Iowa's Bowl Outlook Appears Quite Sunny

The Big Ten football season is winding down, but the speculation over bowl bids is just starting to heat up. After several hours of statistical review and playing out multiple scenario's, the Hawkeye Nation Bowl-o-meter feels that they have Iowa's Bowl destination pegged. How and why did we arrive at our results? Read on to find out.

This feature replaces Hawkeye Nation's Big Ten Power Rankings. Why? Because it's bowl season.

It's week two of HawkeyeNation.com's Bowlometer, and the bowlometric pressure has lessened to some degree.

What is bowlometric pressure? It's the tension that a fan base feels when the bowl destination of their favorite team is extremely cloudy or uncertain.

Such was the case last Tuesday when we broke down Iowa's bowl scenarios. The forecast at that time was about the same is it was last Tuesday evening; Insufficient Data…too close to call…a dead heat. Sorry, I let my Dan Rather-isms run away with me there.

We said that after Iowa's game against Purdue, Iowa's bowl picture should become much clearer.

And wouldn't you know it, the storm clouds have broken and we are getting a pretty good read on where Iowa might be going. Not a perfect read, but solid enough for Hawkeye Nation to go ahead and begin taking reservations for its third annual charter flight to Iowa's bowl destination. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

(NOTE: Reservations are 100 percent transferable and/or refundable if Iowa plays in any bowl OTHER THAN the Outback. Again, that means if Iowa goes somewhere else, your reservation is good for that bowl game as well, as we have already lined up hotel accommodations in Orlando and San Antonio. In other words, we've got your back. All you need to do is reserve your spot on one of our two flights leaving from Des Moines or Cedar Rapids. Should Iowa go to a different bowl game, your deposit would then be 100 percent refundable or transferable.

With 75-percent of the precincts reporting (six of Iowa's eight Big Ten games are completed), we feel the Hawks are a decent lean for their second straight Outback Bowl appearance. We made the same early call last year and our Outback Bowl charter was nearly booked before the 'official' word came down that the Hawks were headed to Tampa.

Rest assured that we are going to count all of the votes; you can be certain of that. But part of the bowl season fun is the speculation, and thanks to the BCS system, we probably won't have a firm grasp on Iowa's bowl destination until late November or early December. That's not the greatest scenario for those of you who want to make your own travel arrangements, as many of you have learned in each of the past two seasons.

Here are the internals of our exit polling data:

PUR-DON'T: The Boilers are no longer a serious threat to Iowa for a Cap One, Outback or Alamo Bowl bid. With the loss in Iowa City, they fell to 2-4 in the league. Iowa stands at 5-1 right now, and they have the win against Purdue. Should Purdue win its final two games (home against OSU & Indiana) and should Iowa lose its final two games, both teams would have identical 7-4 records, but Iowa would have a 5-3 league mark to Purdue's 4-4 record. We don't think that the Alamo Bowl would take Purdue over Iowa, due to the Hawkeye fan base and their reputation for traveling to bowls. The Drew Tate factor is a good one for the Alamo people. Next.

SINKING SPARTANS: Without super sophomore quarterback Drew Stanton, the Michigan State Spartans are a lot like the team that lost its season opener to Rutgers, as opposed to the nearly lethal offensive juggernaut it has been since Stanton was named the starter. They lost to Ohio State last week, but fought valiantly in doing so. They were down 17-0 very early, but clawed their way back to a late 19-17 lead. Then OSU went Sweet Ginn-ger Brown and came back for the win. MSU dropped to 3-3 in the Big Ten and 4-5 overall. Their best case scenario is now 6-5 overall and 5-3 in the league. But they host Wisconsin next week…Again, Iowa's worst case right now is 7-4 & 5-3. Next.

CLAWING CATS: Hats off to Northwestern. They were left for dead in the non-conference season, but Kirk Ferentz said back in September that they were a team to be reckoned with, and that they would have their day. Kirk was right, which should not be a surprise. They are alone in 4th place in the league at 4-2, one game back of Iowa in the league standings. They are 5-4 overall, while Iowa is 7-2. Their best case overall record could only match Iowa's if the Hawks dropped their final two games. Do you think any bowl is going to take Northwestern over Iowa? But the Cats can still help the Hawkeyes quite a bit; if they can somehow beat Michigan this week in Ann Arbor, and if Iowa wins at Minnesota, the Hawks will be hosting Wisconsin with a share of the Big Ten title on the line. And if the Wolverines lose to Northwestern AND drop their season finale at Ohio State, and Iowa wins out, the Hawks could STILL make it to Pasadena. It's not likely, but it's still possible.

GOING NOWHERE GOPHERS: Tell me if this sounds familiar. Minnesota kills its weak non-conference opponents and races out to a 2-0 start in the Big Ten with wins against Northwestern and Penn State. Then they lose four of their next five games, including a game at Indiana, and now sit at 3-4 in the league and 6-4 overall. Even if they take Floyd, Minnesota can only equal Iowa's worst case scenario of 7-4 overall, but they can't match Iowa's worst case of 5-3 in league play. In the animal kingdom, a pig and a gopher would likely take down a hawk. But homey don't play that on the bowl selection scene. Next.

So now it's on to the state of Ohio. Folks, we might not have all of the votes counted in this state for a couple of weeks, and they will definitely decide the selection.

