I love Italian food. It represents three quarters of my blood, and my mother and grandmother make the good stuff.
Still, I don't think I could live on meatballs alone. I, like most people, enjoy varying cuisines. Our taste buds crave change.
As I enter my 13th year of covering Iowa football, I really look forward to the big games every year. Iowa State is a rush. I can't wait for Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan this year. Even Northern Iowa brings some intrigue.
No schedule excites the fans from Week 1 to close. We understand the money grabs that are Arkansas State. Schools need to increase their postseason chances by inviting the patsies to town for a beat down.
Iowa could increase interest in their non-conference slate. The other schools would need to agree and not back out, but that usually doesn't happen unless you hail from Columbia, Missouri.
Yeah, fans enjoy traveling to destinations like Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Arizona, but think about how many more fans might drive to destinations in the region. And there are some good ones. And that doesn't mean a nice trip by plane once in a while is a bad thing.
Here are my Top 10 opponents I'd like to see Iowa play, either regularly or at least once in a while:
1. Nebraska - Yes, it would mean another Big 12 conference opponent on the schedule with Iowa State. I hear this as an argument against adding another program from that league, but I don't buy it. There's too much potential in developing rivalries there. The Cornhuskers don't carry the same cache as they once did, but Memorial and Kinnick Stadiums are two of the finest venues in the country (at least that I've visited) with some of the most loyal fans. These two schools compete for recruits. It's a relatively easy drive between the two towns. This one just makes too much sense.
Series Record: Nebraska leads, 26-12-3.
Last Meeting: Nebraska, 42-13, Sept. 23, 2000, in Lincoln.
Tidbits: The teams played from 1979-82 with the Huskers winning three times…the series was most active in the ‘30s and ‘40s when the teams met 13 times in those two decades…the teams did not meet from '47 to '78.
2. Missouri - It's hard to believe that two programs with such a geographical connection have not played in almost a century. Crazy. The failed attempt to get together earlier this decade would add fuel to this matchup. Like Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa share about the same talent level. Iowa also slips into Missouri for recruits, which would add interest to the series. Missouri plays Illinois in a traditional season-opener, but that series comes to an end after their 2010 meeting. Like the Illinois-Missouri match-up, Iowa could play the Tigers in St. Louis' Edward Jones Dome. The Hawkeye fans get to party it up in a great city and watch a game in an NFL facility. Kansas City would also be a nice location.
Series Record: Missouri leads, 7-5.
Last Meeting: Missouri, 5-0, Oct. 15, 1910, in Columbia.
Tidbits: These schools played 12 times from 1892 to 1910 and have not met since…The schools scheduled a home and home earlier this decade. The Tigers backed out.
3. Notre Dame - OK, this game would be more attractive to Iowa than the Irish. Notre Dame already plays the Big Ten's Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue, annually. The Hawkeyes probably don't do anything more for Touchdown Jesus than would Illinois, Wisconsin or Minnesota. The Domers would prefer Penn State or Ohio State. But this might be a matchup the elitist folks in South Bend see as a chance for an easy win against a BCS opponent even though Iowa is a superior program in this decade. To make it even more interesting, let's put it in Chicago's Soldier Field where both schools have solid fan bases. Even though it's old history, there is history here. Let's get it going again.
Series Record: Notre Dame leads, 13-8-3.
Last Meeting: Notre Dame, 51-28, Oct. 5, 1968, in South Bend.
Tidbits: Starting with the famous 1939, 7-6, Iowa home win, the teams met 24 times through 1968, their last meeting…Notre Dame was No. 3 in the nation when it played Iowa in '39…the game was played on Armistice Day, now known as Veteran's Day. Kinnick was later killed in a plane crash, training to fight in the Navy during World War II, according to Wikipedia.
4. Oklahoma - As with Notre Dame, I'm not sure how this one would excite the fans in Norman. They'd much rather see one of the Big Ten heavyweights. But it still would be a Big Ten opponent, which they don't see much of down there, and one they think they'll thump. They also might be a little intrigued by the Bob Stoops connection, which would really drive interest in Iowa City. It's fair to say that the majority of fans wanted Stoops when Kirk Ferentz got the job after the '98 season. The teams could play a home-and-home on campuses, two of the better ones for college football. They could also set up something where there's one game in Kansas City and the follow-up in Oklahoma City.
Series Record: Oklahoma leads, 1-0.
Last Meeting: Oklahoma, 21-6, Sept. 15, 1979, in Norman.
