Bowl eligible for the 12th time in the last 13 seasons, the Iowa football team — unlike a year ago — will have more on the line than just pride when it faces Nebraska on Friday.
A return trip to the Outback Bowl, a new bowl experience in Texas and a return trip to what used to be called the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. are among the postseason possibilities that could await the 7-4 Hawkeyes.
It’ll depend on the outcome of Friday’s regular-season finale at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., and whether Minnesota defeats Michigan State, and whether the BCS takes one or two teams from the Big Ten, and whether Penn State upsets Wisconsin, in addition to the usual bowl politics.
The Iowa sports information office issued a release Wednesday saying that because the Big Ten likely will have multiple teams eligible for automatic qualification and/or selection by a BCS bowl, Iowa’s bowl destination likely won’t be officially determined and announced until early in the evening of Sunday, Dec. 8.
Whatever happens, it sure beats the empty feeling that accompanied the players into last season’s game against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers prevailed 13-7 at Kinnick Stadium, sending Iowa limping into the offseason with a 4-8 record.
“We were playing for pride last year at this point,” said Iowa sophomore center Austin Blythe. “Now, we’re playing for something a little bit bigger.”
That’s about all you’ll get from an Iowa player when it comes to bowl speculation. They’re thrilled with the opportunity that awaits them, but their sole focus is preparing for the Cornhuskers.
“It’s Nebraska,” said junior running back Mark Weisman. “That’s all there is, getting ready for this big game.”
The best-case scenario for Iowa would be a fourth trip to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., which sits fourth in the Big Ten bowl pecking order. Iowa last played in the Outback Bowl in 2008, defeating South Carolina 31-10 behind all-America running back Shonn Greene.
A victory Friday, coupled with 8-3 Minnesota losing at Michigan State on Saturday likely would place Iowa fourth among Big Ten teams in the bowl power rankings. Iowa and Minnesota both would be 8-4, but Iowa defeated the Gophers 23-7 in the Big Ten opener on Sept. 28 in Minneapolis.
Undefeated Ohio State currently tops the list of Big Ten teams and is third in the BCS standings. Michigan State at 10-1 is second in the bowl rankings followed by 9-2 Wisconsin.
Should all three of those teams win on Saturday, it would improve the Big Ten’s chance of having two teams selected to play in BCS bowls. Iowa would move up one spot in the bowl pecking order if the BCS selected two Big Ten teams.
Other bowl possibilities for Iowa, listed in order of selection, are the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tampa, Fla., the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., the Texas Bowl in Houston and the Heart of Dallas Bowl. The Buffalo Wild Wings bowl used to be called the Insight Bowl, which had Iowa as a participant in 2010 and 2011.
The Big Ten is also aligned with the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl in Detroit, which sits ninth in the pecking order and plays its game the day after Christmas. However, with only eight Big Ten teams bowl eligible, the Little Caesar’s Bowl will have to look outside the conference to fill the spot opposite a team from the Mid-American Conference.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz will hold practices next week as his team heads into the busy month of December. Ferentz said the team will depart for a bowl game once semester exams end on Dec. 21.
“No matter where we go, it’s going to happen fast,” said Ferentz, who has led Iowa to bowl-eligible status in 12 of his 15 seasons as coach. “Finals are late. I think graduation is the morning of the 21st. We’ll be traveling somewhere that afternoon. If we’re in a January bowl, a little bit later, it’s going to be a scramble drill probably all month.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football