Iowa Bowl Outlook: Thanksgiving Update

Even though Iowa doesn't play a football game this weekend, there are several contests that will play a factor in Iowa's bowl destination, in addition to the selection of Iowa's opponent. HN Publisher Jon Miller provides his latest thoughts on Iowa's possible bowl destination and highlights a few games you may want to pay attention to this weekend...

Here are my latest thoughts related to Iowa's possible bowl scenarios before we head into this weekend's college football action:

GAMES TO FOLLOW

Oregon at Oregon State: This game may be the most significant as it relates to Iowa's possible bowl destination. If Oregon State wins, that means just one Big Ten team will ‘go up' to the BCS; Penn State would face Oregon State in the Rose Bowl, sending Ohio State to the Capital One Bowl. If Oregon State loses, then it's likely that the Big Ten would have a ‘two up' situation, with Ohio State also going to a BCS bowl game.

If Oregon State wins… PSU vs Oregon State in the Rose, Ohio State to the Cap One. That leaves the Outback Bowl to choose between Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa. Both MSU and Northwestern are ranked and both of them beat Iowa early in the Big Ten season. But Iowa's fan base travels the best, and they are a known and very bankable commodity. You can never discount that factor in any bowl season, and it came into play in 2005 when Michigan beat Iowa head to head and both schools finished with 7-5 records.

Michigan is one of the best television draws in all of college football, but the Outback Bowl chose Iowa. That came as a shock to a lot of people, including the folks at the Alamo Bowl, who had already written a press release, ready to announce an Iowa-Nebraksa matchup. Florida was the SEC team that year, and they had been buying tickets several days in advance of the Big Ten team being announced. They purchased roughly 45,000 tickets to that game, with Iowa fans snapping up the remaining 20,000. So a precedent is there for them to take Iowa, especially in this uncertain economy, and given the small size of the Northwestern Alumni base.

Northwestern averaged 28,590 fans per home game this year, and at least 5,000 of those fans per game were visiting fans in their four Big Ten home games…and that's likely being conservative. The Chicagoland area is a veritable Big Ten melting pot.

Still, the ‘one up' scenario isn't a good one for the Iowa fans hoping to see the Hawks play in a January bowl game, but it's not academic.

If Oregon wins… Penn State goes to the Rose Bowl, likely against USC, as long as the Trojans beat Notre Dame at home this weekend and UCLA in the Rose Bowl next weekend. Ohio State would be a very likely BCS team, meaning that Michigan State likely goes to the Cap One, leaving the Outback to take Iowa or Northwestern. In the ‘two up' scenario, I still feel strongly that the Outback would select Iowa over Northwestern.

In speaking with some representatives of the Outback and Alamo Bowls this week, I was told that they do consult with ESPN on their team selection. ESPN broadcast both games, and both of these bowls have a very nice TV window; the Outback is the first bowl game on television on January 1, and has no other competition for two hours. The Alamo Bowl has its own window, this year on Monday night, and it won't be up against Monday Night football. I was told that having a player like Shonn Greene, the Big Ten's Offensive MVP, is a bonus for Iowa. Iowa might also be ranked by the time the bowl lineup is announced, depending on what happens the next two weekends.

I don't see many trump cards for Northwestern over Iowa in this ‘two up' scenario. Northwestern's win against Iowa is ancient history, and Iowa ended its season as one of the hottest teams in the nation.

There is another game that could impact the Outback bowl's Big Ten decision, and that is…

South Carolina at Clemson: If South Carolina wins, they have the inside track for an Outback bid. Most every bowl rep I spoke with feels that South Carolina would send upwards of 40,000 fans to the Outback, perhaps even 50,000. It's just 484 miles from Columbia, South Carolina to Tampa, meaning a lot of folks could make that drive. Gasoline prices are down sharply, as you know. If South Carolina is the SEC team for the Outback, that might give the Outback cause to select Michigan State or Northwestern instead of Iowa, believing that they won't need to depend on the Big Ten representative as much for ticket sales. If the Outback is thinking along those lines, MSU and Northwestern become more likely selections. So if you are an Iowa fan wanting the Hawks to play in the Outback, you might also want to root on Clemson this weekend.

I am still of the opinion that Oregon State is going to lose to Oregon, and the Big Ten will get two teams into the BCS. If there is a ‘two up' situation, I see Iowa going to the Outback. If there is a ‘one up' situation, Iowa's chances for the Outback are diminished.

