"Houston means that I'm one day closer to you." — Larry Gatlin
The Gator Bowl must have something deep against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Maybe it was the intense cold that traveled with Iowa back in 1983 when the Hawkeyes lost 14-6 to Florida.
The Gator Bowl plans to jump Iowa with a different Big Ten team yet again in one week when bowl pairings are officially announced. Gator Bowl President Rick Catlett told the Orlando Sentinel he wants to pair Florida (6-6) with Ohio State (6-6) in his Jan. 2 bowl. It's an intriguing match-up for the bowl, especially if former Florida Coach Urban Meyer accepts the Ohio State coaching job this week.
“With the Urban Meyer-Florida connection, that would be a good match-up for us,” Catlett told the Sentinel. “We got involved in the SEC to be able to get Florida one day.”
If Florida-Ohio State becomes reality in Jacksonville, that virtually seals Iowa to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. It's held on Dec. 31 in Reliant Stadium, a palace that has held Super Bowls and hosts the NFL's Texans. Iowa's opponent would be a Big 12 opponent, likely Texas A&M.
There are a handful of roadblocks that could prevent the Iowa-to-Houston New Year's Eve travel plan. One is whether a bowl higher in the pecking order passes on Penn State. The Nittany Lions' child sex abuse scandal is toxic for bowls that want feel-good stories and free-spending fans. On the field, Penn State deserves a nice bowl at 9-3 and a share of the Leaders Division title. But "deserves" doesn't sell travel packages or entice walk-up traffic. I still think Penn State lands in the Insight Bowl, which took Iowa last year.
Secondly, what if the Big Ten doesn't get a second team in the BCS? The SEC could get three teams — as I first reported two weeks ago. Michigan right now ranks 15th, one spot below BCS bowl eligibility. If the Wolverines don't crack the top 14, they can't go to a BCS bowl. Third, the Chick-fil-A Bowl could pick 6-6 Florida over 7-5 Auburn to avoid a potential Auburn-Clemson rematch. Fourth, the Gator Bowl could simply go with the best Big Ten team available.
I don't see any 0f those situations happening. Penn State won't slip past the Insight Bowl, which picked Iowa last year. Michigan likely will move up when either Georgia, Michigan State or Oklahoma/Oklahoma State lose their conference title showdowns next week. Chick-fil-A President Gary Stokan seems to like a Clemson-Auburn rematch, telling the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, "the match-up next year would be the Guinness Book of World Records because I don't think any two teams have played each other three times in the matter of a year. It would be a unique record to have."
Sorry, Gary, no record there. Nebraska and Washington did that in 2010 and in September.
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The Gator Bowl also has a history of big-game hunting. The bowl caused a stir among ACC schools in late 2009 when it picked 6-6 Florida State over several teams with better records. Last year it tabbed Michigan over Iowa despite the schools' same record, an Iowa 10-point road win and the likelihood of the Wolverines firing Coach Rick Rodriguez (which happened).
For Iowa that leaves Houston, which was known as the Texas Bowl (2006-2010). Meineke Car Care formerly sponsored the bowl now known as the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C. Houston has struggled for years in the bowl market, losing the Bluebonnet Bowl (1959-1987) and Texas Bowl predecessor Houston Bowl (2000-2005). But the sponsorship should help keep the bowl alive.
The Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas pays out $1.7 million, which goes to the Big Ten. The league then provides its representative with a $1.5 million spending allowance. The Big Ten school has a 12,000-ticket allotment.
The Big 12 representative likely would be Texas A&M (6-6). Texas bowls like Texas schools, and this is the final time Texas A&M will participate in a Big 12-affiliated bowl. The Aggies' last Houston bowl game — and overall bowl victory — was in 2001. Plus, College Station is located only 80 miles from Houston.
One interesting note: Iowa's men's basketball team is scheduled to play at Wisconsin at noon on New Year's Eve. It would be the second time in three years Iowa's basketball team would play concurrently on the road with the football team in a bowl (2009 Orange Bowl was held the same time as Iowa-Illinois at Champaign).
