22 record against Iowa State, and has won the last five games in the series, and has a 12-5 record against the Cyclones since 2003.
I could keep going, but you should get my point by now.
Iowa State’s rise under Campbell has been incredible, and shows no signs of slowing, but he also has coached in Ames for just five seasons, and is 0-4 against Iowa.
The current Iowa State team is built to win on both offense and defense, but also will get hit hard by the 2022 NFL Draft. So it’ll be interesting to see if Campbell has lifted Iowa State above having to rebuild from multiple personnel losses.
It will also be interesting to see if Campbell stays at Iowa State with the Big 12 Conference showing early signs of unraveling.
Iowa only played conference games last season due to the global pandemic, so to have gone almost two years without facing the Cyclones adds more intrigue to this season’s game.
It has the makings of a classic with Iowa facing what could be the greatest Iowa State team ever. The Cyclones finished 9-3 last season and were ranked ninth in the final AP poll.
Iowa State also appeared in its first New Year’s six bowl last season, defeating Oregon 34-17 in the Fiesta Bowl. And most of the key players from that team return this season, including star running back Breece Hall and three-year starting quarterback Brock Purdy.
So to have picked Iowa State to beat Iowa this season is not disrespecting Iowa, but rather recognizing Iowa State’s potential.
But again, the Campbell years are a small sampling. And when you take every season into account, Iowa still ranks above Iowa State, and that won’t change even if Iowa loses to Iowa State this season.
Iowa has struggled before, suffering through 19 consecutive non-winning seasons from 1962 to 1980, but then along came Hayden Fry, followed by Kirk Ferentz, and the program has been stable for the past four decades.
Iowa State, on the other hand, has struggled to sustain success over the past 40 years, and Campbell hasn’t been around long enough to make up for that.