Analysis: What Are Iowa's Bowl Hopes?

Despite a gut-wrenching, 28-19 loss to Western Michigan on Saturday, the Hawkeyes hold out hope that a bowl game will call their name. There aren't a lot of possibilities there, but there are some. HN.com Senior Writer Rob Howe takes a look at what might be out there as he breaks down the Iowa post season picture in this analysis available to all visitors of the site.

The sun did rise again even after Iowa's ugly 28-19 loss to Western Michigan Saturday at Kinnick. People vented, but life certainly went on. And a look around the country revealed that the future could include a postseason game for the Hawkeyes.

When we left the stadium, many of us wondered what those chances might be. The players seemed to think it was a long shot. Bryan Mattison said the Hawkeyes will get what they deserve.

When attempting to sift through the rubble, there are just a lot of things that still are left to unfold before the BCS games are announced in two weeks. It's been a crazy college football season, and Iowa in a bowl game, as hard as it might seem, could happen.

Really, the best way to check into scenarios is by analyzing each conference because they all have bowl tie-ins. Here are a few important things to keep in mind when trying to figure out Iowa's possibilities:

1. The Big Ten tie-in bowls are filled, plus there could be a 7-5 team, very possibly Purdue, that gets shut out of those. Iowa's only chance is as an at-large.

2. Iowa CANNOT fill an at-large spot ahead of a 7-5 team from another conference.

3. Bowls that fall on and around finals week are not an option for Iowa, according to school policy, AD Gary Barta said on Sunday. So, you can cross off of your list the Poinsettia, New Orleans, PapaJohn's.com, New Mexico, Hawaii and Las Vegas bowls. That certainly works against the Hawks.

Let's take a look at a conference-by-conference breakdown to see if we can make more sense of this thing:

ACC (8) - BCS, Emerald, Champs, Meineke, Music City, Chick-fil-A, Humanitarian, Gator.

SCHOOLS TO 7 WINS (7): Boston College, Clemson, Wake Forest, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Virginia.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: NC State, Miami and Maryland all are sitting on five wins with one game to play.

SCENARIO: There is one ACC tie-in not filled, but NC State plays host to Maryland next week, which will make one of them eligible and therefore fill the conference's bowl spots. No openings here for Iowa.

BIG EAST (6) - BCS, PapaJohns.com, Meineke, International, Gator and Sun.

SCHOOLS TO 7 WINS (7): Connecticut, West Virginia, South Florida, Cincinnati, Rutgers.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Pittsburgh (4-6) and Louisville (5-6) still are alive.

SCENARIO: There is one Big East bowl tie-in games open (kind of) with only five teams reaching seven wins to this point. Pittsburgh finishes with South Florida and at West Virginia and getting to six wins seems pretty unlikely. Louisville plays host to Rutgers this Thursday, Turkey Day. There could be an at-large spots available here but then again there might not be. The Gator and Sun Bowls have split tie-ins. One of their spots is open to the Big East or Big 12, meaning they have the choice. So, if there aren't enough teams from one of those conferences, the spot then falls to the other league before going to at-large options.

Still, what do you about the Hawkeyes to El Paso again?

BIG TEN (7) - BCS, Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs, Insight, Motor City.

SCHOOLS TO 7 WINS (8): Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State, Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Iowa and Northwestern each are bowl eligible at 6-6.

SCENARIO: This is one spot where the Hawkeyes likely will be hurt. Right now, the Big Ten has eight teams with seven wins and only seven bowl tie-in spots, meaning the school that could be left out sits ahead of Iowa for an at-large bid.

A scenario that could help Iowa would be if Ohio State makes the National Championship game and Illinois somehow slips into a BCS game. It's been a crazy year in college football, but that's still a long shot.

BIG 12 (9) - BCS, Cotton, Holiday, Texas, Insight, Alamo, Independence, Sun, Gator.

SCHOOLS TO 7 WINS (5): Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Texas Tech.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Oklahoma State and Texas A&M both are 6-5. Colorado, Kansas State and Nebraska all are 5-6.

