That is hard to qualify.
The #1 vs #2 Iowa-Michigan game from 1985 was really big. For that time, it was hyped, the national media was on hand in droves and the way that it ended was amazing. But let's not take into consideration how things turned out for this conversation. If ESPN Gameday existed in 1985, it would have been in Iowa City.
The 2004 Iowa-Wisconsin game was huge, as a Big Ten championship was on the line. Anytime that is the case, then such a game gets elevated to ‘big' status. But the hype leading up to that game will not be as crushing as what we will see this week.
The renewal of the Iowa-ISU series was talked about in all corners of the state back in the late 1970's, but it was not a game that garnered much national attention.
Games involving Notre Dame at Kinnick were probably ballyhooed as well, but that was a different time, television was a new medium and there was no internet.
I know it's easy to think what you are experiencing right now is the ‘biggest ever' or something to that effect, but this weekend's game and the build up around it will be as big as Kinnick has seen.
ESPN Gameday will be in Iowa City for the first time since 1996. The #1 ranked team is coming to town, and they do not appear to be invincible. The start of the game is 7pm and it will be seen by a national audience on ABC. Iowa's Orange Bowl game against USC drew a 9-something rating. This game might not draw that, but it should be solid. The fans will have all day to do what ever it is they do to get into a frenzied state of mind prior to kickoff. Ohio State played in an absolutely crazy environment last year at Happy Valley during their ‘White Out' game. This game has been designated as a ‘Gold Bowl', as in wear gold to the game. That should look pretty sweet under the lights on TV.
For a Big Ten week two game, a lot is on the line. If Iowa wins the game, based on the way the rest of the league looks right now, you could argue that the road game at Michigan three week's later is the most serious road block in Iowa's way for a perfect season. Then again, the team has not put things together at this point that would have many people thinking along those lines, including yours truly.
But a win would vault Iowa into the Top 10, likely between 6th and 8th. It would be Iowa's first win over a team ranked #1 since…well, I don't know. I am sure that we will learn that stat when the media notes come out on Monday, but when I asked Jim Zabel this question on Saturday, he thought Iowa beat a #1 ranked team back in the 1950's.
My guess is that the ESPN Gameday crew will leave Iowa City believing that it will have been one of the best environments for that show in some time, and that the crowd will be worked into a lather come kickoff. That is usually the case, but this time around, it's a certainty, with perhaps another level like what we experienced for the ASU game in 2003.
This coming week's game will be the biggest in the country; it appears to be the only game between ranked teams. Many of the national writers for the biggest papers in the land, as well as the most visited sports websites, will be on hand, taking in the renovated Kinnick Stadium. Many will be in Iowa City for the first time in their careers, perhaps.
Will this be the biggest game ever played in the stadium? That is up for debate, but I think we can safely say that the build up to it and hype around it belongs in the top five the college football cathedral has ever seen.