IOWA CITY, Ia. — This is about more than farewells.
A victory Saturday by the Iowa football team, in an 11 a.m. home finale against Michigan, could kick off new opportunities.
It could also kick start a new cycle of success at Kinnick Stadium.
“Anytime it’s the last game in Kinnick you know that’s a special thing,” senior safety Tanner Miller said. “You know we’re going to go out there and try to win.”
Miller is among 15 Hawkeye seniors who will be the focus of adoration.
Beating the Wolverines (7-3) would make Iowa (6-4) more appealing in the bowl selection process.
“We have two games that are really, really important to us this week,” said Rick Catlett, president and CEO of the Gator Bowl. “And that’s Michigan-Iowa and it’s Minnesota-Wisconsin.”
Catlett and his committee will have the fifth pick from a pool of bowl eligible teams in the Big Ten Conference – ahead of the Texas Bowl and the Heart of Dallas Bowl – making the Wolverines and Hawkeyes potential candidates.
Chances are pretty good, however, they’ll punt on the loser.
“They are definitely both on our board,” Catlett said. “We believe they might both be available to us, which puts a tremendous amount of importance on the game.”
The possible benefits of Saturday’s showdown don’t end there.
Iowa can clinch a winning season and stay in the hunt for a second-place finish in the Big Ten’s Legends Division.
Those would be notable accomplishments following a 4-8 record in 2012.
“We feel better now than we did last year,” senior linebacker James Morris said. “We know if we don’t win this week, it makes the season less special in retrospect.”
Feel-good moments at Kinnick Stadium have become rare.
From 2001-11, Iowa owned a 60-13 record at home (an .822 winning percentage).
But the Hawkeyes went 2-5 on their own turf last fall, and currently sit at 3-3.
That means they could have a losing record at home in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1999-2000.
“We played pretty well against Wisconsin for 50 minutes,” coach Kirk Ferentz said of a 28-9 home loss three weeks ago. “I thought we played good against Northwestern (a 17-10 overtime win).
“Every game is kind of an individual thing… I think every week is an adventure.”
The Iowa defense remains consistent, allowing 18.5 points per game at home and 19.0 on the road.
Offensively, it’s a different story.
The Hawkeyes average 431.5 total yards on the road, compared to 376 in Kinnick.
They’re rushing for 227.8 yards and 4.95 per carry as a visitor, while netting 171.7 yards at a 4.2 per carry clip as the host.
“I don’t think there is any reason to it,” Miller said. “I think we’ve approached every game pretty much the same.”
“Whether we’re on the road or here, we’ve approached every game business-like, as far as focus.”
The business of determining bowl destinations can be boom or bust.
One thing is certain: A good first impression can only help.
“Obviously, when we look at a stadium and it’s full, it’s exciting and everything is going good, that’s a lot better message to be sent,” Catlett said, “than a stadium that’s half full and the fans don’t look like they’re very excited about it.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football