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By JAMES ALLAN
TAMPA, Fla. — In the days leading up to Tuesday’s 2019 Outback Bowl, head coach Kirk Ferentz and the University of Iowa coaching staff presented a Hawkeye history lesson.
The message: A nine-win season is significant at the University of Iowa.
“Coach put up the stats,” said senior defensive end Parker Hesse. “We have been playing football for more than 100 years and there have been 14 or 15 teams that have had nine wins. That’s elite company and that’s a party we want to join.”
Iowa has been competing on gridirons across the country since 1889. Tuesday’s matchup against No. 18 Mississippi State will conclude the 129th season in the history of Hawkeye football.
During those 129 seasons, the Hawkeyes have posted at least nine wins 14 times in program history. Iowa reached the 10-win mark five times, won 11 games twice, and had a school-record 12 wins in 2015.
“It’s a thing that doesn’t happen very often,” said Iowa junior defensive end Anthony Nelson. “It would put this group of guys that we’ve been working with for a whole year in a more elite group in the Iowa football program, so that’s something that’s important to us.”
Six of those seasons have come under Ferentz’s watch. Ferentz knows how challenging it is to reach the nine-win barrier and understands its Hawkeye significance.
“To win nine or 10 or anything above eight is a kind of a landmark deal,” said Ferentz. “That’s a big thing.”
That is why Ferentz lays it out for his players. Throughout the season players provide history lessons on various rivalry games, and Ferentz wants the Hawkeyes to know the impact of a bowl win on Jan. 1.
“It’s significant for anybody to understand their heritage and what the tradition is in the program,” said Ferentz. “Winning games is special and it’s not easy to do in college football.”
A win over the Mississippi State would be Iowa’s first over a Southeastern Conference opponent since 2008 — a 31-10 win over South Carolina. A victory would also put the Hawkeyes in a strong position to end the season amongst the top 25 for the first time since 2015.
“This is a significant thing to do,” said junior punter Colten Rastetter. “It doesn’t happen very often, so it’s like the guys took it upon themselves like, ‘Hey, we have the opportunity to do something great, something special.'”
Iowa (8-4) and No. 18 Mississippi State (8-4) meet Jan. 1 in the 33rd annual Outback Bowl inside Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. (CT). The game is televised on ESPN2.
To view an Outback Bowl Central page, click HERE.