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Iowa Football: Midseason Bowl Projections

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The Hawkeyes suffered a devastating loss to Purdue last week. Where does that leave them in the bowl pecking order midway through the 2021 season?

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NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Notre Dame vs Alabama
Can the Hawkeyes still dream of a return to Pasadena?
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The last several days have been spent largely discussing just how miserable Iowa’s loss to Purdue was on Saturday and just how far off the rails that has taken the 2021 season. There is no way to sugar coat it, the loss was indeed miserable and embarrassing and somehow both totally unexpected by virtually everyone while simultaneously reaffirming convictions that the team had no business being #2 in the country.

Similarly, a season that nobody expected to have Iowa 6-1 just past the midway point now feels somehow derailed and underwhelming based on adjusted expectations after wins in weeks one and two and an even bigger one in week six. But alas, Iowa is still ahead of even the most optimistic of preseason expectations and the front runner in the Big Ten West.

But what does that mean for the Iowa Hawkeyes in a season where the East is perhaps as good as it’s ever been? This is, after all, the first season in history to see five Big Ten teams ranked inside the AP top-10 and four of those teams hail from the East. Such a strong group opposite Iowa in the conference means there is little room for error the rest of the way if Hawkeye fans want to hold onto hope for a special end to the season in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

At this point, despite the fall out of the top-10, Iowa is still largely being projected to make a very good bowl game by most of the national media. Here’s a look at a few notable projections as the Hawkeyes look toward the back half of the season and a run at the Big Ten Championship Game.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN

Bowl: Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl
Date: December 30th
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Tie-In: None (New Year’s Six)
Projected Matchup: Iowa vs. Kentucky

Schlabach’s Analysis:
It’s going to be difficult for the Hawkeyes to recover from Saturday’s stunning 24-7 loss to Purdue at home. Iowa had already been playing with fire because of its woeful offense. It imploded against the Boilermakers, as quarterback Spencer Petras was picked off four times and running back Tyler Goodson got only 12 carries. Through seven games, Iowa ranks 48th in scoring (31.5 points), 99th in rushing (123.3 yards), 100th in passing (194.2 yards) and 120th in total offense (317.5 yards). The best defense in the world can’t overcome that ineptitude each and every week. The Hawkeyes’ only hope to reach the CFP would require them to win out and beat a highly ranked opponent in the Big Ten championship. That’s a tall order because of their offense.

Kyle Bonagura, ESPN

Bowl: Vrbo Citrus Bowl
Date: January 1st
Location: Orlando, Florida
Tie-In: Big Ten vs. SEC
Projected Matchup: Iowa vs. Kentucky

Bonagura’s Analysis:
To go from No. 2 in the country to outside of the New Year’s Six is a swift but deserved fall for Iowa after it was soundly outplayed by Purdue. The only other ranked team to lose to an unranked opponent this week (week 7) was No. 18 Arizona State, which fell to Utah, but the stakes were different for the Sun Devils.

Brett McMurphy, Action Network

Bowl: Vrbo Citrus Bowl
Date: January 1st
Location: Orlando, Florida
Tie-In: Big Ten vs. SEC
Projected Matchup: Iowa vs. Ole Miss

A showdown with Ole Miss would be wildly interesting on a number of levels.

Stewart Mandel, The Athletic

Bowl: Vrbo Citrus Bowl
Date: January 1st
Location: Orlando, Florida
Tie-In: Big Ten vs. SEC
Projected Matchup: Iowa vs. Ole Miss

Mandel’s Analysis:
The Big Ten could have five teams — Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa — that win at least 10 games. I don’t think there’d be room for all five in New Year’s Six bowls. So Iowa really needs to win out before the Big Ten title game or it could be the odd man out at 10-3...my projections include Ohio State in the College Football Playoff and three other Big Ten teams (Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State) reaching New Year’s Six bowls. That creates quite the domino effect. Are you ready to see Purdue in a Jan. 1 bowl?

College Football News

Bowl: Rose Bowl
Date: January 1st
Location: Pasadena, California
Tie-In: Big Ten vs. Pac-12 (New Year’s Six)
Projected Matchup: Iowa vs. Oregon

CFN Analysis:
Oregon will lose once more along the way, but it rises up to win yet another Pac-12 Championship. Iowa bounces back after the Purdue loss to find its way into the Big Ten Championship … and loses. The Rose Bowl is hardly a bad consolation prize.

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Bowl: Rose Bowl
Date: January 1st
Location: Pasadena, California
Tie-In: Big Ten vs. Pac-12 (New Year’s Six)
Projected Matchup: Iowa vs. Oregon


As of now, there appears to be a split between a potential New Year’s Six bowl and the Citrus Bowl. Citrus is the most common projection, which would require Iowa to be the top Big Ten team not selected for a College Football Playoff or New Year’s Six Bowl. In that world, the Big Ten Champion is likely headed to the CFP while as many as three other Big Ten teams take a spot in the New Year’s Six.

Obviously for Hawkeye fans, the Rose Bowl appears to be the dream scenario and that dream remains alive. However, Iowa has very little wiggle room following the embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Boilermakers. They’ll need to run the table on the way to Indianapolis. In that world, a spot in the College Football Playoff may still be in play under the right circumstance.