WAY TOO EARLY BOWL PROJECTIONS: IOWA TO THE HOLIDAY BOWL?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Let's go bowling!

The mothership published their yes-these-are-absurdly-early bowl projections for 2014 today, so naturally we should talk about them.  They've got Iowa headed to the Holiday Bowl to play Washington.  Remember that the Big Ten's bowl situation changes fairly significantly next year.

1) The Big Ten has several new bowl partners: the Holiday Bowl, the Kraft Fight Hunter Bowl, the Pinstripe Bowl, the Music City Bowl, the Armed Forces Bowl, and the as-yet-sponsorless Detroit Bowl (which means our dream of the Robocop Bowl lives on).  These bowls are in addition to returning partners like the Rose Bowl, the Capital One Bowl, the Outback Bowl, the Gator Bowl, and the Heart of Dallas Bowl.  It's worth noting that some of these bowls (like the Heart of Dallas and the Gator) have shared arrangements with other conferences, meaning that the Big Ten will not be in every one of these bowls every year.  Basically, some years the Heart of Dallas Bowl or Music City Bowl gets a Big Ten team and some years those bowls get an ACC or Big 12 team.  The exact logistics of those arrangements are somewhat unclear to me, although the intent is to give bowls (and conferences) more flexibility in order to avoid repeat match-ups or sending the same teams to the same bowls over and over.

2) Speaking of that flexibility... starting next year, the Big Ten conference (so, Jim Delany) is taking a much more active role in setting up the bowl match-ups, with the stated goal of making more desirable match-ups, avoiding repeat match-ups, and keeping teams from going to the same bowl year after year (unless it's the Rose Bowl, of course, because if you're good enough to make consecutive Rose Bowls, no one's doing much complaining).  That's likely bad news for bowl prognosticators, but hopefully good news for fans.  We'll see how it works out.

Anyway!  This projection essentially has Iowa finishing in the top 5 of the Big Ten next year.  Ohio State and Michigan State are projected to go to playoff games (Ohio State) or BCS-level bowls (Michigan State, to the bumped-up Peach/Chick-Fil-A Bowl), with Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin comprising the next tier of B1G teams.  They have Michigan to the Capital One and Wisconsin to the Outback, leaving Iowa for the Holiday Bowl.

Iowa has some history with the Holiday Bowl, of course.  The Hawkeyes went to the Holiday Bowl three times under Hayden Fry, compiling a 2-0-1 record in those appearances.  The games certainly didn't lack drama, either -- Iowa's two wins came via a combined two points and the other game was a 13-13 tie with Brigham Young.

1986: Iowa 39, San Diego State 38

This was probably the craziest finish to an Iowa bowl game until Tate and Holloway gave us The Catch.  SDSU kicked a chip-shot field goal (21 yards) with 0:47 to go to up 38-36, but Iowa returned the ensuing kickoff to the SDSU 37-yard line.  They were able to move the ball another 13 yards, setting up Rob Houghtlin's game-winning 41-yard kick as time expired.  It's not quite as famous as his walk-off winner against Michigan in 1985, but how many college kickers get to have multiple game-winning kicks like that?

1987: Iowa 20, Wyoming 19

Iowa returned to the Holiday Bowl in 1987 to face a 10-2 Wyoming team (fine purveyors of late '80s WACtion).  That game was less of a wild shootout than the SDSU win a year ago, but it was another dramatic nail-biter and it featured another fourth-quarter Hawkeye comeback.  Down 19-7 at halftime, Iowa roared back in the fourth quarter behind a 33-yard pick-six by Anthony Wright and a David Hudson 1-yard TD run (FULLBACKS 4EVER!).  Iowa's defense held on after that, blocking a 52-yard field goal (!) by Wisconsin Wyoming in the final minutes and then benefiting from a Wyoming holding penalty that knocked them out of field goal range.

In 1991, Iowa made their last trip to the Holiday Bowl, tying BYU at 13-all.  Iowa opened up a 13-0 first half lead behind two Mike Saunders touchdown runs, but couldn't find the end zone for the rest of the game.  Ty Detmer went 29/44 for 350 yards and 2 TDs -- but he threw a costly interception late in the fourth when BYU was driving for the win.

Strange but true factoid: Iowa wore their road white jerseys in every single Holiday Bowl appearance.

Of course, the Hawkeyes also have some bowl history with Washington, although little of it is good.  Iowa lost the 1982 Rose Bowl (Hayden's first trip to Pasadena with the Hawkeyes) to Washington, 28-0.  They got another crack at them in 1991 and while Iowa managed to score points this time (34), they also gave up a lot of points (46).  Iowa also gave up a frightening number of points in the first half, digging themselves a 33-7 deficit at halftime.  A 20-point fourth quarter made the final margin more palatable, but that's about it.  This is one of the first Iowa bowl games I can vividly remember and I still remember being bummed that Nick Bell didn't just run all over those purple jerks.  I was sure he was going to run all over those guys.  Welp.

Iowa got a small measure of revenge over Washington in 1995 with a 38-18 bludgeoning of the Huskies in the Sun Bowl.  Sedrick Shaw (21 carries, 135 yards) and Tavian Banks (13 carries, 122 yards) both eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards (as a team Iowa ran for 286 yards) and Matt Sherman added 135 yards passing (on 11/24 passing).  It was nice to finally beat Washington, but obviously we'd all trade that win in a nano-second for a win in one of those Rose Bowls that Iowa lost to the Huskies.

Meanwhile, a few other thoughts on the bowl projections...

  • UL-Lafayette in a BCS-level bowl!  Rage on, you Cajuns.
  • Ohio State is the Big Ten's representative in the first-ever playoffs, which seems like a vote for Urban Meyer more than anything else.  The Buckeyes have a LOT to replace on both sides of the ball for next year.  But the same is true for the Big Ten's other top team this year (Michigan State), which is why it wouldn't particularly shock me if the Big Ten was shut out of next year's playoffs.
  • The projections have Nebraska in the Fight Hunger Bowl; it's always nice when a team that draws their name from food can play in the Fight Hunger Bowl.  Shame they're not drawn against Rice.
  • They also have Minnesota in lovely Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl, which, hey, it's not Houston and the Texas Bowl, right?
  • Finally, Indiana gets a game with Duke in the Pinstripe Bowl.  Well, Indiana does like stripes.  Also, if that game actually happens, the basketball teams should try to schedule a game in Madison Square Garden for that same day -- they might outdraw the football teams.
What do you think of the projections?  Any that stand out to you?  How would you feel about a Holiday Bowl trip for Iowa next year?  Hit up the comments.

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