For the first time since 2016, Iowa went to Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette and beat Purdue, and now the Hawkeyes can reasonably think about making an appearance in a bowl game. That’s not to say that a bowl game is a sure thing, but Iowa only needs one more win to make it into the postseason for the 19th time under Kirk Ferentz.
With three games left and all of them rivalry games, Iowa will have to earn its way in. Here’s a look at what needs to happen and where the Hawks might land.
How Likely is a Bowl for Iowa?
The chances of a bowl game are good, but not great. The easiest way for Iowa to make a bowl game is to win its final game of the season against Nebraska. The Hawkeyes have won seven straight games over the Cornhuskers, and Nebraska will almost certainly have nothing to play for in that game.
The Cornhuskers must win all three of their remaining games to qualify for a bowl, and considering their next opponent is Michigan, that’s pretty unlikely. Beating Nebraska is seldom easy, as Iowa’s past four wins have all come by a touchdown or less, but the Hawkeyes have handled the fourth quarter well against the Huskers in past years.
But Ferentz and the Hawkeyes would rather not chance the Hawkeyes’ bowl hopes on the last game of the season, which makes the games against Wisconsin and Minnesota of utmost importance. Wisconsin is the likelier win, even though Iowa has six straight wins against Minnesota.
The Badgers have a very weak offense this season and have looked helpless away from Camp Randall Stadium in losses to Michigan State and Ohio State.
Minnesota will be a tougher task. Floyd of Rosedale has made Iowa City his home for the past six years, but the Golden Gophers have an excellent running game and defense that will likely do enough to win a defensive struggle with the Hawkeyes.
Iowa certainly has a chance to win, but that game is the biggest reach for the Hawkeyes.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 19, 2022
What Is Iowa’s Best-Case Scenario?
If the Hawkeyes do their part, they’ll be an attractive choice for several mid-tier Big Ten bowls. Iowa fans always travel well, so bowls love having the Hawkeyes if they can get them.
The biggest question for Iowa is what happens at the top of the conference and what happens in the Big Ten championship game.
Either Ohio State or Michigan should make the playoff, with the loser going to a New Year’s Six game. Iowa’s dream scenario would be Penn State earning a high enough ranking to make the New Year’s Six rotation, as the Nittany Lions would then take themselves out of the mix for the mid-tier bowls.
If Penn State qualifies for the New Year’s Six bowls, Iowa could get a call from the Reliaquest Bowl in Tampa if it gets to 8-4. Illinois will likely be the fourth team out of the Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes would slide into fifth if they can win all three remaining games.
However, a loss to Minnesota would put the Gophers in line for this game instead.
— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) November 18, 2022
What Bowls Are Most Likely for Iowa?
The next bowl slot goes to the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn. Iowa was invited there in 2020, but never got to play in the game because of COVID protocols. But there’s a problem here: Kentucky’s in line to play in this game from the SEC.
Bowls really don’t like matching the same teams in consecutive years unless they have no other option, and the Wildcats played the Hawkeyes last season in the Citrus Bowl. If Kentucky doesn’t go to Nashville, this could open up for Iowa, but otherwise, it’s not likely.
That leaves the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, the Pinstripe Bowl, and the Guaranteed Rate Bowl as Iowa’s most likely destinations. Maryland will take one of the first two slots, as both of those bowls match the Big Ten with an ACC opponent, and bowls love pairing the Terrapins with their old conference rivals.
Iowa played in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York in 2017 and the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix in 2011 but has never played in Charlotte’s Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Detroit’s Quick Lane Bowl is also possible, but only if Iowa wins one of three and goes 6-6.
— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) November 15, 2022
Where Will Iowa Likely Play?
Iowa fans should root hard for Penn State. If the Nittany Lions keep winning and get to the NY6, Iowa will get a better bowl game. The feeling is that if Penn State makes the NY6, Iowa will move up to the Pinstripe Bowl and face an ACC team, most likely Louisville, Duke or Wake Forest.
Otherwise, Iowa would end up in Phoenix and face one of two inconsistent teams in Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.
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