IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa football gained bowl eligibility in the sweetest way possible on Saturday by beating No. 3 Michigan on a last-second field goal at Kinnick Stadium.
The Hawkeyes (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten) would have accepted a bowl bid no matter how they reached six wins. But had Iowa lost to Michigan, beaten Illinois this week, then dropped the season finale to Nebraska, earning a bowl berth would have amounted to picking up a participation trophy at a spelling bee.
But the Michigan win gives the Hawkeyes possibilities on ending a topsy-turvy season in fine fashion. Iowa is favored by 10.5 points to beat Illinois (3-7, 2-5) in Champaign this Saturday (11 a.m. CT, BTN) before facing Nebraska (8-2, 5-2) at Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 25.
There are multiple bowl scenarios for the Hawkeyes, depending on how their final two games turn out. Let’s break them down.
|Big Ten Bowls||Location||Date||Time (CT)||Network||Opponent|
|Fiesta (playoff bowl)||Glendale, Ariz.||Dec. 31||2/6 p.m.||ESPN||TBD|
|Peach (playoff bowl)||Atlanta||Dec. 31||2/6 p.m.||ESPN||TBD|
|Rose||Pasadena, Calif.||Jan. 2||4 p.m.||ESPN||Pac-12|
|Orange (Big Ten or SEC)||Miami||Dec. 30||7 p.m.||ESPN||ACC|
|Cotton (if ranked high enough)||Arlington, Texas||Dec. 31||noon||ESPN||Best Group of 5 team|
|Citrus (if no Big Ten team plays in Orange)||Orlando, Fla.||Dec. 31||10 a.m.||ABC||SEC|
|Outback||Tampa, Fla.||Jan. 2||10 a.m.||ABC||SEC|
|Holiday||San Diego||Dec. 27||6 p.m.||ESPN||Pac-12|
|Foster Farms||Santa Clara, Calif.||Dec. 28||7:30 p.m.||FOX||Pac-12|
|Music City (3 of next 4 years)||Nashville, Tenn.||Dec. 30||2:30 p.m.||ESPN||SEC|
|TaxSlayer (3 of next 4 years)||Jacksonville, Fla,||Jan. 2||10 a.m.||ESPN||SEC|
|Pinstripe||New York City||Dec. 28||1 p.m.||ESPN||ACC/Notre Dame|
|Quick Lane||Detroit||Dec. 26||1:30 p.m.||ESPN||ACC/Notre Dame|
|Heart of Dallas||Dallas||Dec. 27||11 a.m.||ESPN||Conference USA|
Win out, finish 8-4 overall
If Iowa wins at Illinois then dispatches Nebraska at home, the Hawkeyes end their season with a three-game winning streak. Maybe the season doesn’t placate fans with Big Ten championship expectations, but it does show this team didn’t roll over when times were tough. The Hawkeyes would have loads of momentum and plenty to offer bowls, ranging from the Citrus to the Holiday.
RECORD: 8-4, 6-3 Big Ten
COULD IOWA WIN THE DIVISION? This would take a bigger miracle than beating the Wolverines. Iowa loses any head-to-head tiebreaker with Wisconsin and Northwestern. The Hawkeyes would need to beat Illinois and Nebraska, the Badgers would need to lose their final two games (Purdue and Minnesota) and Northwestern would have to lose at least once (Minnesota and Illinois). We’ll bring up that scenario again only if Purdue somehow shocks Wisconsin this week.
LIKELY BOWL DESTINATION AT 8-4, 6-3: Holiday Bowl. To understand where the Hawkeyes would play, you’d have to know the Big Ten’s bowl structure. Four teams are in strong contention for New Year’s Six bowls. Let’s examine the most likely scenarios:
OPTION 1: Say Michigan wins out and beats Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. The league records would be Michigan 12-1, Penn State 10-2, Ohio State 10-2, Wisconsin 10-3. Their bowls would look like (based on likely College Football Playoff committee rankings):
- Playoff: Michigan; Rose: Penn State; Orange: Ohio State; Cotton: Wisconsin
OPTION 2: Let’s say Ohio State and Penn State win out. Penn State (which faces Rutgers and Michigan State in its final two games) would represent the East in the Big Ten title game based on beating the Buckeyes. Wisconsin would represent the West. Their bowls would look like (based on likely CFP committee rankings):
- Playoff: Ohio State, Wisconsin/Penn State winner; Rose: Michigan; Orange: Wisconsin/Penn State loser
According to its CFP arrangement enacted in 2014, the Orange Bowl is obligated to select three Big Ten teams, three SEC teams and Notre Dame twice over the bowl’s eight non-playoff seasons through 2025. The highest-ranked non-champion/non-playoff qualifier between the Big Ten and SEC would qualify this year, after the Rose (Big Ten) and Sugar (SEC) bowls make their selections. Barring any major upsets, the Big Ten appears to be a lock with four teams ranked in the Associated Press poll’s top nine and the second SEC team (LSU) ranked 16th.
