Which was the better season, 2002 or 2009?

BY DI STAFF | DECEMBER 16, 2009 7:30 AM

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2002 was the better Iowa football season

Even with a humbling Orange Bowl loss to a loaded USC team, the 2002 Hawkeye football season was easily better than this year’s BCS run.

The 11 wins are a school record, and the only regular season blemish came against feisty rival Iowa State early on.

With studs such as Dallas Clark, Nate Kaeding, and Bob Sanders, Iowa went above and beyond expectations after finishing 7-5 the previous year.

Iowa was able to overcome some serious shuffling on both offense and defense after losing 10 starters, including NFL star Aaron Kampman.

The 2002 version of the Hawkeyes, unlike this year’s squad, came into the season unranked in both preseason polls with many pundits thinking a trip to the Alamo Bowl should be viewed as a success.

But these Hawkeyes went beyond those expectations and more, going undefeated in league play and earning a share of the Big Ten title with eventual national champs Ohio State. The highlight was murdering eighth-ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor, 34-9 — the Woverines’ worst home loss since 1967.

The 2009 Hawkeyes had to have a few breaks go their way to even get into a BCS game. After losing back-to-back games down the stretch, Iowa was lucky it didn’t completely fall out of big-time bowl consideration.

This year’s squad also had fairly high expectations for the season as well — the team was ranked to start the year, No. 21 and 22 in AP top 25 and USA Today Polls.

The 2009 Hawkeye season is still a special one, but it hasn’t topped the improbable 2002 year.

— by Matt Schommer

2009 was the better Iowa football season

There are many reasons this year’s campaign should go down as better than that of ’02 — not to mention it has been one of the best in Iowa history.

It didn’t take long for drama to arrive. Northern Iowa had the Hawkeyes in a situation that spelled certain doom on Sept. 5. The Panthers attempted field goals from 40 and 41 yards in the game’s final seconds, but in one of the most unprecedented series of plays in college football history, both attempts were blocked.

Then there was Sept. 26. Happy Valley. ESPN’s “College GameDay.” The meeting that everyone from Pennsylvania and the Hawkeye State had circled on their calendar for months. After Iowa pulled the college football upset of the year against the Nittany Lions last season, few pundits thought that the Hawkeyes could play a repeat performance — but they did. Iowa prevailed for the second-straight year over JoePa and company, 21-10.

Things couldn’t get much better than the Hawkeyes’ prime-time triumph over Penn State on national television — until Oct. 24.

In perhaps one of the most scintillating finishes in Hawkeye football history, Ricky Stanzi found Marvin McNutt for a quick strike touchdown on the game’s final play. That pass gave the Hawkeyes a 15-13 victory and their first-ever 8-0 start in school history.

This season included a 35-3 pummeling of Iowa State — something that 2002 didn’t offer. It also included the emergence of Adrian Clayborn as a dominator on defense and the arrival of McNutt as a dangerous weapon in the Hawkeye offense. Iowa’s Next Man In philosophy functioned at its very best.

Fans entered the season and looked at a murderous schedule, hoping for an eight-win season. The Hawkeyes gave them 10 wins, a BCS bowl, a team that didn’t back down from any challenge, and unforgettable memories.

— by Jordan Garretson

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