This wasn't the type of season that Hawkeye fans were hoping for, but the Iowa Football team will still go bowling once again this year. The question now is which bowl will it be?
The Big Ten Conference race was settled on Saturday as Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan State shared the title with a 7-1 league record. The three way tiebreaker for a spot in the Rose Bowl will be decided by the final BCS ranking next week and based on this week's rankings, the Badgers should punch their ticket to Pasadena. That is unless some crazy results happen next weekend in the SEC title game and in the annual Civil War game between Oregon and Oregon State.
If form holds, Ohio State will likely be snapped up by the Sugar Bowl to play a school from the SEC, most likely Arkansas. That would leave the Spartans with a trip to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on January 1st.
Frankly, the Big Ten could tell the rest of the bowls that they have agreements with to start picking schools this week because there is really little doubt about what will happen with the top three schools. Thus far there has been no indication from the Big Ten or the bowls that they will hand out invites this week, so we may simply have to wait until next Sunday to find out where the Hawkeyes will be headed for a bowl game.
Right now beyond the top three it is muddled picture with potentially five schools all ending up with 7-5 records. Illinois will play Fresno State this weekend and with a win, they would move to 7-5, joining Iowa, Penn State, Michigan, and Northwestern.
Where does that leave Iowa?
Despite losing their last three games, the Hawkeyes are probably one of the top two teams on the bowl selection committee's wish list. While Iowa fans are certainly disappointed right now, time tends to heal a few of those wounds. Hawkeye fans might not travel in the numbers they have in the past, but they will still show up when the Iowa Football team heads to a bowl game.
The first bowl in the pecking order after the Capital One is the Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes have been there three times in recent years, but in talking to an Outback Bowl rep after the Ohio State game, he didn't express any reservation about having the Hawkeyes return. He clicked off a list of teams that have played in Tampa in back to back years and said recent trips won't really be a factor.
What will likely be a factor is Penn State and Joe Paterno. Before their final game of the season, Coach Paterno said he would be returning next year, so the farewell bump that Bobby Bowden got last year isn't in play. But, Paterno will be turning 84 and the fact is the bowl folks know this could be the final time they get to host him in their event.
Penn State last played in the Outback Bowl in 2007, which gives them one year more of distance than Iowa. I could see this going either way, but my sense is that the Outback folks might look to set up an interesting coaching matchup of Penn State and Joe Paterno against South Carolina and Steve Spurrier.
That would move Iowa down to the Gator Bowl, a game that Iowa last played in back in 1983 against Florida. Ironically, most of the bowl projections have the Gators headed to Jacksonville. If it is Hawkeyes vs. Gators, let's hope the weather is a tad bit warmer on game day than it was back in 1983.
It would seem on paper that the Gator Bowl choice probably comes down to Iowa and Michigan. No disrespect to Illinois or Northwestern, but their fan bases don't matchup to Iowa and Michigan when it comes to traveling to bowl games on a regular basis. Michigan does have Florida native Dennard Robinson as their quarterback and an exciting offense, so that could be a factor. My best guess right now would be Iowa to the Gator if the Outback passes.
If the Gator does pass on Iowa, they the Insight Bowl would probably snap up the Hawkeyes rather quickly. They were ready to host the Hawks back in 2007, but the loss to Western Michigan ended those dreams. Iowa did travel to Arizona earlier this year and the thought that it might hurt Iowa's chances is probably a reach. This bowl has wanted Iowa for a long time and they have stated it many times. This year the Insight Bowl will be played on December 28th and air on ESPN, after a couple of years on the NFL Network.
After that, it's the Texas Bowl in Houston and the Ticket City Bowl in Dallas. Iowa won't fall that far in the pecking order.
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