With Iowa falling on Black Friday to Nebraska and Illinois and Purdue taking care of business on Saturday, the Hawkeyes know they won’t be playing in the Big Ten title game. Iowa still had a slim chance to qualify for Indianapolis, but that would have required both the Fighting Illini and the Boilermakers to lose on Saturday.
Iowa didn’t get the help it needed, so now it turned into a murky bowl picture. The Hawkeyes know that they’ll play in a bowl game, and how good of a bowl they get depends on how the teams around them do. Here’s a look at Iowa’s future and what the Hawkeyes need to fix after losing to Nebraska.
Final Score: Nebraska 24, Iowa 17
— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) November 26, 2022
What Championship Games Matter to Iowa?
Iowa’s best friend is the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian. At 11 a.m. Central on Saturday, every Hawkeye fan should be pulling hard for TCU to complete its undefeated season by besting Kansas State for the Big Ten title.
This would likely hurt the Big Ten’s efforts to get two teams in the College Football Playoff, but that’s none of Iowa’s concern. The Hawkeyes simply want the Big Ten to get three groups into the top 12 to move every Big Ten team up a slot.
There are two paths to that outcome: either have Purdue upset Michigan and steal the automatic Rose Bowl bid or get Penn State into the top 12.
Given how strong the Wolverines have looked this season, the latter is the more likely. That requires TCU to beat Kansas State again, as the Wildcats would claim the Big 12’s automatic bid if they defeat the Frogs. With TCU sitting at 12-0, the Frogs won’t fall out of the New Year’s Six even if they lose to Kansas State. If they lose, Penn State’s NY6 hopes are likely to go with them, relegating Iowa to a lesser game unless Purdue does the unthinkable.
Iowa could also use a USC win in the Pac-12 championship game. With Oregon’s loss to Oregon State, the Pac-12 can no longer get two teams into the New Year’s Six unless the Trojans lose the conference title game and become an at-large team. If USC does get beat, it’s bad news for Iowa.
Nebraska has outplayed Iowa in every part of this game. But until they get this (watch 25 after the play) out of their culture, they are not winning division titles. Because they have been know more for that stuff than winning plays. pic.twitter.com/HJa3mialMw
— Thad Nelson (@tnels20) November 25, 2022
Where Might Iowa Play in the Postseason?
It almost certainly won’t be the Citrus Bowl. Iowa played in Orlando last year against Kentucky, and bowls really don’t like taking the same team in consecutive seasons. Plus, the Hawkeyes aren’t good enough to warrant the Citrus. Penn State, Purdue and Illinois will all be ahead of Iowa in the bowl order.
That means either the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte or the Music City Bowl in Nashville are most likely for Iowa. Neither bowl has ever hosted the Hawkeyes, and both would love to bring Iowa’s rabid fan base to their cities.
The Duke’s Mayo Bowl might mean a matchup with N.C. State or Duke, as both are near Charlotte and would likely sell a fair amount of tickets. The Blue Devils would seem the more likely match, as defense-heavy N.C. State might represent a situation where the winner might be the first team to score.
The Music City Bowl would match Iowa with an SEC team, which could be Mississippi or South Carolina. It likely won’t be Kentucky, as Music City won’t want to create a rematch of last year. If the Wildcats are sent to Nashville, Iowa will likely play an ACC opponent, either in Charlotte or in New York at the Pinstripe Bowl.
Nebraska defeats Iowa. Here's just a taste of the scene and celebration through my lens: pic.twitter.com/dTu0sBR48r
— Tyler White (@white_tyler) November 26, 2022
What Does Iowa Need to Fix After the Nebraska Loss?
The Hawkeyes’ offense was poor again against the Cornhuskers, but there was an excuse for that this time around. Spencer Petras left the game in the first quarter, and Alex Padilla showed why Iowa did not turn to him as Petras flailed during the season. Expecting anything more than the 17 points Iowa put on the board was too much against a good Nebraska defense.
But what went wrong with Iowa’s pass defense? Nebraska hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire through the air, as Trey Palmer has mostly been kept under wraps this season.
In his past four games against Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, Palmer only managed 97 receiving yards total. Against Iowa, he went for 165 yards on nine catches and scored twice. One of his catches went for 87 yards, his longest catch of the season.
🔥 NEBRASKA IS UNSTOPPABLE IN IOWA CITY 🔥
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 25, 2022
That’s not what Iowa fans have come to expect from Phil Parker’s unit. The Hawkeye defenders have carried Iowa to a bowl game almost single-handedly, so it’s reasonable to call this an off day for an otherwise outstanding unit.
But Iowa’s got to work on this for the bowl game, especially if the opponent is South Carolina. The Gamecocks can throw the football, and if the Hawkeye pass defense can’t keep up, Iowa’s going to have a hard time getting the job done.