With the handshake agreement between the Big Ten, Pac-12, and ACC, the three conferences have formed an Alliance. This Alliance serves to bring the three together for future NCAA voting items, scheduling agreements, and to strengthen the greater good of NCAA athletics. The scheduling component of the Alliance could bring some new opponents to the future of Iowa football. With this new agreement, there are five intriguing alliance matchups for Iowa.
Pac-12 Alliance Matchups
This one feels the most obvious. Washington conducts a program very similar to that of Iowa. Head coach Jimmy Lake has been with the program since 2014 when he came over from Boise State as defensive backs coach with Chris Petersen. Lake is a defensive-minded head coach and the Huskies have delivered great production on defense in his time with the team. Since 2015, Washington has only allowed 18.9 points per game with a playoff appearance and two New Year’s Six bowls. In that same time frame, Iowa’s defense has allowed 17.8 points per game with a Rose Bowl appearance and multiple New Year’s Day bowls. Both of these teams have consistency in their coaching staffs and are great player development programs. A periodical home-and-home between the Hawkeyes and the Huskies would be a fascinating, old-school football matchup between two highly-regarded programs.
To many, Colorado might still feel like a Big 12 school. Their rivalries with other midwestern programs such as Nebraska and Oklahoma used to fuel the fanbase. Colorado’s recent move to the Pac-12 fits from an academic perspective, and the Buffalos have made a name for themselves athletically in the conference. The Buffs were in playoff conversations during the 2016 season under head coach Mike MacIntyre. They’ve had some turnover at head coach lately, but Colorado is a strong Power Five program. Given their recent scheduling, they seem eager to accept other non-conference opponents in the Power Five. This season, they host both Minnesota and Texas A&M. Colorado is a reputable program that could make for a great matchup with Iowa in the future.
Both of these fan bases are passionate and travel well. Iowa also has a substantial alumni presence in the greater Denver area. The road trip from Iowa City to Boulder is manageable in one day, and both campuses are spectacular. In fact, the architect who designed Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall also designed Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall in the heart of Boulder. From the Flatirons of Boulder to the cornfields of Iowa City, the potential Hawkeye-Buffalo rivalry is one of the more intriguing Alliance matchups.
Scheduling Utah every few years would be a compelling game for Iowa. Like the Hawkeyes, the Utes are a very consistent football program. They have an experienced head coach in Kyle Whittingham who is entering his 28th season on the Utah coaching staff. Originally a defensive line coach in 1994, he took over for Urban Meyer as head coach in 2005 and has been a model of consistency ever since. In his 16 years at the helm, Whittingham has averaged eight and a half wins per season. The Utes tend to fly under the national radar in terms of top-tier teams. However, that hasn’t stopped them from producing great numbers year-in and year-out. Kirk Ferentz is regarded as the “Dean of College Football,” but Whittingham is probably the Provost. Both head coaches have proven track records as two of college football’s best. A potential late-season snowy game in Salt Lake City or Iowa City would be a classic. Two tough-nosed, consistent football teams with great head coaches would be a unique addition to the schedule for Iowa.
ACC Alliance Matchups
The Tar Heels are quickly advancing to the top of the ACC Coastal after Mack Brown was named their head coach in 2019. He took over a 2-9 program and is entering his third year as the tenth-ranked team in the country. North Carolina also has one of the highest-rated quarterbacks in the nation, Sam Howell. Brown has 31 years of head coaching experience and brings a lot of college football knowledge to Chapel Hill. He coached the Heels back in the ‘90s and has been able to turn the program around once again in his second stint. It’s rare that Iowa gets to play nationally ranked, out-of-conference teams as a part of the regular season. Scheduling the Tar Heels would do just that. An occasional trip to Chapel Hill would be a great road test for Iowa and would likely get national attention as a Top-25 matchup. These days, scheduling pays off when it comes to College Football Playoff Rankings. North Carolina will look good on a resume for years to come with Brown running things.
While the Eagles might not seem like a big-name ACC school, they are a program on the rise with second-year head coach Jeff Hafley. Boston College has been right around seven wins since 2016, but things are looking up. Junior quarterback Phil Jurkovec has played very well lately and is a sign of what’s to come. The Eagles’ 2022 recruiting class currently ranks 5th in the ACC. The 2023 class is second in the ACC behind Florida State and ranked eighth nationally. In just under two years in Chestnut Hill, Hafley has put together an incredible recruiting staff and landed top players. With the building blocks in place, Boston College is going to soon be a contending ACC program. They’ll always have Clemson in their division, but Hafley could take this team to New Year’s Day bowl games in the near future. At his roots, Hafley is a secondary coach and the Eagles run a great defensive scheme. A game between two of the nation’s better defenses in Iowa and Boston College would be compelling. If Iowa can get this one on the schedule, there’s likely to be some great games between the two.