SCENARIO: Now, remember as we mentioned above, the Gator and the Sun are either/or for Big East/Big 12. So, essentially, Oklahoma State and A&M will gobble up those spots if the Big East falls short of having enough eligible teams. If you look at that, the Big 12 already has seven of nine bowl spots filled.

However, this conference stands a pretty strong chance of getting two teams in the BCS, meaning it really has 10 spots to fill.

Colorado hosts Nebraska this Friday, so one of those teams will get to six wins and take another spot. So, that's eight of nine or 10, depending on the BCS. Kansas State finishes up at 6-4 Fresno State this Saturday. There's no question that Hawkeye fans want the Bulldogs in that one.

The situation with the Big 12 and Big East sharing tie-ins to the Gator and Sun make this kind of a muddled picture for Iowa, but all you need to know is you should root against Kansas State, Pittsburgh and Louisville and root for two Big 12 teams making it to BCS bowls.

CONFERENCE USA (6) - New Orleans, PapaJohns.com, Liberty, Armed Forces, GMAC, Texas, Hawaii.

SCHOOLS TO 7 WINS (3): Central Florida, Houston, Tulsa.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: East Carolina, Memphis and Southern Mississippi all are 6-5.

SCENARIO: That means that all three of the 6-5 teams will fill the remaining three tie-in games for the conference. Nothing here for Iowa fans.

MID-AMERICAN (3) - GMAC, International, Motor City.

SCHOOLS TO 7 WINS (1): Bowling Green.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Miami (Ohio), Central Michigan and Ball State all are 6-5. Toledo and Ohio are 5-6.

SCENARIO: The MAC already has four bowl eligible teams, so its tie-in games will be filled by its teams. Therefore, Iowa's concern here would be if four teams get to seven wins, making one a must-take at-large school ahead of the Hawks.

Miami plays at Ohio. It benefits Iowa if Ohio wins that one, leaving both teams at 6-6. Central Michigan plays at Akron. Pull for the Zips there, Hawk fans. Ball State finishes at Northern Illinois. You should root for Joe Novak and the boys from NIU.

The worst case scenario for Iowa would be Miami, Central and Ball State all winning, giving the league four, seven-win teams.

MOUNTAIN WEST (4) - Poinsettia, Las Vegas, New Mexico, Armed Forces.

SCHOOLS TO 7 WINS (4): BYU, Air Force, Utah, New Mexico.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: TCU is 6-5. Wyoming is 5-6.

SCENARIO: All of the tie-ins are filled here. The concern here is that the Horned Frogs get to 7-5 and move ahead of the Hawks for an at-large. Who do they finish up with? Well, they'll be at San Diego State, which is coached by Iowa great Chuck Long. Hawkeye fans, you're Aztec fans on Saturday night.

PAC 10 (6) - BCS, Las Vegas, Armed Forces, Holiday, Emerald, Sun.

SCHOOLS TO 7 WINS (4): Arizona State, USC, Oregon, Oregon State.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Cal is 6-5. Arizona is 5-6. UCLA is 5-5.

SCENARIO: Essentially, the PAC-10 has filled five of its six spots with Cal being bowl eligible. This league also could get two teams in the BCS if things break right for it. A lot can still happen here with half the schools having two games remaining.

So, Iowa really needs the five teams that have secured bids in tie-in bowls to close out those that haven't. UCLA plays Oregon and at USC. You should be rooting for the Bruins to lose out. Arizona and ex-Hawk Mike Stoops wind things up at Arizona State. You're a Sun Devil fan there.

SEC (8) - BCS, Liberty, Independence, Music City, Chick-fil-A, Cotton, Outback, Capital One.

SCHOOLS TO 7 WINS (7): Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Auburn, Arkansas.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi State all are 6-5. Vanderbilt is 5-6.

SCENARIO: Well, if I haven't lost you yet, it's obvious that the SEC's tie-in games are spoken for even if two conference schools reach BCS bowls.

South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi State are battling for the remaining tie-in bowl. Two of those teams could make it into tie-in bowls if the SEC gets two in the BCS.

Again, Iowa is rooting for teams not making it into tie-in games to fail to achieve seven wins.

