Hawkeyes lose annual rivalry, gain another

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Heartland Trophy no longer sits in the atrium outside Iowa's football offices, and it won't be coming back until at least 2013.

Iowa's annual series against Wisconsin goes on hiatus the next two seasons, thanks to Big Ten expansion. The Hawkeyes and Badgers have been placed in opposite divisions without a protected crossover, allowing the rivalry to be put on hold for certain stretches. This fall will mark just the third time since 1936 that Iowa and Wisconsin don't play (the teams didn't meet in 1993 or 1994). And since Wisconsin won last year's game in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes must wait until Nov. 2, 2013, to reclaim the big brass bull.

"It is going to be strange not playing Wisconsin, I'll definitely say that," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Friday. "That's going to be a little different, certainly. ... Wisconsin's obviously been a border rivalry, but the positives are we're flipping it for another border rivalry."

That would be Nebraska-Iowa, which has all the ingredients to become one of the Big Ten's most exciting matchups.

Although the teams haven't played since 2000 and Nebraska holds a decided edge in the all-time series (26-12-3), the hype is already building for the reunion of the rivalry this fall in Lincoln.

The next two Iowa-Nebraska matchups will be played on Black Friday -- the lone Big Ten game that day -- and if all goes well, the series could become a post-Thanksgiving treat.

"The people in Iowa, they've always been curious about, 'When are we going to play Nebraska again?'" Ferentz said. "So I think it's going to be a real smooth, natural transition."

The Nebraska series already has piqued the curiosity of Iowa players like senior tight end Brad Herman.

"What are they calling it, Farmageddon?" Herman said. "It's going to be a fun new matchup. Nebraska is going to bring a lot to the Big Ten as far as football goes."

Ferentz doesn't have the fondest memories of the Huskers. Nebraska spoiled his head-coaching debut with Iowa, thumping the Hawkeyes 42-7 in Iowa City to open the 1999 season.

A year later, Nebraska held the No. 1 ranking as it beat Iowa 42-13 in Lincoln.

"Our timing hasn't been good," Ferentz said. "My first year they were third in the country or second, I don't know, and were about 142nd. Hopefully, the field will be a little bit more even this year when we meet."

So while Iowa will miss seeing Wisconsin every year -- players on both sides have mutual respect -- the Nebraska series helps with the disappointment.

"Both teams are red, right?" Ferentz said. "Both teams are border rivalries, and both teams are good teams. So it all works out."