Tidbits: Oklahoma has not played a Big Ten school during the regular season since Stoops took over in 1999. The Sooners last played in the regular season against a Big Ten team when they lost 24-0 to Northwestern in '97.
5. Colorado - Do you sense a Big 12 trend in this piece? It just seems logical considering the regional connection. These programs are similar in that they've enjoyed some real nice highs in the last quarter century or so, but overall usually sit in that second tier of their respective conferences with the ability to win titles when things are going well. Boulder and Iowa City are classic college towns, perfect locations for the home-and-home. There's no need to take this one to Denver or Chicago.
Series Record: Colorado leads, 2-0.
Last Meeting: Colorado, 28-12, Sept. 26, 1992, in Boulder.
Tidbits: The teams met for a home-and-home in 1988 and 1992…Colorado escaped from Iowa City with a 24-21 decision in ‘88.
6. Georgia - The Big Ten and SEC have a few common bowl partners that could create a tough situation when it comes to matching up in the postseason by playing in the regular season. I still think the Big Ten should try to take on the SEC more often. The Big Ten gets a bad rap as an outdated league, while the SEC gets lauded for speed and athleticism. Let's see some of these Southern schools come up to the Midwest instead of taking on Big Ten programs close to home in the bowls. While I'm not a big fan of several SEC coaches, I like Mark Richt. His program reminds me quite a bit of what you find in the Big Ten – strong running game and physical defense. I think Alabama also could fill this spot. You'd have the Nick Saban-Kirk Ferentz connection. They are Bill Belichick disciples.
Series Record: Never met.
Last Meeting: Never met.
Tidbits: Iowa last played an SEC school during the regular season when it took on Tennessee in the 1987 Kickoff Classic from Easter Rutherford, New Jersey. The Vols won, 23-22.
7. UCLA - I certainly don't mind seeing Arizona and Arizona State representing the PAC-10 on the Hawkeye schedule, but it would be nice to mix it up more often. Take Southern Cal out of the mix. Their schedule is loaded and they'd rather play the big boys and have the cache to do so. So, let's stay in Los Angeles. I think Hawkeye fans would travel out to the Rose Bowl. Plenty of alumni live out in California. Like many of the games listed above, this would create interest from one of the national TV networks. Plus, there needs to be some redemption from the '85 Rose Bowl. California and Oregon would be good back-up choices here.
Series Record: UCLA leads, 6-3.
Last Meeting: UCLA won, 45-28, Jan. 1, 1985, Rose Bowl.
Tidbits: These teams played four times from 1973-81 during the regular season…the last time Iowa played a PAC-10 team during the regular season that did not reside in Arizona was 1994. Oregon took out the Hawkeyes, 40-18, in Eugene.
8. Kansas - I was going to go with Kansas State here because of the Bill Snyder connection to Iowa, but I don't think Bill will hang around much longer and the thought of Iowa fans having to go to Manhattan, Kansas is disturbing. I think Kansas will be a more consistently good program than will Kansas State. I also believe Kansas and Iowa would bring more interest in Kansas City than would Kansas State.
Series Record: Kansas leads, 6-4.
Last Meeting: Iowa won, 21-7, Oct. 29, 1960, in Iowa City.
Tidbits: The 1960 meeting between these two schools represented their first matchup since '09.
9. Virginia Tech - Having only played one member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (North Carolina State), it's about time the Hawkeyes dive into that league again. Yeah, you could go with the flash of Miami or Florida State, but why not take on a place you respect? Frank Beamer has built the Hokies on defense and special teams, which Iowa fans can appreciate. Iowa is recruiting in the DC area, which could make Maryland or UVA interesting. Boston College would be a homecoming of sorts for some of the Hawkeye coaching staff. But Virginia Tech seems like the best fit based on style and intrigue.
Series Record: Never met.
Last Meeting: Never met.
Tidbits: Iowa's lone ACC opponent, NC State, is 3-0 against the Hawkeyes. Their last meeting came in '92, when the Wolfpack came away with a 24-14 win at the Kickoff Classic in New Jersey.
10. Rutgers - How about some love for our Big Apple Hawkeye fans? New Jersey has been pretty good to Ferentz and his staff and they still dip into the Garden State (bet you didn't know it was called that). It would be great seeing black and gold roaming the streets of Gotham before heading over to Meadowlands for a Saturday night showdown with the Scarlett Knights on ABC. It also could be a preview of a future Big Ten contest. Rutgers makes a lot of sense if the conference were to add a 12th team in the future.
Series Record: Never met.
Last Meeting: Never met.