So, South Carolina and the Old Ball Coach finish with Clemson. Pull for the Tigers there, Hawk faithful. Alabama wraps up the regular season at Auburn. Again, you want the Tigers. Mississippi State plays host to Mississippi on Friday. You should be all over the Rebels in that one.

SUN BELT (1) - New Orleans.

SCHOOLS TO 7 WINS (1): Troy.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Florida Atlantic is 5-5. Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Monroe and Arkansas State all are 5-6.

SCENARIO: As far as Iowa is concerned, Florida Atlantic is the only school in this conference that can throw a monkey wrench into the Hawkeyes' hopes. None of the 5-6 teams are going to be chosen over Iowa for an at-large berth.

The Owls finish the season on the road at Florida International (0-10) and Troy. It looks like they'll get to six wins next weekend. Iowa fans then will have to pull hard for Troy on Dec. 1.

WESTERN ATHLETIC (3) - New Mexico, Hawaii and Humanitarian.

SCHOOLS TO 7 WINS (2): Hawaii, Boise State.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Fresno State is 6-4, Nevada is 5-5 and Louisiana Tech is 5-6.

SCENARIO: Fresno State can wrap up the third bowl tie-in game with a victory against Kansas State, which if you go back up to the Big 12 scenario, you see that also helps the Hawks.

The potential problem here is Fresno and Nevada getting to seven wins, meaning the one that doesn't get the conference bowl tie-in moves ahead of the Hawks in the at-large pool. Louisiana Tech will not be picked ahead of the Hawks at 6-6.

Nevada closes out the regular season at San Jose State and by hosting LA Tech. To make things simple, Iowa fans, just root for one of those teams to drop the Wolf Pack.

Remember, it's better to root against Nevada to fall short of seven wins than Fresno because the Bulldogs beating Kansas State also helps Iowa.

INDEPENDENTS (UA) - Unavailable. There are only four independents, including Notre Dame, which isn't bowling.

SCHOOLS TO 7 WINS (2): Navy, Western Kentucky.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: None.

SCENARIO: Navy already has accepted an invitation to the Poinsettia Bowl. Western Kentucky is not eligible for a bowl until 2009. Nothing else to see here, Hawk fans.

IN SUMMARY: I know that I have probably left some things uncovered, perhaps more than a few. But I hoped this would give you guys a clearer picture of what lies out there for Iowa.

For the most part, root against the 6- and 5-win teams (with the exception of Fresno, as outlined above). This increases the Hawkeyes' chances.

What are the bowls in play? Man, there are so many teams still alive that it's tough to say with any degree of certainty. We can rule out the BCS and Big Ten tie-ins, however. You can also throw out the ones that are contested during the Iowa finals week.

So, here are a few possibilities (I think):

Emerald: This games pits the Pac 10 vs. ACC on Dec. 28 at San Francisco's AT&T Park. The NC State-Maryland winner likely will represent the ACC. The Las Vegas picks ahead of the Emerald this year, which benefits the Hawks. Remember, Iowa can't play in Vegas because of finals.

So if the Pac 10 only qualifies the five teams it has to date, plus gets two in the BCS, this one would be open. San Fran isn't a bad place to spend the holidays.

Texas: The Big 12 and Conference USA tie into this contest played December 28th at Houston's Reliant Stadium. Conference USA will use all of its tie-ins.

The Texas Bowl gets the last pick of Big 12 teams. So, it would help greatly if Kansas State loses at Fresno State and this league gets two in the BCS.

There are some goofy bowl tie-ins related to this conference as well related its sets up with the Gator Bowl. It's too crazy for me to explain. Clickhere to get further confused.

Independence: This contest lines up the SEC vs. the Big 12. The Southeastern Conference spot is gone. The remaining position is for the Big 12 No. 7.

The chances of this one are a little bit behind the Texas Bowl, but a Kansas State loss and two Big 12s in the BCS could make this a possibility for the Hawks. Hello, Shreveport.

Armed Forces: The Mountain West will be represented. The PAC-10, as we've discussed, might not be. This one is contested New Years' Eve Day at Fort Worth's Carter Stadium on the Campus of TCU.


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