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True or False? Iowa Football Struggles in Games on the West Coast

True or False? Iowa Football Struggles in Games on the West Coast

8/26/2020 - As a lifelong Iowa fan, I always felt that the football team struggled winning games on the West Coast. I would bet most fans would agree with that statement.

After setting up this website, it is now easier for me to gather data on questions like this, to see if this is true or not. Often times perceptions don't match reality, so I wanted to see what the facts are, including whether we were favored in the game or not, which often isn't discussed much in bowl game records. Iowa often draws more difficult opponents because we can bring lots of fans to the game, and that moves us up into better bowl games, instead of games where we are more evenly matched.

I pulled all the modern games from the Kirk Ferentz and Hayden Fry era to keep it simple, ignoring any games before 1979.

Here are the games I found that matched the criteria of "West Coast" (Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii). I debated including the 1992 game at Colorado, but decided to leave it out.

DateOpponent and RankLocationBowl Game?Iowa OddsScoreOutcomeNotes
1/1/1982#12 Iowa vs #13 WashingtonPasadena, CARoseEven Matchup0-28BAD LOSSOutmatched
9/25/1982Iowa @ ArizonaTucson, AZNoEven Matchup17-14GOOD WINTough win
12/1/1984Iowa @ HawaiiHonolulu, HINoEven Matchup17-6WINHawaii finished 7-4
12/26/1984Iowa vs #19 TexasAnaheim, CAFreedomNot Favored55-17GOOD WINBlowout win
1/1/1986#4 Iowa @ #13 UCLAPasadena, CARoseFavored28-45BAD LOSSUCLA's home stadium
12/30/1986#19 Iowa vs San Diego StateSan Diego, CAHolidayFavored39-38WINSDSU home stadium
9/12/1987Iowa @ ArizonaTucson, AZNoEven Matchup15-14WINTough win
12/30/1987#18 Iowa vs WyomingSan Diego, CAHolidayFavored20-19WINTough win
9/3/1988#9 Iowa @ HawaiiHonolulu, HINoFavored24-27LOSSTough loss
1/1/1991#17 Iowa vs #8 WashingtonPasadena, CARoseNot Favored34-46BAD LOSSBlowout early then came back
12/30/1991#7 Iowa vs BYUSan Diego, CAHolidayFavored10-10BAD TIELate INT salvaged tie
9/24/1994Iowa @ OregonEugene, ORNoNot Favored18-40BAD LOSSOregon won Pac-10, no bowl for Iowa
9/19/1998Iowa @ #16 ArizonaTucson, AZNoNot Favored11-35LOSSFry's last year, no bowl game

Hayden Fry Summary - His record at Iowa was 143-89-6 (61.3%). In West Coast games, he was 6-6-1 (about 50% win record). What really stands out is the three difficult Rose Bowl losses, versus the two Holiday Bowl wins and the Freedom Bowl win. In bowl games, he was 3-3-1 (lost 3 Rose Bowls). There were also two wins against Arizona that people forget about (1982 and 1987). If you just looked at games we SHOULD have won based on record and ranking, there were 5 games we were favored, 4 games evenly matched, and 4 games we were not favored (underdogs). Based on that, they would have won half the evenly matched games, won the 5 favored games, and lost the games we were underdogs. They would have likely had a 7-6 record, so I'm concluding that Fry did not have a problem with playing in the west coast except for Rose Bowl games.

DateOpponent and RankLocationBowl Game?Iowa OddsScoreOutcomeNotes
9/18/2004#16 Iowa @ Arizona StateTempe, AZNoFavored7-44BAD LOSSASU finished 9-3 on the season
9/18/2010#9 Iowa @ #24 ArizonaTuscon, AZNoFavored27-34LOSSDisappointing season after high expectations
12/28/2010Iowa vs #14 MissouriTempe, AZInsightNot Favored27-24GOOD WINDisappointing season after high expectations
12/30/2011Iowa vs #19 OklahomaTempe, AZInsightNot Favored14-31LOSSAverage team overmatched
1/1/2016#6 Iowa vs #5 StanfordPasadena, CARoseEven Matchup16-45BAD LOSSGame was over in 1st Qtr
12/27/2019#16 Iowa vs #22 USCSan Diego, CAHolidayEven Matchup49-24GOOD WINIowa dominated entire game

Kirk Ferentz Summary - His record as of 2019 at Iowa is 162-104 (60.9%). Overall, he had much fewer games on the west coast compared to Hayden Fry (partly by choice, some by chance), even though they both have/had coached about 20 seasons. In West Coast games, he was 2-4 (33% win record). He had two really bad losses (2004 ASU and 2016 Rose Bowl), but beat USC last year and Missouri in 2010. The loss to Oklahoma wasn't much of a surprise. The Arizona loss was still an upset, but given a road game against a former Hawkeye (Mike Stoops), and getting down by 20 points in the game, they played well in the 2nd half, so I'm not considering that one a "bad loss."

In bowl games, he was 2-2 (lost 1 Rose Bowl and 1 Insight Bowl). If you just looked at games they SHOULD have won based on record and ranking, there was 2 games we were favored (ASU and Arizona), 2 games evenly matched, and 2 games we were not favored (underdogs). Based on that, they would have won half the evenly matched games, won the 2 favored games, and lost the games we were underdogs. That would have likely had a 3-3 record, so it seems like we did about the same as expected given the matchups (one more loss instead of a win), not a result of the climate or time zone. I'm concluding that Ferentz also did not have a problem with playing in the west coast except for the ASU game (which he said impacted future games scheduled on the west coast). The lopsided loss in the 2016 Rose Bowl was also very painful as a fan, given the dream season they had.

Perhaps Ferentz is including his experience with Coach Fry in his memory when reflecting back on past trips to the West Coast.

In conclusion, I don't see any clear evidence that Iowa has a higher or lower chance of winning games on the West Coast, much to my own surprise.

The other topic I thought about was bowl game victories versus the quality of the opponent. I did a quick look at the bowl games under Ferentz and Fry.

For Fry, he was 6-7-1 in bowl games. Of those games, he was 2-3 as an underdog (other team ranked much higher), 1-3 when evenly matched (unranked or rankings were close), and 3-1-1 in games we were favored (had a higher ranking). Using the logic above, they SHOULD have ended with a record of 7-7, which is almost identical to what he had (except for the BYU tie in 1991).

For Ferentz, he is 10-9 in bowl games through 2022. Of those games, he also is 2-4 as an underdog, 8-5 when evenly matched, and I didn't see any games where they were considered favorites (maybe 2017 Pinstripe vs Boston College?). With that logic, they SHOULD have been 6-13 or 7-12 in bowl games, so Ferentz teams have actually done better than that by 3 games. I think that is often overlooked because of the strength of the opponents.

What do you think? Am I missing something? Did I forget a game?




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True or False? Iowa Football Struggles in Games on the West Coast - Summary of Iowa football and basketball games