|BCS Championship||Jan. 9||New Orleans, La.||7:30 p.m.||1 vs. 2||LSU||Alabama|
|Rose||Jan. 2||Pasadena, Calif.||3:30 p.m.||Big Ten vs. Pac-12||Wisconsin||Oregon|
|Fiesta||Jan. 2||Glendale, Ariz.||7:30 p.m.||Big 12 vs. At-Large||Oklahoma State||Stanford|
|Sugar||Jan. 3||New Orleans, La.||7:30 p.m.||SEC vs. At-Large||Michigan||Houston|
|Orange||Jan. 4||Miami, Fla.||7 p.m.||ACC vs. At-Large||Clemson||West Virginia|
|GoDaddy.com||Jan. 8||Mobile, Ala.||8 p.m.||MAC No. 1 vs. Sun Belt No. 2||Northern Illinois||Arkansas State|
|BBVA Compass||Jan. 7||Birmingham, Ala.||Noon||SEC No. 8/9 vs. Big East No. 5/C-USA||Vanderbilt||Pittsburgh|
|Cotton (FOX)||Jan. 6||Arlington, Tex.||7 p.m.||Big 12 No. 2 vs. SEC||Arkansas||Oklahoma|
|Outback (ABC)||Jan. 2||Tampa, Fla.||Noon||Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC||South Carolina||Michigan State|
|Gator||Jan. 2||Jacksonville, Fla.||Noon||Big Ten No. 4/5 vs. SEC No. 6||Florida||Ohio State|
|Capital One||Jan. 2||Orlando, Fla.||Noon||Big Ten No. 2 vs. SEC No. 2||Georgia||Nebraska|
|TicketCity (ESPNU)||Jan. 2||Dallas, Tex.||11 a.m.||Big Ten No. 7 vs. C-USA||SMU||Purdue|
|Chick-fil-A||Dec. 31||Atlanta, Ga.||6:30 p.m.||ACC No. 2 vs. SEC No. 5||Auburn||Virginia Tech|
|Liberty (ABC)||Dec. 31||Memphis, Tenn.||2:30 p.m.||C-USA No. 1 vs. Big East/SEC No. 8/9||Southern Miss||Louisville|
|Kraft Fight Hunger||Dec. 31||San Francisco||2:30 p.m.||Pac-12 No. 6 vs. Army*/ACC||Arizona State||(Illinois)|
|Sun (CBS)||Dec. 31||El Paso, Tex.||1 p.m.||ACC No. 4 vs. Pac-12 No. 4||California||Georgia Tech|
|Meineke/ Texas||Dec. 31||Houston, Tex.||11 a.m.||Big 12 No. 6 vs. Big Ten No. 6||Texas A&M||Iowa|
|Insight||Dec. 30||Tempe, Ariz.||9 p.m.||Big 12 No. 4 vs. Big Ten No. 4/5||Kansas State||Penn State|
|Music City||Dec. 30||Nashville, Tenn.||5:40 p.m.||ACC No. 6 vs. SEC No. 7||Mississippi State||Virginia|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 30||New York, N.Y.||2:20 p.m.||Big 12 No. 7 vs. Big East No. 4||Rutgers||Iowa State|
|Armed Forces||Dec. 30||Fort Worth, Tex.||11 a.m.||BYU* vs. C-USA||BYU||Tulsa|
|Alamo||Dec. 29||San Antonio||7 p.m.||Big 12 No. 3 vs. Pac-12 No. 2||Washington||Texas|
|Champs Sports||Dec. 29||Orlando, Fla.||4:30 p.m.||Big East No. 2 vs. ACC No. 3||Notre Dame||Florida State|
|Holiday||Dec. 28||San Diego, Calif.||7 p.m.||Pac-12 No. 3 vs. Big 12 No. 5||Utah||Baylor|
|Military||Dec. 28||Washington D.C.||3:30 p.m.||ACC No. 8 vs. Navy*||(Temple)||Wake Forest|
|Belk||Dec. 27||Charlotte, N.C.||7 p.m.||Big East No. 3 vs. ACC No. 5||Cincinnati||North Carolina State|
|Little Caesars||Dec. 27||Detroit, Mich.||3:30 p.m.||MAC No. 2 vs. Big Ten No. 8||Ohio||Northwestern|
|Independence (E2)||Dec. 26||Shreveport, La.||4 p.m.||MWC No. 3 vs. ACC No. 7||Wyoming||North Carolina|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||Honolulu, Hawaii||7 p.m.||WAC vs. C-USA||Nevada||(San Diego State)|
|Maaco||Dec. 22||Las Vegas||7 p.m.||MWC No. 1 vs. Pac-12 No. 5||UCLA||TCU|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 21||San Diego, Calif.||7 p.m.||MWC No. 2 vs. WAC||Louisiana Tech||Boise State|
|Beef O'Brady's||Dec. 20||St. Petersburg, Fla.||7 p.m.||Big East No. 6 vs. C-USA||(Fla. International)||Marshall|
|New Orleans||Dec. 17||New Orleans, La.||8 p.m.||Sun Belt No. 1 vs. C-USA||Louisiana-Lafayette||(Missouri)|
|Idaho Potato||Dec. 17||Boise, Idaho||4:30 p.m.||MAC No. 3 vs. WAC||Toledo||Utah State|
|New Mexico||Dec. 17||Albuqurque, N.M.||1 p.m.||MWC No. 4/5 vs. Pac-12 No. 7/WAC||Air Force||(Western Kentucky)|
|Teams in parentheses are replacements for conferences who failed to fill their bowl allotment|