IOWA CITY, Iowa — Holiday Bowl committee member Steve Norton proudly displayed his red blazer at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday and made no secret he was interested in wooing the Hawkeyes back to San Diego.
Initially, Norton caught some grief from a few fans for wearing red, until they saw the Holiday Bowl pin.
“A few people saw me from behind and was like, ‘What are you doing?'” Norton said before Iowa’s game Saturday against Purdue. “They turned around and then figured out who I was. It was friendly.”
Norton brought fliers showcasing San Diego’s activities. To Iowans, pictures of the warm Pacific Ocean were like cups of coffee in the cold wind howling around Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes made three Holiday Bowl trips from 1986 through 1991 but since then haven’t played in San Diego.
“They’re definitely in our bowl picture,” Norton said. “I wouldn’t be here if they weren’t.
“I think San Diego would love to have Iowa there. There’s different things that would have to fall into place. It depends on the playoff, then we’ve got to wait for another bowl game [Outback Bowl] to pick. But at the beginning of the season, we’re all asked to pick who we think will be in the Holiday Bowl. At the beginning of the season, my pick was Stanford and Iowa. One of my teams is still alive, maybe both.”
Iowa’s performance in a 24-15 loss against Purdue on Saturday might make Norton’s flight to eastern Iowa a wasted trip. The Hawkeyes led 9-7 at halftime but were beaten in every possible way in the second half. At 6-5 overall and 3-5 in Big Ten play with one game remaining, Iowa likely played itself out of Holiday Bowl consideration.
It’s a shame, too. Iowa fans share a fondness for the Holiday Bowl with some happy memories. The Hawkeyes have a 2-0-1 record in the Holiday Bowl. In 1986 and 1987, Iowa won both games with fourth-quarter drama. In 1991, a 10-1 Iowa squad faced BYU with former Heisman Trophy quarterback Ty Detmer, and the game ended in a 10-10 tie.
On the team’s pregame radio show, Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said he has had serious conversations with three bowls — Holiday, Music City and Pinstripe. Now, it’s likely the Holiday Bowl party will need to wait for at least another year.
The other two bowls, however, remain very much in play. Iowa was strongly considered for the Music City Bowl last season, but a 40-10 win against Nebraska in the season finale instead vaulted the Hawkeyes to the Outback Bowl. The Pinstripe Bowl’s contract with the Big Ten looks for eight different teams over eight years. Northwestern, Indiana and Penn State already have played in New York City.
Bowl talk ranks as the last thing many fans want to consider after losses the last two weeks. But Iowa already has qualified for a bowl, and the program won’t say no because people are frustrated. So, here’s a breakdown of where Iowa fits in the bowl world with one week remaining:
Likely bowl scenario
Wisconsin and Ohio State win next week and both advance to either the College Football Playoff or a New Year’s Six bowl game. With a win against Maryland, Penn State either joins them in the New Year’s Six or in the Citrus Bowl. If one of the three play in the Orange Bowl, the Citrus Bowl slot is vacated to the ACC/Notre Dame.
Should Michigan State beat Rutgers next week, it probably heads to the Outback Bowl. The Holiday then will pick between Northwestern or Michigan.
The second-tier bowls consist of the Foster Farms, Music City and Pinstripe. The available Big Ten teams include Michigan (currently 8-3), Northwestern (8-3), Iowa (6-5) and the Indiana-Purdue winner (both are 5-6). Minnesota (5-6) has an outside chance but must beat undefeated Wisconsin (11-0). Both the bowls and the schools send a list to Big Ten officials of their preferences and the conference decides which team goes where. For all spots but the Pinstripe, the conference mandates a bowl must take five different teams over a six-year period.
It seems likely the Foster Farms Bowl, which is located in Santa Clara, Calif., will pick either Northwestern or Michigan. Neither team has played in a California bowl in the last decade. That leaves the Music City (Nashville) and Pinstripe to Iowa and the Indiana-Purdue winner. If Indiana wins, then Iowa likely heads to New York. The Hoosiers played in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2015. If Purdue wins, it’s up to the Music City and Pinstripe bowls to state their preference.
Possible bowl scenario
Wisconsin and Ohio State win next week, and the Buckeyes beat the Badgers in the Big Ten Championship Game. Wisconsin, the highest-ranked nonconference champion among the Big Ten, SEC and Notre Dame, qualifies for the Orange Bowl. That vacates the Big Ten’s Citrus Bowl spot, which goes to the ACC/Notre Dame.
Penn State somehow doesn’t reach a New Year’s Six bowl and heads to the Outback Bowl. Michigan State picks up a Holiday Bowl invite. That leaves Michigan (8-3), Northwestern (8-3), Iowa (6-5) and the Indiana-Purdue winner (5-6) for the Foster Farms, Music City, Pinstripe or Quick Lane bowls. Minnesota (5-6) remains in play but must beat Wisconsin.
Either Michigan or Northwestern likely heads to California for the Foster Farms Bowl. If it’s Northwestern, then Michigan could play in New York City. If Michigan travels west, then Northwestern likely heads to the Music City Bowl. Then, Iowa likely goes to New York, especially if Indiana wins. If Purdue wins, then either the Hawkeyes or Boilermakers play in the Pinstripe Bowl and the other goes to Detroit for the Quick Lane Bowl.