Iowa believes you guys want Nashville

Placement and recency keep the Hawkeyes in the hunt for the Holiday Bowl

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LINCOLN, Neb. — The Pinstripe Bowl wants you to know that you don’t have to spend a bajillion dollars and stay on Times Square.

Iowa running back Akrum Wadley is from Newark, N.J., just a short commute from Yankee Stadium, where the Pinstripe Bowl happens. Wouldn’t he love a bowl game basically in his backyard?

“I want to go somewhere warm,” the senior said after the Hawkeyes’ 56-14 victory on Friday at Nebraska. “I was just laughing with Ihmir (Smith-Marsette, a freshman wide receiver who’s also from Newark). After that bowl, we go right to Jersey, about 15 or 20 minutes, but I prefer to play somewhere warm.”

OK, so everyone can’t stay at Akrum’s house. But the Pinstripe people did actually suggest hotels away from the heart of New York to Iowa athletics director Gary Barta.

“The New York executive director reminded me that fans could stay in New Jersey for about a third of the cost,” Barta said. “They did want to remind our fans that, while it is expensive, going there on a holiday is a really cool thing. You don’t have to stay in Times Square, either.”

Barta prefaced all of the bowl talk after the Hawkeyes finished their 7-5 season (4-5 Big Ten) with a reminder that, no, he doesn’t know Iowa’s bowl destination and, yes, it’ll likely come down to Dec. 3, when the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowls are announced.

Barta said he’s had talks with four bowls: Holiday (San Diego), Foster Farms (Santa Clara, Calif.), Pinstripe (New York) and Music City (Nashville, Tenn.).

The Big Ten does have a bowl tiering system. Basically, the better you are, the better your bowl, but that’s not the lone factor. Where teams have been matters. A lot. Maybe the most. Having been in the Outback just last year, Iowa is out of Florida bowls for a few years.

Avoiding repeat appearances will make some of these decisions and that’s really the only thing keeping the Holiday Bowl in play for Iowa. The Holiday is a top-tier B1G bowl (after the CFP and New Year’s Six, of course). The Holiday Bowl has wanted Iowa for a few years, Barta said. The bowl had a representative at Iowa’s home loss last week to Purdue.

“They said win this week and you never know what could happen,” Barta said. “A lot has to happen for that to occur.” Mainly, the Big Ten needs at least three teams in the CFP and NY6. And then, Michigan and Northwestern are higher in the bowl pecking order than Iowa.

But ...

“What probably gives it a better chance this year than ever before is we no longer go down the pecking order,” Barta said. “We try to place people and so there are a few scenarios where we get placed out there because other people get placed other places.”

From the feedback he’s fielded from Iowa fans, Barta knows a lot of you want Music City. Nashville is a drivable destination. There’s country music, there’s food galore. The opponent will be from the SEC. The Music City gets the first pick among second-tier bowls (Music City, Foster Farms and Pinstripe). It might want to match up Michigan with the SEC. Going back to 2006 and counting Missouri as an SEC victory for Iowa, the Hawkeyes are 2-4 against the SEC in bowls.

“I don’t think I have to do a lot of research to tell you that most of our fans want to go to Nashville,” Barta said. “I’ve shared that with the Big Ten.”

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