IOWA CITY, Iowa - While much of the Iowa football world licked its wounds on Sunday, the team went back to work in pursuit of a Big Ten Championship. Despite a stunning 17-10 loss against Northwestern here on Saturday, the Hawkeyes still sat in control of their own destiny heading to Ohio State next week.
"Everything is out there," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We're not going to go undefeated. That's the only thing that's obvious at this point. We haven't talked a lot about the title. We haven't talked a lot about the rankings. I know everybody else has. We've just been trying to focus on the team that's in front of us. We'll do the same thing next week. If it's appropriate, we'll do that later on.
"Our guys know what's going on. They can look at the scoreboard. They figure all that stuff out. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be. We're going to try to get back on our feet and see if we can't win next weekend. That's going to be a tough task. We know that already."
Iowa last won in Columbus in 1990, which is also the last season that ended with it at the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes rolled over Penn State, 24-7, in Happy Valley on Saturday settling up what could be an Big Ten Championship elimination game against Iowa.
The Hawkeyes dropped to 9-1 overall and 5-1 in conference on Saturday. Ohio State improved to 5-1 in the Big Ten.
If Iowa wins its last two games, it will win the Big Ten title outright and with it earn a berth to the Rose Bowl. A loss in Columbus likely would cost the Hawkeyes a share of the league crown and a spot in a BCS bowl.
If the Buckeyes beat Iowa, they would have to lose at Michigan in the final week and the Hawkeyes would need to knock off Minnesota to get a share of the league crown. But even if that happened, Ohio State would be the Big Ten's BCS representative by virtue winning the head-to-head match-up with Iowa.
Penn State and Wisconsin, both 4-2 in conference, also could get in the title hunt by winning their last two games and then having Iowa and Ohio State each lose at least one more. In that case, the Buckeyes get the BCS bid because they have defeated the other three teams this season.
There is a chance that a second conference team could get into the BCS this season, but the odds are not great for Iowa if they lose in Columbus. The Hawkeyes fell to No. 10 in the BCS Standings this week and a setback against Ohio State likely would push them from the Top 14. Defeating a lowly Minnesota team in the final week probably wouldn't be enough to push them back in the first 14.
A team needs to be in the Top 14 of the final BCS Standings to be eligible to be selected by a BCS bowl. Iowa dropped from No. 2 to No. 9 in the BCS computer polls, but needs to worry more about the human votes that count in the BCS the last two weeks. The Hawkeyes fell from No. 6 to No. 13 in the Coaches Poll and from 7 to 12 in the Harris Interactive Poll.
Much has been made of the national pundits perceived ‘bashing" of the Hawkeyes as they moved up to No. 4 in the BCS Standings and entered the national championship discussion. While the computers loved Iowa and its schedule, it remained behind other undefeated teams like Texas Christian University, Boise State and Cincinnati in the human polls.
Iowa losing a second in a row at Columbus will surely give the national detractors who have a vote drop the Hawkeyes into the 20s next week, at the very least.
So, we have the scenario of the Hawkeyes win out. It's the Big Ten Championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl. But what happens if they lose at Ohio State and they fall below No. 14 in the BCS, thus being out of luck for a BCS bid?
The next bowl in the pecking order would be the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on Jan. 1. Iowa could return to a scene of one of the greatest moments in program history - The Catch or Drew Tate to Warren Holloway, if you prefer, after the 2004 season.
Speculation arose that the Cap 1 felt like it made a mistake by taking Michigan State over Iowa to play Georgia last year. The Spartans didn't travel well and Iowa brought its usual large throng of fans to Tampa for the Outback Bowl against South Carolina.
At 10-2 or 9-3, Iowa would be a player for the Cap 1. It likely would be down to the Hawkeyes and Penn State, who Iowa defeated this season. Unfortunately for them, while the head-to-head results mean something in the conference tiebreakers, the bowls are free to choose whom they want as long as the teams under discussion are within two games in the loss column.
Penn State and legendary coach Joe Paterno would be an intriguing possibility for the folks in Orlando. The Hawkeyes would be no more than a 50-50 bet to overtake the Nittany Lions in that scenario. Penn State last played in this game after the ‘02 season.
Next up for bowls with the Big Ten tie-in would be the Outback. Tampa loves the Hawkeyes and this likely would be between them and Wisconsin, who, like Penn State, Iowa beat on the road this season. The Hawkeyes likely would be the choice here, but one wonders if the Outback selection committee would invite them for a second year in a row and for the fourth time in the last seven years. However, Wisconsin was in the game after the ‘07 season.
The Champs Sports Bowl picks after the Outback. The Champs is run by the same folks that pick for the Cap 1. By passing on Iowa for their top game, the Florida Citrus Sports folks also be taking a calculated risk that the Outback passes on Iowa for Wisconsin and they end up with them in their second bowl.
It's tough to imagine Iowa falling below the Champs even it were to lose against Ohio State and Minnesota. The Hawkeye fans travel too well for the Cap 1, Outback and Champs all to pass on them for Northwestern.
So, who might the Hawkeyes meet in a bowl? Well, most of the potential opponents still must play three games, so a lot could change.
A Rose Bowl bid could be interesting. Oregon sits in the driver's seat as the PAC-10 representative. But Arizona also could sneak in there and Iowa defeated the Wildcats this season. Maybe the Grand Daddy of them all trades out Iowa or Arizona to another BCS bowl to avoid a rematch.
If Iowa were to reach the Cap 1, a likely rematch with LSU seems like a distinct possibility. It would pit the two teams that fought for almost 60 minutes before Tate hit Holloway for the winning touchdown as time expired.
The Outback also pit's the Big Ten against the Southeastern Conference. Right now, it looks like Auburn and ex-Iowa State Coach Gene Chizik could get that spot. But keep an eye on Tennessee and boisterous coach Lane Kiffin. The Vols promise to bring an army of fans to a bowl game. Mississippi also could gain the berth, but the Rebels are a long shot here.
Tha Champs is tied in with the Big Ten and the Atlantic Coast Conference. It gets the third pick among ACC teams after the Orange and the league also could get an at-large BCS team in Miami if the Hurricanes finish strong. The possible ACC teams here look like Clemson, Boston College and Virginia Tech right now.
A lot of things can still happen for Iowa and its postseason, possibilities but the picture became a lot more clear this weekend. The Hawkeyes control their own destiny, but even loss likely won't cost them a shot at Florida in January.