LINCOLN, Neb. – How big was Iowa’s 38-17 win against Nebraska?
“It puts us in a great bowl,” receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said. “Probably Outback.”
The Hawkeye junior could prove to be exactly right. If the dominoes fall just right for Iowa, which closed out an 8-4 season in impressive fashion at Memorial Stadium, it’ll play in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
The Big Ten championship winner Dec. 7 between Ohio State and Michigan State locks up a Bowl Championship Series berth. That game’s loser and Wisconsin, which will end up 10-2 if it beats Penn State today, likely have dibs on a second BCS spot and the Capital One Bowl.
The next-best Big Ten prize is the Outback. Unless Michigan (7-4) shocks Ohio State today, the Outback will have the choice of 7-5 Michigan, 8-4 Nebraska (and potential Bo Pelini baggage), Minnesota (which will end 8-4 if it loses to Michigan State) or Iowa.
The Hawkeyes beat all three of those teams head-to-head, for the record.
“We’re a team that’s hot, and that’s certainly in our favor,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said after Friday’s win. “And we’re a team that wasn’t in a bowl last year. So our team and our fans are anxious and hungry.”
The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Dec. 28 in Tempe, Ariz. vs. a Big 12 team) and Gator Bowl (Jan. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla. vs. an SEC team) pick after the Outback.
Iowa likely won’t find out for sure where it’s headed until Dec. 8.
Where the Hawkeyes go is a lot better than last year, when they were 4-8 — and back at work, bowl-less, a few days after a 13-7 season-ending home loss to Nebraska.
“We were conditioning and working hard when there were no games to play for,” Iowa senior linebacker James Morris said. “I don’t imagine there were many teams doing that. For us, it was about laying a foundation of hard work and doing what we do.”
Quarterback Jake Rudock couldn’t wait for the additional bowl-game practices that are ahead.
“Whoever they match us up against, we’ll be excited to play,” the sophomore from Weston, Fla., said.
“It’s another opportunity to play football. The fact is you only have so many of these opportunities in your entire lifetime. We’ll cherish them. We’ll work our butts off.”
Rick Brown contributed to this article.