116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Walking around the tailgates that almost entirely encircle Kinnick Stadium, bowl representatives each week may face some difficult decisions.
“They all have to decide if they're going to accept some of the beverages that are offered to them or not,” Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said. “I think most of them decline.”
Those representatives will be making another difficult decision that probably won’t involve any Busch Light in a few weeks — determine who to invite to their bowls.
While bowl invitations have evolved beyond who sells the most tickets — “it’s not really that anymore,” Barta said — there’s still no shortage of wooing happening as representatives visit campuses.
“It’s a matter of who’s going to bring the most fans,” Barta said. “Who’s going to play the best game, and so we’re just constantly trying to lobby and convince.”
Depending on how Iowa does in the last week of the season, what happens to other teams and how Iowa’s sales pitch to bowls resonates, the door is open to a variety of bowl possibilities.
Here’s a breakdown of each possibility, in order of prestige:
There’s no doubt the Rose Bowl would be ideal for the Hawkeyes.
“We’d prefer to start in Pasadena,” Barta said.
But fans should hold off on buying any plane tickets to California.
Because the Rose Bowl is not one of the College Football Playoff semifinals this year, the Big Ten will have a team in Pasadena.
If Ohio State wins out, the Buckeyes will almost certainly be in the CFP. That’s an increasingly likely scenario after seeing Ohio State demolish No. 7 Michigan State, 56-7.
That leaves three teams in the conference standings between Iowa and a trip to Pasadena in last week’s CFP rankings — No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Michigan State and No. 15 Wisconsin.
Even with the Spartans’ 49-point loss against Ohio State and the potential for the same to happen to Michigan on Saturday and to Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, it’s hard to see the Hawkeyes leapfrogging all three of those teams at this stage in the season.
Other New Year’s Six bowls
Figuring out the 12 teams that go to the coveted New Year’s Six bowl games is a complicated process.
The Rose Bowl will pick from the Big Ten and Pac-12. The Sugar Bowl will pick from the SEC and Big 12. That leaves four openings in the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.
Iowa’s win vs. Illinois on Saturday and a possible win on Friday against Nebraska likely won’t be enough to vault the Hawkeyees into the top 12.
But enough losses from other upper-tier teams could propel Iowa to a high enough ranking for Fiesta and Peach consideration.
No. 12 Ole Miss could lose to No. 25 Mississippi State. Either No. 9 Oklahoma State or No. 13 Oklahoma will fall after their rivalry game on Saturday. No. 7 Michigan State could fall to unranked-yet-dangerous Penn State.
An Iowa berth in the Citrus Bowl would make sense for many reasons. It’s also the best-case scenario outside of a New Year’s Six bowl.
Outside of the Rose Bowl, the Citrus Bowl is the most prestigious bowl with a Big Ten contract.
It also would send Iowa fans to a site they haven’t been to since 2005, when it was called the CapitalOne Bowl.
“Citrus would be great because we haven't been there for a while,” Barta said.
Citrus Bowl representatives are quite familiar with the 2021 Hawkeyes. They attended Iowa’s wins against Maryland, then-No. 3 Penn State and Minnesota. They also saw Iowa’s loss to Wisconsin in person.
Barta said it’s “helpful” to have bowl representatives in person so they “live it firsthand.”
“They see the fan base and the commitment of tailgating and the excitement,” Barta said.
With six appearances in the last 18 games, Iowa is certainly familiar with the Outback Bowl.
Some fans may say it’s too familiar. No Big Ten team has more Outback Bowl appearances than Iowa, so it certainly wouldn’t be a new experience for fans.
Barta didn’t dismiss a return to the Outback Bowl, though.
“If it ended up being the Outback, we'll be thrilled to go there, too,” Barta said. “I know that’s what you would think I would say, but I really mean that sincerely.”
Other possible destinations
Las Vegas Bowl: After Citrus and Outback, the Las Vegas Bowl is next on the queue. The odds of this scenario increase if the Big Ten can’t place a third team in the New Year’s Six games.
Music City Bowl: Iowa has a Music City Bowl banner hanging in its practice facility despite last year’s game getting canceled. If the Hawkeyes somehow fall below three of their non-New Year’s Six comrades in the conference, they could finally play in a Music City Bowl.
Comments: (319) 398-8394; email@example.com