If you thought the “protected rivalry” with Purdue was a jokeit was, often, but those past two losses are not — just wait until Rutgers becomes the crossover opponent from 2022-25.

The Hawkeyes are still in the midst of a partnership with Penn State, a worthy cross-division rival now that the Boilermakers reside in the West.

But you can get a head start on what I’m calling the IRrelevant RIvalry (© 2019, slightly self-serving) on Saturday at 11 a.m. Iowa welcomes Rutgers to Kinnick Stadium for the first time in the earliest Big Ten game in Hawkeye history.

Looking for someone to blame? Rutgers coach Chris Ash points at outgoing Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. [checks notes] I’m sorry, he thanked him.

Of course, last year he said a bowl game was the target and the Scarlet Knights went 1-11.

So what to expect? Let’s hope not a repeat of their one-and-only matchup in 2016, a 14-7 Hawkeyes hangover win on the road a week after the NDSU nightmare.

Our friend at Hawkmania Steve Batterson described it this way: “Aesthetically, it wasn’t much to look at.” His current and my former QCT colleague Don Doxsie said one of his takeaways was that “Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz appears to have very little confidence in freshman kicker Keith Duncan.” And look who the kicker is again this year after a two-year layoff…

Feels like a very long time ago.

But hey, that game was tied 7-7 with 12:45 to go and Iowa won. So it’s no 2012 9-6 Iowa-ISU tilt. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That’s next week.

Let’s get to the predictions and see if any of our experts think Iowa is looking past the Scarlet Knights.

One last note before we get started: We are thrilled to announce that starting this week, our predictions on Hawkeye Headquarters are brought to you by Draft Day Sports Lounge inside Rhythm City Casino, “where you can grab a bite and make live bets!”

Celebrity prediction
The Hawkeyes’ all-time leader in receptions is back for a third season of picks.
Kevonte Martin-Manley: Iowa 28, Rutgers 14

Featured predictions
Steve Batterson: Iowa 35, Rutgers 17. Rutgers has some pieces, just not enough of them.

Iowa will need to account for running backs Raheem Blackshear and Isaih Pacheco, who combined for 321 yards of offense last week, and for the arm of Texas Tech transfer quarterback McLane Carter who threw for 340 yards, but the strength of the Hawkeyes’ line on both sides of the ball is a difference maker this week.

Expect Nate Stanley to build on a solid start to the season, with New Jersey native Ihmir Smith-Marsette positioned to have a big day in his only collegiate match-up against his home state’s Big Ten team.

Hawkeye Headquarters
Adam Rossow: Iowa 24, Rutgers 8
Dan Vasko: Iowa 31, Rutgers 17

National predictions

Athlon Sports
Steven Lassan: Iowa
Mitch Light: Iowa
Mark Ross: Iowa

CBS Sports
Dennis Dodd: Iowa
Jerry Palm: Iowa
Tom Fornelli: Iowa
Chip Patterson: Iowa
Barton Simmons: Iowa
Barrett Sallee: Iowa
Ben Kercheval: Iowa

Fox Sports
Iowa 32, Rutgers 26

Bleacher Report
David Kenyon: Iowa 38, Rutgers 17

Associated Press
Ralph D. Russo: Iowa 42, Rutgers 17

Hawkeye State predictions
The Athletic

Scott Dochterman: Iowa 41, Rutgers 10

The Gazette
Marc Morehouse: Iowa 34, Rutgers 21

Hawkeyes Mic
John Bohnenkamp: Iowa 38, Rutgers 13
Brendan Stiles: Iowa 31, Rutgers 13
John Patchett: Iowa 38, Rutgers 17
Tyler Tjelmeland: Iowa 37, Rutgers 24
Jack Brandsgard: Iowa 31, Rutgers 10

Hawk Central
Chad Leistikow: Iowa 38, Rutgers 0

Go Iowa Awesome
Mark Hasty: Iowa 33, Rutgers 27

Black Heart Gold Pants
JPinIC: Iowa 45, Rutgers 17
Jordan Hansen: Iowa 28, Rutgers 24
Jerry Scherwin: Iowa 38, Rutgers 13
DC: Iowa 31, Rutgers 7
Matt Cabel: Iowa 31, Rutgers 17
BoilerHawk: Iowa 30, Rutgers 14
Benjamin Ross: Iowa 38, Rutgers 14
Doug Saye: Iowa 45, Rutgers 6
Matt Reisener: Iowa 35, Rutgers 7

#IowaSim19 simulation
Cody Hills: Iowa 34, Rutgers 14

Irrelevant prediction
And finally, the totally irrelevant prediction based on playing EA Sports’ NCAA Football 2004 on a PS2, as is the tradition since 2015.
Ryan Jaster: Hawkeyes 44, Rutgers 21. On the second play of the game, Iowa’s running back breaks a 69-yard run. After the defense gets a 3 and out and the Hawkeyes start at the 50, the running back promptly takes it 49 yards before plunging in from the 1 on the next play. Rutgers abandons the ground for the air and it works — until an interception is returned to the 43. This time the run is stuffed and the Hawks settle for a field goal… but it sails wide right. Rutgers responds with a touchdown drive. Nothing else is particularly exciting until a Hawkeyes’ TD drive late in the half, then a second interception turns into a touchdown and a 27-7 lead at break. The Scarlet Knights’ opening drive stalls and BGSU’s 1990 record is broken in 2019 with a 2003 game by an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown. Ed Hinkel, take a bow. Rutgers has some success with the pass, but the game ends for the second straight week on an interception returned for a touchdown, this time for 24 yards. Iowa’s starting running back finishes with 140 yards rushing, 51 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns. The only miscues are a missed field goal, a missed extra point and a slightly porous passing defense.

Prognosis: While it might seem easy to look past Rutgers, this is still a Big Ten team in a conference opener, and I have to think it will be closer than many experts expect. Not close enough to get the fans worried, but close enough to make them a little uncomfortable. There were plenty who jumped off the bandwagon at halftime last week, but they were back on board by the end as Iowa pulled away. Enjoy the ride, because there is no pain predicted.

Predictions on Hawkeye Headquarters are brought to you by Draft Day Sports Lounge inside Rhythm City Casino, “where you can grab a bite and make live bets!”

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Ryan Jaster writes a weekly predictions column during football season for HawkeyeHQ.com and previously wrote and edited for CBS Sports, the Quad-City Times, ChicagoSports.com and the Chicago Tribune. You can follow his Hawkeye musings at @Hawkologist.