If Iowa does not get selected to play in the Outback Bowl, I remain STRONGLY convinced that Iowa will not fall past the Alamo Bowl. Send thanks to Jim Delaney and the Big Ten for aligning themselves with some excellent bowl partners, when the fourth bowl on the Big Ten's pecking order is a jewel destination like San Antonio and the Riverwalk. Iowa fans that have made the trip know what I am talking about. Those that have yet to visit San Antonio have certainly heard the positive stories by now.

Should Iowa be selected to play in the Alamo Bowl, the possible opponents are tantalizing. I believe that Missouri is going to lose in the Big 12 championship game. I believe that Oklahoma will beat Oklahoma State, Texas will beat Texas A&M and Texas Tech will beat Baylor. That means that OU, Texas and Tech will each be 7-1 in the Big 12 South. The Big 12 will send the team with the highest BCS rating to the Big 12 title game against Missouri, and I believe that team will be Oklahoma. The computers will certainly bump up the Sooners, and unless there is voter manipulation on the part of the coaches and Harris Poll members, OU should overtake Texas in the BCS ratings.

The Big 12 title game will be played in Kansas City, which will favor Missouri to some degree. The weather could also be a factor; KC temps are projected in the high 20's for this Saturday night, when Mizzou will face off against Kansas in Arrowhead Stadium.

That being said, I think Oklahoma would beat Mizzou, leaving the Tigers at 10-3.

Oklahoma would then play for the National Championship, likely against the Alabama-Florida SEC title game winner. That is, as long as Alabama takes care of Auburn this weekend, and I think they will.

Texas would likely be the league's second team taken in the BCS, sending Texas Tech to the Cotton Bowl. The Holiday Bowl would have the next choice, and they would choose between Oklahoma State, Missouri and Nebraska. I believe Nebraska will end up in the Gator Bowl, because they don't want to take a team that loses in a conference championship game. This scenario assumes Nebraska will beat Colorado at home on Friday.

So it would come down to the Holiday's selection; Oklahoma State or Missouri? I think the Cowboys would go to the Holiday, leaving Mizzou to fall to the Alamo Bowl.

Anyone interested in a possible Iowa-Mizzou matchup up in San Antonio? There would be several fun and interesting storylines for that game:

-Mizzou Coach Gary Pinkel could not cancel this game, the way that he cancelled the Iowa-Mizzou four-game series in football a few years ago. Believe me, that decision will be brought up. How do I know that? Because I will be at that press conference.
-Two border states that go head to head on the recruiting trails that haven't played one another since 1906, a game Iowa won 26-4. To remember that game, you would have had to attend it in person, since the radio had only been invented a decade earlier, and you would have to be around 112 years old.
-A high powered offense going up against an impregnable defense, and Iowa's offense getting a chance to test its wings against a less than impressive defense that Illinois lit up for over 500 yards this year, and one that has not seen many sensational tailbacks this year.
-So much black and gold along the Riverwalk that you had best be sure that the fan you are slapping on the back is wearing a Tigerhawk, not a Tiger.

Here is how I see things right now:

'Two Up' Scenario:
Outback Bowl: 60%
Alamo Bowl: 40%

'One Up' Scenario
Alamo Bowl: 70%
Outback Bowl: 30%

Clearly, there is a lot of uncertainty, and it's likely that we won't know for sure until December 7th. That doesn't give fans much time to arrange flights, and those flights won't be cheap during the holiday travel season.

That's where HawkeyeNation.com comes in. We are now taking reservations on our 2008 Bowl Charter Flight and Land Only packages. Our order page is set up for the Outback bowl at the present time, but the most important thing to do is to place a deposit on one of our packages, which will insure that you will have a seat on our plane, regardless of the destination. We were 25% sold on our flight within 24 hours of launching our order page, back on Monday, and near 50% sold on our land only packages in the same time frame.

Our trips are 100% transferable or refundable. What that means is if Iowa is selected for the Alamo Bowl, you still have a reserved seat on our plane and at our hotel. If you decide you do not want to travel with us to that destination, your deposit is totally refundable.

CLICK HERE to visit our order page for more information on our flight and land only options. Or type www.hawkeyenationbowl.com into your browser to be taken to the same page.

Enjoy this weekend of family, Thanksgiving and pigskin!


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