As mentioned earlier, Iowa faces long odds in bowl eligibility, and one of the largest factors involved is their standing in the Big Ten in terms of overall record; though they've already matched their 2006 conference win total of (sigh) 2, the Hawkeyes have just four wins, and there are nine teams with more in the Big 10.
What's most important is, of course, the standings at the end of the season. So while Iowa's second-to-last in the Big 10 right now, their favorable schedule leaves a small bit of breathing room for post-season play. Below is the remaining schedule for each team, and really the best-case scenario for Iowa.
OSU (5-0, 9-0) - vs. Wis, vs. Ill, @Mich*
Mich (5-0, 7-2) - @MSU, @Wis, vs. OSU*
Wisc (3-2, 7-2) - @OSU, vs. Mich, @Minn
Purd (3-2, 7-2) - @PSU, vs. MSU, @Ind
Ill (3-2, 6-3) - @Minn, @OSU, vs. NW
PSU (3-3, 6-3) - vs. Purd, @Temple, @MSU
NW (2-3, 5-4) - vs. Iowa, vs. Ind, @Ill
Ind (2-4, 5-4) - vs. Ball St., @NW, vs. Purd
Iowa (2-4, 4-5) - @NW, vs. Minn, vs. WMU
MSU - (1-4, 5-4) vs. Mich, @Purd, vs. PSU
Minn - (0-5, 1-8) vs. Ill, @Iowa, vs. Wisc
*The OSU-Michigan game, while the only game between two teams that Iowa cannot catch in the Big 10, may very well be the most important. More later.
The current standings are next to the team [WOW REALLY? --ed], and the likely remaining wins are in bold [THANKS I HAVE AN IQ OF RETARDED --ed]. Whenever there was a likely toss-up, the game went to the home team, which is probably excessively simple but whatever folks.
Given that, here's how the Big Ten would be shaping up at the end of the season:
OSU (7-0, 11-0) @Mich
Mich (7-0, 9-2) vs. OSU
PSU (5-3, 9-3)
Purd (5-3, 9-3)
Ill (5-3, 8-4)
Wisc (4-4, 8-4)
Iowa (4-4, 7-5)
NW (3-5, 6-6)
Ind (2-6, 6-6)
MSU (1-7, 5-7)
Minn (0-8, 1-LOLOLOL)
That's still a lot of teams in front of Iowa. Now, should OSU walk into Ann Arbor undefeated, which seems awfully likely at this point, Hawkeye fans will have to root for Ohio State. I know, I can't wait either. Still, with a win, the Buckeyes would be en route to the BCS Championship game, and one more Big Ten bowl bid--likely the Champs Sports or Insight--would be freed up for the Hawkeyes. If Michigan takes it... Detroit! Late December! Bring it on, Mid-American Conference!
This, of course, is all officially moot if Iowa can't win in Evanston this weekend. At that point, 6-6 (3-5) is the best-case scenario. The Hawkeyes would still technically be bowl eligible, but unless the Big Ten found a bid for them (odds: doubtful), they'd officially be subject to the whims of the football gods, whose capricious nature would either send them to somewhere weird like Birmingham or simply back to Iowa City empty-handed. While any bowl bid is better than none from a monetary and practice standpoint, the humiliation felt by fans is still probably pretty severe either way.
So Northwestern, we'll both likely be 6-5 (4-3) aside from our game with each other. Now I'm not trying to brag, but we both know Iowa has the richer tradition of sending fans to bowl games. We'd be able to do more with a 7-win season than Cats fans would. We'd sell more tickets, send more fans, and pump more money into the host city's economy. You see? It's strictly economics; that's all. You guys aren't commies, are you? Do America a favor and just take a dive this weekend. Maybe even forfeit. Could you forfeit the game? We'll buy Pat Fitzgerald lunch at Mustard's Last Stand afterwards if you do.
Seriously, free red hots for Coach Fitzgerald. Just forfeit the game.