Remembering 1985 – Kinnick Stadium’s “Top-Five” Football Match-Up.

Ahhh…what an exciting week it is here in the Heartland. For those who follow college football, Iowa City is the epicenter of the NCAA universe this weekend, as #3-ranked Iowa matches up with #4-ranked Penn State. Above: All this week (Oct 5-9, 2021) Fox Sports is setting up their ‘Big Noon Kickoff’ platform on the Pentacrest in Iowa City.

I’ve been an avid Hawkeye football fan my entire life. That equates to 70 years. My dad, George Boller was an avid fan as well, attending his first Iowa game in old Iowa Field when he was a 5-year-old in 1926. I followed in his footsteps, attending my first Hawkeye game in Iowa Stadium (Kinnick) in 1956, when I was but five years old as well.

Now, I know there are many other important things in this world right now that are of higher priority than #3 Iowa vs. #4 Penn State on Saturday, October 9th, 2021 in Iowa City. But, quite honestly, I can’t think of any! You see, as a Hawkeye fan living in Iowa City – this is a historic day. This will be the first football game played at Kinnick Stadium that matches up two AP ‘top-five-ranked’ teams since the #1-ranked Hawkeyes defeated the #2-ranked Michigan Wolverines, 12-10, in 1985. And, without a doubt, Kinnick will be a-rockin’-an-a-rollin’ come Saturday afternoon. So, in preparation for THE BIG GAME, allow me here to share a few memories from that last ‘top-five’ game that matched up two highly-ranked opponents in 1985.

It was billed as the game of the century prior to kickoff. The skies were gray in Iowa City and there was moisture in the air. This game was televised to a national CBS audience, with Brent Musburger and Ara Parseghian doing the broadcast. Iowa basically dominated the contest, gaining over 400 yards to less than 200 for Michigan, and there were some questionable officiating calls that, in this day and age of instant replay, would have taken away the need for any fourth quarter dramatics. But on second thought, it had to end like this, lest Hawkeye fans be robbed of one of the greatest days in Iowa football history – as Rob Houghtlin’s 29-yard field goal kick spiraled above the cross bar just as time expired, lifting Iowa over the Wolverines 12-10.

Watch a replay of the last few minutes of this classic #1 vs. #2 football game in 1985.
For those who just can’t get enough of this highlight – listen to WHO-radio’s Jim (I Love It) Zabel and Ed Podolak make the call.

I lived in Evanston, IL at the time and had a series of meetings in down-state Champaign that weekend. As the sessions ended around noon on Saturday (or did I leave early?), I hopped into my car, listening to much of the first half of the game while traveling north on I-57. I made it home soon after half-time, and to this day, my kids believe that I must have gone raving mad as I galloped around the house, yelling and screaming at the TV after Houghtlin kicked his 29-yarder.

John Holladay – Hawkeye Artist at Heart – produced this beautiful poster celebrating the 1985 season.

My hope is that this same type of exuberant joy might be expressed once again, this year, as the Hawks pull one out of the fire against the Nittany Lions!

Here are a few statistics going into this weekend’s contest, courtesy of…

1: The Hawkeyes are ranked No. 3 in the AP and Coaches polls, their highest ranking since Nov. 22, 2015 (#3). Iowa has two wins over ranked opponents (vs. #17 Indiana, 34-6; at #9 Iowa State, 27-17) this season and has won five straight against ranked opponents overall. Only Alabama (9) has more consecutive wins over ranked opponents.

2: Iowa and Penn State are meeting for the sixth time as ranked opponents, the third time in the last four years. The top five matchup is the sixth top-five matchup in Iowa football history, and the first at Kinnick Stadium since No. 1 Iowa defeated No. 2 Michigan, 12-10, in 1985.

3: Iowa has won 11 straight for the first time since opening the 2015 season with 12 straight wins. The Hawkeyes have outscored their last 11 opponents, 380-141, averaging 34.5 points per game offensively and allowing 12.8 ppg during the winning streak.

The AP poll is the gold standard of college football polls, being a part of college football talk for 85 seasons (since 1936). The size of the poll has fluctuated over the years. It ranked 20 teams from its inception in 1936 to 1960, dropped to 10 teams from 1961 to 1968, jumped back to 20 teams from 1969 to 1988, and then expanded to 25 teams in 1989.

Since breaking into the AP Poll in 1939 (Kinnick’s ‘Ironmen’ season), Iowa has been ranked in 341 polls over 43 different seasons. That includes 11 weeks at No. 1, 53 weeks in the Top Five and 123 weeks in the Top 10. Three Iowa teams – 1960, 1961 and 1985 – have reached the No. 1 spot in the poll. The 1961 Hawkeyes are the only team to be a preseason No. 1, and Iowa has an 8-2 record as the top-ranked team. The 1985 Big Ten champs are the last Iowa team to reach No. 1, a spot they occupied for five weeks, before falling to Ohio State in a rain-soaked game in Columbus in early November. Five Hawkeye teams have been voted the national NCAA football champions over the years: 1921 & 1922 (featuring Duke Slater, prior to the AP Poll), and 1956, 1958, & 1960 (Evy’s Rose Bowl years when other major polls voted Iowa #1).

And what a nail-biter it was. Iowa scratched out a rough-n-tough 23-20 victory sending The Boller Boys (above) dancing around the TV set! A re-wind scene from 1985.

Once again, as in 1985, the Hawkeyes win on the national stage!
A few Hawkeye fans got a bit excited after the win!

So, here’s to the 1985 Hawkeyes – and to the Hawkeyes of any year – may this be a season, like 1985, to remember! It’s always great to be a Hawkeye!

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

1985 Iowa vs. Michigan-CBS Highlights, YouTube

1985 Iowa vs. Michigan-Jim Zabel & Ed Podolak making the call, YouTube

Game Notes: Iowa vs. Penn State,

Looking back at Iowa Football’s History in the AP Poll, Rick Brown,, July 22, 2021

Iowa moves to No. 3 in AP college football Top 25 rankings, John Steppe, Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 5, 2021

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