Iowa Opens At Home Against Maryland In New Big Ten Football Schedule

John Bohnenkamp

Iowa's football season opener is still scheduled to be on Sept. 5 against Kinnick Stadium.

But Maryland will be the opponent, not Northern Iowa, under the 2020 conference-only schedule released Wednesday morning by the Big Ten.

“As a program, we have been looking forward to this day since the decision to play a conference-only schedule was announced,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said in a statement. “Knowing when our games are scheduled will allow us to prepare for what is ahead on the field and support our players’ academic schedules off the field.

“Our players have shown patience and dedication during the most recent period of conditioning and off-season workouts, and now we are excited to begin the process of preparing for a football season. We are continuing to closely monitor the health and safety of our players and staff and look forward to starting our season in Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 5.”

The schedule, released during the COVID-19 pandemic, includes two bye weeks and flexible scheduling weeks available at the end of the season.

"It's a really unique place and time," Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in an interview on BTN.

Big Ten teams can begin practice on Friday as scheduled. But Warren remained cautious.

"There's no guarantee we'll have fall sports, or a football season," Warren said.

Unlike some conferences that have planned later starts, the Big Ten will start on what would have been its original opening weekend.

The schedule was constructed with flexibility — games in the first two weeks could be moved back to one of the two open dates on the schedule, and Week 3 and Week 4 could be played during bye weeks. The entire West Division, for example, is off on Nov. 7 with the exception of Illinois, which plays at Rutgers. The entire East Division, along with Illinois, is off the following week.

"What went into the decision was to afford us the best possible opportunity to be as flexible as we possibly can," Warren said. "That's one of the reasons why when we decided to a 10-game only schedule, a Big Ten-only conference schedule, is that we're hopeful this builds an opportunity for us to be as flexible as we possibly can." 

The scheduling principles:

  • Big Ten schools will play a 10-game conference-only schedule including the nine current opponents and one additional cross-division game
  • The schedule starts the weekend of Sept. 5 with final games slated for Nov. 21 to align with academic calendars
  • The 10 games would be played over at least 12 weeks with each team having two open dates
  • The schedule is structured to maximize flexibility:
    • Games can be collapsed into bye weeks
    • Uniform bye week on Nov. 28
    • Cross-division games are currently scheduled for all schools in Week 1 (Sept. 5) and Week 12 (Nov. 21)
    • Schedule constructed in a way that allows season to start as early as the weekend of Sept. 5, but also provides the ability to move the start of the season back to Sept. 12, 19 or 26 through strategic sequencing that allows games to be moved to a latter part of the schedule
  • The Big Ten Football Championship Game remains scheduled for Dec. 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, though it could be moved as late as Dec. 19
  • Teams can begin preseason practices on Friday or earlier if permitted under NCAA guidelines related to first dates of scheduled competition

The Hawkeyes play six consecutive weeks to open the season, beginning with the season opener against the Terrapins, one of the teams not on Iowa's original Big Ten schedule.

Iowa's next five games will be against West Division opponents — at Purdue (Sept. 12), at Minnesota (Sept. 19), home games against Nebraska (Sept. 26) and Northwestern (Oct. 3) and at Illinois (Oct. 10).

After a bye week Iowa plays at Penn State (Oct. 24) and at home against Michigan State (Oct. 31). After another bye week, the Hawkeyes close the season with a home game against Wisconsin (Nov. 14) and on the road against Ohio State (Nov. 21).