Those scenarios create a ripple effect for Iowa. When a Big Ten team plays in the Orange Bowl, it cedes its Citrus Bowl slot to the ACC. That means the second-tier bowls consist of only the Outback and Holiday bowls. An 8-4 Iowa competes with a probable 9-3 Nebraska and Minnesota (anywhere from 7-5 to 9-3) for those two bowls. Considering Iowa and Nebraska already beat Minnesota, those two likely get their pick. That makes it an easy call.
Iowa has played in four Outback Bowls since 2004. Nebraska has played in three Holiday Bowls since 2009. Nebraska never has played in the Outback Bowl. Iowa hasn’t played in the Holiday Bowl since 1991. No scenario is cleaner than that.
Win one, lose one
Let’s say Iowa beats Illinois but loses to Nebraska. The Hawkeyes still land in the Big Ten’s second-tier of bowl games behind Nebraska. Joining the Hawkeyes in that realm are Minnesota (7-5/8-4/9-3) and possibly Northwestern (7-5/6-6), Indiana (7-5/6-6) and Maryland (7-5/6-6).
The Big Ten office now facilitates all communication with bowls and teams and makes final approval. Formerly, bowls often plucked teams based more on traveling party and television ratings than competitive fairness. The Big Ten requires its contract bowls to take five different teams over a six-year period. Its goal is prevent bowl fatigue from fan bases. Among that group, that would keep Maryland from the Foster Farms Bowl; Indiana from the Pinstripe; Northwestern from the Outback; Minnesota from the Citrus and Quick Lane; and Iowa from the TaxSlayer. There’s no rule against returning to the Rose Bowl. Nebraska would avoid the Holiday and Foster Farms bowls.
RECORD: 7-5, 5-4 Big Ten
WOULD IOWA WIN THE DIVISION? No
LIKELY BOWL LOCATION AT 7-5, 5-4: Depends on Minnesota. If the Gophers are 9-3, then Iowa probably is in line for either the Foster Farms (San Francisco), Music City (Nashville) or Pinstripe (New York City) bowls. The TaxSlayer Bowl (Jacksonville) has a six-year arrangement with the Music City Bowl in which each bowl selects three Big Ten teams. The TaxSlayer Bowl already has taken two and has one Big Ten opening left over the final four years. Iowa (2014) and Penn State (2015) recently played in the TaxSlayer Bowl , so that makes the bowl unlikely to select a Big Ten team in general, and either team in particular.
Iowa played in the New York market earlier this year at Rutgers, so I could see Iowa avoiding the Pinstripe Bowl this year. The Music City Bowl could come down to between Iowa and Indiana, and the Foster Farms Bowl also would be a strong contender.
A 9-3 Minnesota, I think, sends a 7-5 Iowa to the Music City Bowl. An 8-4 Minnesota, probably puts the Hawkeyes in the Holiday Bowl.
Worst case scenario
Let’s say Iowa revels too much in its Michigan upset and loses at Illinois and falls to Nebraska. Iowa barely qualifies for a bowl game and the fans are back in pitchfork mode. Considering Iowa still would have to participate, the options are the above second-tier bowls with third-tier (Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas) in play.
RECORD: 6-6, 4-5 Big Ten
WOULD IOWA WIN THE DIVISION? No
LIKELY BOWL LOCATION AT 6-6, 4-5: Either Minnesota or Northwestern would vault Iowa to the Holiday Bowl. The other bowls listed above all are options.