Iowa Football

Who loves ya, Cyclones? Your old pal, Gary Barta

Iowa State gets big-boy bowl in Fiesta, Iowa meets mediocre Mizzou in Nashville

Missouri running back Elijah Young (4) is upended by Mississippi State defenders during Missouri's 51-32 loss Saturday i
Missouri running back Elijah Young (4) is upended by Mississippi State defenders during Missouri’s 51-32 loss Saturday in Starkville, Miss. (Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press)

You surely knew this many months ago, but we got more proof Sunday.

We have entered a rift in the space-time continuum and life now is different from anything we’ve known.

Scene: The third Sunday of December 2020. The University of Iowa’s director of athletics, for reasons only he can articulate, had agreed some time ago to be the chairman of the College Football Playoff Selection committee.

His group took a shine to Iowa State weeks ago, and elevated it to No. 6 in its rankings just five days earlier, causing howls of derision from many across America. The Cyclones lost at Oklahoma Saturday, and were dropped to 10th. That wasn’t enough of a descent to keep them from going to their first major bowl, the Fiesta.

Good for the 8-3 Cyclones, who are as good as many an at-large team that have gone to major bowls over the years. LSU went to the Fiesta with three defeats just two years ago.

Meanwhile, Indiana from Barta’s own Big Ten, a team whose only loss was by one score at Ohio State, went unselected by the New Year’s Six bowls and was even spurned by the Citrus Bowl in favor of Northwestern.

“They didn’t have the quality wins Iowa State had,” Barta said, which was true. The Cyclones beat Oklahoma earlier in the season, and won at Texas. Indiana didn’t defeat a single team with a winning record at season’s end.

Nor did Iowa, which tumbled to the Music City Bowl because Indiana didn’t get a slot in the New Year’s Six. Although, what difference is there this year between a Citrus and an Outback and a Music City? I’d rather play in the Cure Bowl just in the hope the game lived up to the name.


Anyway, the Hawkeyes will play Missouri in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, though Keokuk or Hannibal seem more-logical locations.

To recap: Iowa State got its best bowl bump ever in the year Iowa’s AD was the CFP’s selection committee chairman, and Iowa — 15th in the final CFP rankings with a six-game winning streak — is in the third-tier Music City Bowl against a 5-5 Missouri team that lost 51-32 Saturday to Mississippi State, which won for the third time in 10 games.

“I told our team nobody likes what happened and nobody wants to go out like that,” Missouri Coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “We’re going to put our big boy pants on, face it, get some break for Christmas, and come back and fight like hell to fix it.”

Big boy pants. Is that ever not funny?

OK, so does any of this mean anything? Usually, not much. This year? Less.

Iowa State finished in first place in the Big 12. That, folks, is something. Its Fiesta Bowl foe, Oregon, had the third-best record in the Pac-12 North. It also is the Pac-12 champion.

That happened because the Ducks were tied for second in the North last week and had the tiebreaker when the Pac-12 needed a team to replace a Washington team plagued with COVID-19 issues. Oregon stepped in, then beat USC in the league championship.

USC promptly opted out of going to a bowl, as did a lot of other teams including several from the Big Ten.

Many people are angry Iowa State got a Fiesta Bowl invitation and not Indiana, or Coastal Carolina. ISU fans can relate. There have been times when the Cyclones fell further down the bowl chain than they perhaps should have because the Big 12 had lousy bowl affiliations compared to those of the Big Ten and SEC.

It’s weird to see the Big Ten, which has flexed its muscles so often for so long, relegated to just one team in the big bowls.


So a well-regarded Iowa team will play a Music City Bowl game against a Missouri club that lost to Georgia by five touchdowns a weekend ago, that lost five times by double-digits, and that has allowed an average of 49.3 points over its last three games. Such is the bowl industry.

Iowa State, meanwhile, is in a Fiesta Bowl thanks to its own achievements and a little help from Gary Barta and his friends. We’re all in Bizarro World this year.

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