There are a number of possibilities that exist, but things appear to be heading in a direction that should make things somewhat predictable. That is, as long as Iowa wins the games I think they should win down the stretch.
WARNING: Please, do not make non-refundable flight accommodations based on anything you read here. People have done such things in the past and have been displeased with that sort of roll of the dice. What I am writing here is an educated guess.
SCENARIO ONE: Iowa wins its next four games, Wisconsin loses only to Iowa, Penn State loses only to Wisconsin:
Under this scenario, Wisconsin would finish the season at 10-2 and 6-2 in Big Ten play. Iowa and Penn State would each finish with a league record of 5-3, Iowa having an overall record of 9-3 with Penn State being 8-4.
As it stands now, Ohio State and Michigan are on a collision course to be undefeated and likely ranked #1 & #2 in the nation come November 18th. The winner of that game will play for the national title, the worst case scenario for the loser is a BCS bowl slot.
Wisconsin played in the Cap One Bowl last year, and the game drew just over 57,000 spectators. When Iowa played LSU the year before, 70,229 patrons paid for tickets, making it the sixth most attended Cap One/Citrus Bowl game ever. Five Cap One/Citrus Bowls have topped the 70,000 attendance figure since the Big Ten created its official tie in with the game, and two of those games involved Penn State, two involved Ohio State and the one previously mentioned game that involved Iowa.
Penn State last played in this game in 2003, Iowa in 2005 and Wisconsin last year. It is likely that the Cap One Bowl would select Penn State over Wisconsin & Iowa, due to Wisconsin's being there last year and Iowa's being there the year before. Iowa played in the 2006 Outback Bowl, and Wisconsin played there in 2005. One would expect the Outback to select Wisconsin over Iowa due to not wanting the same team in back to back years. Iowa's fan base travels well, but so does Wisconsin's. In fact, Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State are three of the best traveling teams in not only the Big Ten, but in all of college football.
That would push Iowa out of the New Year's Day picture mostly on technicalities of recent appearances, pushing them to the Alamo Bowl.
If that scenario would play out in the Big Ten, who would be Iowa's opponent? We know it would be a team from the Big 12, but there is a lot of football to be played in that league to sort out the pecking order.
Texas appears to be the front runner to win the Big 12 title game. Their opponent will likely be either Nebraska or Missouri. Oklahoma travels to Missouri this weekend and they are an early three-point underdog. Should the Sooners win that game, and should Mizzou then lose once more at Lincoln, they would likely finish 5-3 in the conference. Texas or Nebraska would get the league's automatic BCS bid, with the loser of the Big 12 title game likely playing in the Cotton Bowl.
That would set up an interesting scenario, as Oklahoma played in the Holiday Bowl last year, and that bowl gets the third pick. Would they choose Mizzou over Oklahoma? Who knows. But whomever that bowl doesn't pick would play against Iowa in the Alamo Bowl. Great Iowa-related story lines would abound with either of those teams, and I believe that a game between either of those schools would be of great interest to Hawkeye fans.
That being said, under this Iowa to the Alamo scenario, one of Oklahoma, Nebraska or Mizzou would be the likely trio of teams that Iowa would be facing.
SCENARIO TWO: Iowa wins out, Wisconsin loses only to Iowa, and Penn State loses twice, including a loss at Purdue, and Purdue wins the rest of its games.
This is where things get dicey, because Purdue would also have to win at Michigan State and at Illinois, two programs that are wildcards each and every Saturday. Under this scenario, Wisconsin would finish 6-2, Purdue would finish 6-2 and Iowa would finish 5-3.
I think there is room here for the Cap One to look at selecting Iowa. The last time Purdue played in the Cap One was in 2003, and 64,500 fans attended the game. That is not a horrible number, but their opponent was also a Georgia team that travels well and isn't too far down the road. The Cap One might take Iowa because of its fan following and 9-3 record, and not wanting Wisconsin for a second year in a row. The Outback would take Wisconsin over Purdue in this scenario; Purdue last played in the Outback in 2000, and the game drew under 55,000 patrons.
Purdue could conceivably fall to the Champp's Sports Bowl, as the Alamo would likely take Penn State.
SCENARIO THREE: Iowa loses to Wisconsin but wins the other three games on its schedule.
That would likely eliminate Iowa from January Bowl consideration, but not entirely. Penn State could still lose two more games and Purdue could still lose another Big Ten game as well. A 4-4 Iowa team, with its traveling reputation, would not be totally out of the Cap One picture at 8-4 overall, but an Alamo bid would seem most likely.
If Iowa would split its final four games, and that would most likely mean two more Big Ten losses, a record of 7-5 would likely mean a Champp's or Insight.com bid.
There are obviously more scenarios than just these, but at this early juncture, we'll stop right there.
But we will remind you that HawkeyeNation.com will be teaming up with Premiere Sports Travel again this year for our fourth bowl charter trip, and HN.com's fifth consecutive bowl charter trip overall. Details on how you can reserve your spot on the trip will be available as soon as Iowa wins its sixth game.