THE OHIO STATE OF AFFAIRS: If only the Spartans could have hung on to beat Ohio State, we would not be in such a mess. That would have kept Ohio State at bay for at least another week, in the land of bowl ineligibility. But as it stands, Ohio State is now 3-3 in the league, but most importantly, they are 6-3 overall. That means they are bowl eligible.

They have two tough games remaining; at Purdue and home against a Michigan team that outclasses them in nearly every regard. But in that game, you throw away the paper, ranking and statistics, just like you do when the Hawks hook up with the Clones.

If Iowa wins out, it won't matter what the Buckeyes do, as the Hawks will go bowling on New Years Day. If Iowa splits, and the Bucks lose out, Iowa's worst case scenario is the Outback. If Iowa loses its last two games, and Ohio State somehow wins its final two games, then we are deep in the heart of Texas. If both teams split, then it's time to call in the League of 10,000 lawyers to sort things out.

Both teams splitting their final two games would have Iowa at 8-3 overall and 6-2 in the league. THE Bucks would be 7-4 and 4-4. But the Big Ten allows for its bowl partners to take the team with the worse record as long as there is not two-win separation, and in the case of this hypothetical, there is one-win worth of difference.

Bowls have a couple of priorities. Their first, in my opinion, is to put fannies in the seats; people from out of town walking the streets of a bowl city means millions of dollars worth of economic impact. Iowa and Ohio State travel extremely well. Ohio State alums are among the most populous in the country, if not THE most populous. Maybe that is where they picked up the word THE.

But you Hawkeye fans are no slouches; you have flat out shown the state of Florida what it's like when the Hawks come calling for a bowl game. No fewer than 75,000 Iowa fans have ventured to Florida over the past two years, and we are not talking snowbirds here.

The next priority for bowls is to try to deliver good TV ratings for their corporate sponsors. Ohio has more people than Iowa; more than three times as many people. That means there are quite a few more television sets in Ohio, which can lead you to a theory that Ohio State might deliver better television ratings.

OK, here is where we butter our bread here on HawkeyeNation.com…deep analysis.

The 2003-2004 bowl season television ratings showed the Ohio State-Kansas State Fiesta Bowl game drawing a rating of 8.7. A rating is a measure of the number of people who were watching a particular program compared to the total number of people who were watching all television programs at the same time.

The Fiesta Bowl is a BCS bowl, and it was played at night, in prime time, where more people have their TV sets turned on. It was the fourth-highest rated bowl game of last year.

The 2004 Outback Bowl featuring Iowa against Florida was played at noon eastern, 11am central, on Hangover Day…I mean, New Years Day. Do you think the left coaster's had their alarms set for the local kickoff time of 9am?

The Outback was the third highest rated non-BCS bowl of last year, drawing a 4.53 rating. That is not too shabby at all.

Iowa's BCS Bowl appearance in 2002, played in prime time, drew a 9.7 rating, better than Ohio State's game against Kansas State last year.

OK, some of you might be saying that USC's involvement in the Orange Bowl had something to do with that, pointing out the huge Southern California TV market, and that the 2004 Outback Bowl had decent numbers because of the heavy population (read: TV sets) in the state of Florida.

Those are relevant points, to be sure.

We need to now toss this analysis to our decision desk for a short fact check.

Let's break down another myth, the myth that an Ohio State or a Michigan is a better TV draw or a better draw at the gate.

The 2003 Outback Bowl, played at the same time and date as last year's Outback Bowl, a game that pitted the Florida Gators against Michigan, was the seventh highest rated non-BCS bowl game that year, drawing a 4.2 rating.

Note that the Wisconsin-Colorado Alamo Bowl drew a better TV rating that year.

So Iowa's Outback game against Florida drew better ratings than Michigan's Outback game against Florida.

Iowa's trip to Tampa also helped produce a crowd of 65,657 compared to Michigan's 65,101, against the same opponent.

The 2001 & 2002 Outback Bowls featured the same two opponents: Ohio State and South Carolina. Attendance for the 2001 game was 65,229 and attendance for the 2002 game was 66,249. So as you can see, Hawkeye fans more than held their own with the Big Two of the Big Ten in both ticket sales and television draw.

Is an Ohio State team with one less win than Iowa a danger to Iowa's hopes of a third straight New Years Day bowl game? Sure it is. But is it a layup? The numbers prove otherwise.

Like Ohio State in 2001 & 2002, the Hawkeyes have made back-to-back trips to Florida and they traveled quite well. You probably still remember the uproar from Iowa fans last year after the Outback Bowl gave Florida fans a head start in purchasing their tickets to this game, yet 25,000 Hawkeye fans managed to get their hands on some ducats for that contest.

Here is another factor the bowl reps might consider; what will the appetite be in Buckeyeland for a 6-5 or 7-4 Buckeye team, after two recent glory-filled seasons?

The same question can be asked of the Hawkeye fan base, but I think I have a pretty good feel for that. The excitement level at the two schools is not only not in the same precinct or county, we are talking about enormous electoral chasms here.

See you in Florida.

STATISTICAL RESOURCES

2002-2003 Bowl TV Ratings: LINK
2003-2004 Bowl TV Ratings: LINK
Outback Bowl Attendance History: LINK


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