IOWA CITY, Ia. – The more you listen to Andrew Donnal, the more his words ring true.
“You can’t be thinking about the end of the season before you start the beginning of the season,” Iowa’s senior offensive lineman said. “We can’t get too ahead of ourselves.”
History backs up Donnal’s point.
For much of the summer, Hawkeye football fans have pondered their place in the Big Ten’s newly formed West Division.
It’s easy to forget how tricky nonconference opponents can be — even with the start times for three of those games being announced Wednesday.
The season kicks off at 11 a.m. on Aug. 30 against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. Ball State visits the following week for a 2:30 p.m. contest.
Iowa State arrives Sept. 13, again kicking off at 2:30 p.m.
The Hawkeyes’ first road trip is Sept. 20 at Pittsburgh, which finished 7-6 last fall, but the time is not yet determined.
“It is human nature to look at the schedule,” Donnal said. “Maybe some people listen to the hype, maybe think our schedule is easy.
“Whenever you catch yourself thinking that way, you’ve got to refocus and think about what’s important.”
Sound advice, considering Iowa’s spotty past.
In 15 previous seasons under coach Kirk Ferentz, the Hawkeyes have gone undefeated though the nonconference schedule just three times (2003, 2006 and 2009).
On Sept. 9, 2006, Iowa needed a late goal-line stand to escape Syracuse 20-13.
On Sept. 5, 2009, two blocked field goals preserved a 17-16 win over Northern Iowa.
“I was actually at that game,” said linebacker Travis Perry, who grew up in Urbandale. “I was in the stands. It was definitely nerve-wrecking, to say the least.”
The Panthers could again be a tough out. They beat Iowa State 28-20 a year ago, behind David Johnson’s 199 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
“Right now, we’re not so much studying opponents as we’re studying ourselves,” quarterback Jake Rudock said. “That’s the biggest thing, because right now you can control what you’re doing.
“It’s hard getting into that first game, just because they (UNI) lose a lot of guys, we lose guys.”
Northern Illinois, a perennial mid-major power, spoiled Iowa’s 2013 opener, winning 30-27.
Looking ahead to 2014 …
Ball State is coming off a 10-3 season, having lost 23-20 to Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl.
The Cyclones won two years ago in Iowa City, and the Hawkeyes were beaten at Pitt in 2008.
So, nothing is a gimme.
If you’re thinking otherwise: Remember when Iowa failed to recover that onside kick against Central Michigan in 2012?
“I don’t want to say we take it for granted,” Rudock said. “I can understand how sometimes the media might, because you always talk about the Big Ten Conference. That’s who you’re playing. That’s who you’re competing against.
“But right now, the most important game is UNI. That’s the only thing that really matters.”
It’s not just an Iowa mantra.
Wisconsin has lost September road games against Pacific-12 Conference foes the past two seasons, while Nebraska dropped two meetings with UCLA.
“I think it’s dangerous because teams are looking for their identity,” Perry said. “You play those first couple games and you haven’t really developed any identity as far as what you’re going to be, or where you’re going to go.”
IOWA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Aug. 30 Northern Iowa 11 a.m. (BTN)
Sept. 6 Ball State 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sept. 13 Iowa State 2:30 p.m. (ABC/ESPN/ESPN2)
Sept. 20 at Pittsburgh TBD
Sept. 27 at Purdue 11 a.m. CT (ESPN/ABC/BTN)
Oct. 11 Indiana 11 a.m. (ESPN/ABC/BTN)
Oct. 18 at Maryland 11 a.m. CT (ESPN/ABC/BTN)
Nov. 1 Northwestern TBD
Nov. 8 at Minnesota TBD
Nov. 15 at Illinois TBD
Nov. 22 Wisconsin TBD
Nov. 28 Nebraska TBD
Season tickets, three-game ticket packages, and single-game tickets to all seven home games are available at can be purchased at the Iowa ticket office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, over the phone at 1-800 IA-HAWKS, and online at hawkeyesports.com.