Iowa Football

Iowa, Iowa State face college football royalty this bowl season

Hawkeyes, Cyclones going places fans like, facing teams fans know

Last year's Holiday Bowl between Northwestern and Utah at San Diego's SDCCU Stadium. (Photo by Jay Christensen)
Last year's Holiday Bowl between Northwestern and Utah at San Diego's SDCCU Stadium. (Photo by Jay Christensen)

USC and Notre Dame. How’s that for a pair of bowl opponents for the state of Iowa's major-university football teams?

The games themselves aren’t the Rose and Orange bowls, but you can’t have everything. At least getting to play the Trojans and Fighting Irish puts some serious luster on the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl for Iowa and the Dec. 28 Camping World Bowl for Iowa State.

You can’t tell the story of college football history without prominently mentioning Notre Dame and USC. Both have seven Heisman Trophy winners and double-digit national champions.

But the Holiday and Camping World will fare very well tourist-wise thanks to the fans of the Iowa schools.

The Iowa-USC game the Holiday Bowl is staging will be a strong way for it to close out its affiliation with the Big Ten. Iowa’s last appearance in the San Diego game was 1991. That was 10 Florida bowls and six Texas bowls ago for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa State, meanwhile, is playing in a Florida bowl for the first time and is getting a crack at a big boy in Notre Dame. You think Cyclone fans won’t flood Orlando for this one? If you’re at Disney World on Dec. 26, you can’t ride on Space Mountain without sitting near someone wearing cardinal-colored clothing.

This is the biggest bowl in Iowa State history. Not because it’s the Camping World Bowl, formerly the Russell Athletic Bowl, formerly the Champs Sports Bowl, formerly the Tangerine Bowl, formerly the MicronPC.com Bowl, formerly the Carquest Bowl, formerly the Blockbuster Bowl.

No, it’s because the Cyclones not only are playing Notre Dame, but a 10-2 Notre Dame.

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Just how fired up Irish followers will be to travel to play 7-5 Iowa State in something called the Camping World Bowl remains to be seen since Notre Dame played in Orlando’s Citrus Bowl just two years ago, but wherever the Irish go, so go their fans.

About the Holiday Bowl: Yes, the city has much to offer a visitor. You may have heard of a couple little things known as the sun and the Pacific Ocean.

Not that Holiday Bowls have balmy weather. The average temperature at kickoff for that game in this decade has been 59 degrees. It often dips into the 40s before game’s end, when the sun is down.

You’ll survive, and without complaint. A Pinstripe Bowl, this is not.

Yes, San Diego’s SDCCU Stadium is a white elephant. It’s in disrepair, its scoreboard is from yesteryear, it has a lot of bad seats, and it isn’t long for this world.

Sports columnist Bryce Miller of the San Diego Union-Tribune tells me the stadium’s public-address system sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Meaning, it sounds like a lot of wah-wah-wah. Miller stressed, though, that the pros far outweigh the cons for Iowa travelers to the game.

The San Diego part is the big reason, of course. For instance, downtown San Diego is far more vibrant than it was in 1991. Miller also noted the stadium has a vast parking lot that easily will accommodate your tailgating needs.

As for the Hawkeyes’ opponent, it certainly isn’t the USC of January 2003 that clobbered the Hawkeyes 38-17 in the Orange Bowl. This year’s 8-4 Trojans are known mostly for one thing, and that’s for keeping Clay Helton as head coach last week and incurring the wrath of their fans and the southern California sports media.

USC fans, as near as they are to San Diego, obviously have an easy trip to the game. Will they outnumber Hawkeye backers, though? It’s the Trojans’ third Holiday Bowl in six years, perhaps a tough sell for natives of one of the most-competitive entertainment markets on the planet who expect far better from the Trojans than this game.

For Iowans, though? Happy Holiday!

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As for Orlando, Iowa State not only gets to go to a site that’s new and enticing to it, but it gets the opportunity for a bowl win that would be deeply meaningful.

If you rise up and clip Notre Dame, which has lost only to Georgia and Michigan on the road, you’ll leave an impression.

Cyclone fans got this invitation, not their 7-5 team. The dividends from the investments Iowa Staters made in trips en masse to Memphis and San Antonio were paid on Sunday.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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