Now comes the fun part.
With bowl eligibility no longer a concern for the Iowa football team — and a two-week break before Michigan visits Kinnick Stadium for a Nov. 23 showdown — it’s OK to speculate about postseason destinations.
The best part? The 6-4 Hawkeyes still have a chance to enhance their status.
“We don’t set out at the beginning of the season to win six games,” running back Mark Weisman said. “In order to get seven and eight, we have to stay focused.”
That doesn’t mean we can’t peek ahead.
Multiple projections have Iowa heading to the Heart of Dallas Bowl (Jan. 1 on ESPNU), while PhilSteele.com and Brad Edwards of ESPN have the Hawkeyes in the Gator Bowl (Jan. 1, in Jacksonville, Fla., on ESPN2).
Of course, the whole process is a bit of a crapshoot.
Here’s what we know: The Bowl Championship Series gets first choice out of the Big Ten Conference (most likely the Rose Bowl), followed by the Capital One Bowl and the Outback Bowl.
Next, it’s the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Gator Bowl, Texas Bowl, Heart of Dallas Bowl and, heaven forbid, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. (I’m not trying to be a jerk, but Christmas in Detroit? Really??).
After that, things get a little fuzzy.
Bowl organizers want to fill hotels, restaurants and stadiums, while the TV network folks want to draw eyeballs and advertisers.
Anyone who tries to use any other sort of logic is bound to be blindsided.
The Big Ten begins this week with seven bowl-eligible teams: Ohio State (9-0), Michigan State (8-1), Minnesota (8-2), Nebraska (7-2), Wisconsin (7-2), Michigan (6-3) and Iowa.
Indiana and Northwestern both stand at 4-5, two wins short of qualifying.
The Buckeyes are a lock for a BCS berth. The Badgers are on the bubble. The Spartans are on track to win the Big Ten’s Legends Division, which rounds out the top three.
If the conference gets two invites to the BCS, every other team gets bumped up in the league’s pecking order.
Basically, the Hawkeyes find themselves in a pool that includes the Cornhuskers, Wolverines and Gophers.
In most years, Michigan and Nebraska would trump Iowa, based on national appeal.
But fans of both those schools are fuming, and coaches are feeling the heat (although Nebraska’s Bo Pelini can cool things considerably with a win this week against Michigan State).
Minnesota is having a breakout season, but the Hawkeyes have a more devoted following that is willing to travel.
The Gophers also close out the season against Wisconsin and Michigan State, and could end up 8-4 with back-to-back losses.
Iowa, meanwhile, can finish 8-4 by beating the Wolverines and Cornhuskers — giving the Hawkeyes wins over all three teams in their pool.
Then again, that’s kind of logical.
No matter what happens, it’ll be better than 2012, when Iowa went 4-8 and missed out on all this fun.
“We worked so hard in the offseason to not end up where we were last year,” running back Jordan Canzeri said. “We knew if we lost, we were only guaranteed two other games.
“Now that we have this win, we can go into the bye week on a positive note and get ready for Michigan.”
Andrew Logue covers Hawkeye football and sports media for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMLogue.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football