In compiling their consistent success over the last 100-plus years, the Wolverines have also had their way with Iowa as they have a 36-8-4 advantage in the series. They have held Iowa to less than 10 points in 24 games, including eight shutouts. UM defeated Iowa 11 times in a row between 1933 and 1956 and nine times in a row between 1964 and 1978. In fact, the only times that Iowa has been on a similar competitive level with Michigan over a significant length of time was in the 1920s under legendary Howard Jones, the 1950s under Forrest Evashevski, and during a ten year period of Hayden Fry's reign in Iowa City.
Although the Wolverines are currently riding a 6-game winning streak against the Hawks, almost every UW-UI game in the last 20 years has been competitive. During Hayden Fry's time in Iowa City, there were several years when Iowa beat Michigan, Ohio State beat Iowa, and Michigan beat Ohio State. Even in the years when Iowa lost to Michigan, the Hawks seemed to play the Wolverines tougher than OSU. Here are some of the more memorable moments in recent years:
1981 – Iowa 9, Michigan 7
Beating Michigan also seemed to be watershed moments for some of Hayden's teams. The 1981 Big Ten champs had wins over highly ranked non-conference foes Nebraska and UCLA, but the 9-7 win over Michigan in Ann Arbor was the game that really paved the way for Iowa's first appearance in the Rose Bowl since 1959.
1985 – Iowa 12, Michigan 10
The biggest win was on October 19, 1985 when #1 ranked Iowa defeated #2 Michigan 12-10 on a last second Rob Houghtlin field goal. Not only was it one of the greatest games in college football history, but the win proved to be the difference in Iowa winning its 2nd Big Ten title under Coach Fry. Other than the 1971 Nebraska-Oklahoma game, this game was the best #1 vs. #2 regular season game in college football history. Chuck Long was 26-39 for 297 yards, but had a TD pass to WR Scott Helverson ruled out of bounds when the television replay clearly showed the catch as good. Ronnie Harmon was outstanding against the UM Defense as he ran 32 times for 120 yards and caught six passes for 72 yards.
1990 – Iowa 24, Michigan 23
The last time Iowa beat Michigan was in 1990, which was also the last time that Iowa has won the Big Ten title and gone to the Rose Bowl. The road win in Ann Arbor was one of a series of great road wins that year in which the Hawks beat highly ranked Michigan, Michigan State, and Illinois in away games. (As big as that win was, the 54-28 win at Illinois was the high-water mark for that season as I can still see Nick Bell running over and past the Illini Defense!)
1997 – Michigan 28, Iowa 24
This has to be the game that still haunts Hawk fans the most as Iowa led the Wolverines 21-7 at the half in Ann Arbor after Tim Dwight returned a punt for a TD just as the half expired. Not only did Michigan come back to win, but Iowa QB Matt Sherman broke his thumb during the game and missed most of the season. The game was also a turning point for both teams as Michigan went on to win the national title. A talented Iowa team struggled to a disappointing 7-5 record.
1998 – Michigan 12, Iowa 9
This was a game that was there for the taking as Iowa played the Wolverines in rainy conditions that helped to diminish the speed and talent disadvantages that existed on the Iowa roster. Michigan scored five points in the final nine minutes to defeat Iowa 12-9 in Iowa City. After allowing a Michigan touchdown on the opening drive of the game, the Hawkeye defense held the Wolverines scoreless until a 22-yard field goal with 8:19 to play gave Michigan a 10-9 advantage. The Wolverines added a safety in the final minute. Iowa forced 5 turnovers, yet the offensive talent on the OL and WR were so weak that Iowa gave Michigan too many chances after continually playing conservative offensive football. The defense and special teams kept it close, but much like other games early in the 1998 season, it wasn't enough. The 1998 Iowa team was one of the worst in the last 20 years as they went 3-8, but they were 2-2 going into the Michigan game. Even after the loss, they ended up beating Northwestern to go to 3-3 before giving away a close game at Indiana. As bad as that team was at the end of the season, it is interesting to contemplate how a win over Michigan would have changed the season.
1994 - Michigan 29, Iowa 14
The Hawks entered the game with a 2-2 record after getting trounced by BOTH of the Rose Bowl participants. After getting destroyed by Penn State at Happy Valley, Iowa lost to Oregon in a game that was supposed to be a breather (Penn State went undefeated in 1994 and won their only Big Ten title; Oregon shocked the PAC-10 and won the conference after starting the season slowly). Michigan and star RB Tyrone Wheatley were favored to pummel the weak Iowa Defense, but Iowa had several chances at winning the game before Michigan pulled away late. Scott Slutzker had 10 catches and was inspirational as he was yelling encouraging words to his teammates while being carted off the field with an ankle injury. Iowa lost the next two games and was playing the 5th string QB at times, but the team rebounded in typical Coach Fry fashion as they ended the year 5-5-1.
1983 - Michigan 16, Iowa 13
This was another in a series of close games between these two teams in the 1980s, as #10 Michigan kicked the game-winning field goal with just eight seconds left in regulation. Only moments earlier it looked like #12 Iowa was going to win as they reached the Michigan 33-yard line with 1:30 to play. On the next play, a Wolverine tackler jarred the ball loose from RB Owen Gill. The ball changed hands, and so did the ball game. Iowa went on to finish the season, 9-3.
1984 - Iowa 26, Michigan 0
In one of the rare instances in the series, Iowa won by a comfortable margin as they handed legendary coach Bo Schembechler his worst defeat in his years at Michigan. After a rash of key injuries hit the team late in the season, the conference leading Hawkeyes eventually slipped and ended up in the Freedom Bowl. There they took out their frustrations on the Texas Longhorns, and set several passing records in the 55-17 win. They ended the year, 8-4-1.
1988 - Iowa 17, Michigan 17
In what was the strangest season ever for most followers of Iowa Football, Michigan and Iowa played to a tie in Kinnick Stadium that year. They also tied Ohio State and Michigan State on their way to a 4-1-3 conference record and a 6-4-3 record overall.
Saturday's game in Iowa City should be a good one. Not only has Iowa played UM tough in recent years, but the Hawks have played fairly well at home over their last six games at Kinnick. Michigan is ranked 8th in both major polls, and is the only Big Ten team to have not lost a conference game so far this year. However, the Wolverines have lost their only tough road game this year to an overrated Washington club. Their scores and statistics vs. Miami of Ohio and Penn State are similar to how Iowa did versus those two clubs. Beating 5-1 UM will require a solid effort from the 4-2 Hawkeyes, but Iowa is usually up to the challenge when the squad from Ann Arbor comes to town. Hopefully, this is the year that Iowa can make the big plays to come out on top instead of losing another competitive game.
Dan Cagley is a staff writer for Hawktalkonline, WolverineInsider.com's counterpart in Iowa City.