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BEST IN SHOW: A Rough Guide to Possible Bowl Game Destinations For The Hawkeyes

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There are 39 bowl games in the 2014 Bowl Season, with a collective payout of almost $1 billion dollars. However, not all bowl games are created equally. So, maybe a guide might be helpful in sifting through the possibilities? It would be our pleasure.

There is rarely any actual bowling done during bowl season.
There is rarely any actual bowling done during bowl season.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, so maybe it's not the most exclusive club in America but it's a club dammit and Iowa is about to get invited to join. Having met the criteria for entry (which is six victories, for the uninitiated, and as of this posting there are 80 lucky ducks to have met this strenuous precondition) Iowa will soon be fielding an offer of participation to one of this year's post-season football exhibitions. It's hard to say which bowl will make an offer to Iowa as the latest projections are all over the place, for many teams, but the prognostications are rolling in and fun to consider. Let's take a look at the potential invites and see which would make the most sense for such a deserving group of young men and their fans.

There are a few of factors that makes one bowl invite more or less attractive than another to a particular fanbase. There is, first and foremost, the bowl location, but then there is also the quality of the competition, the publicity potential of the game, the payout the team and conference will receive, and finally, the congruity and/or "draw" of the bowl for a team's fanbase.

I will be using a simple scale to figure this thing out, ranking each of the following categories with a score of 1 (low) to 5 (high).

Locale - desirability of the geographical location of the bowl game (and, yeah, weather plays one hell of a role here).

Competition - attractiveness of the game itself predicated on whom we might play (this is the rationale for attendance after all).

Payout - how lucrative, or in a more likely scenario, how costly will the game be for the program (this will affect the fan experience more than you might imagine, it is a good measuring stick of "value" and provides insight into whether the bowl is going to do things on the cheap or lavishly)?

Publicity - how much positive/negative publicity might be generated by a) participating in the bowl game and b) by winning/losing it (bowl games are one big advertisement for your university, your football program and your coach)?

Draw - is this a bowl game in-tune with, if not highly attractive to, the average Iowa fan's sense and sensibility for a good time (or, to put it another way, will the fans see this as a vacation built around a football game, or a slog to see the boys)?

So, each bowl can earn between 5 to 25 points on this scale, and below is an interpretation of the scoring:

6 - 10 points > While you are bound by agreement to accept this invitation, don't.

11 - 15 points > Accept this invitation but be forewarned, the AD would be wise not to answer fan mail for at least a week after the game.

16 - 20 points > Accept this invitation and treat this like a home game cause there really should be a decent following.

21 - 25 points > Accept this invitation and then remember to return the four leaf clover, rabbit's foot and horseshoe to the safe until next season. Then kneel down and ask what have you done to deserve this?

Now, let's take a look at the possible bowl destinations, in alphabetical order:

Foster Farms Bowl

Conference Affiliations (if any): Pac-12 vs. Big Ten
Location: Santa Clara, CA
Venue: Levi's Stadium
Date: Saturday, December 27 at 5 p.m.
Network: ESPN
Payout: $2.25 million
Team most likely to play: USC, Stanford, or UCLA
SCORE:
Locale: 4
Competition: 4
Payout: 4
Publicity: 3
Draw: 5
TOTAL SCORE: 20

Previously called the Emerald Bowl, the Diamond Walnut Bowl and the Fight Hunger Bowl and God only knows what other unappealing name, and having been previously held in San Francisco at AT&T Park, this bowl is trying to elevate and become a playa on the national bowl scene -- which is why they have struck an agreement with the Big Ten, the fiscal Big Dogs of bowl season -- but the move to Santa Clara is a bit regrettable. It is still, overall, a great bowl destination for Iowans. First, it has been a long time since Iowa was invited West, and second, those invites have all been to Southern California so this opens new territory for bowl vets. Make no mistake, San Francisco is still the draw here. One look at the bowl game website and you will see they are making damn sure fans see this still as a San Fran bowl destination providing numerous options for fans to get from San Francisco (where you are expected to stay) to the game. Any of the teams Iowa might play will be favored (get used to this factoid as a theme of bowl season) and perhaps by a lot. But, in the last four years the West Coast team is 1-3 in this game. Maybe they're disappointed to be staying so close to home or maybe they're just not that good. Factor in that Kirk Ferentz experiences jet lag on recruiting trips Sioux City when considering whether Iowa will be competitive. This is, all things considered, the ideal bowl for that bowl traveler who is high minded about their fandom.

National University Holiday Bowl

Conference Affiliations (if any): Pac-12 vs. Big Ten
Location: San Diego, CA
Venue: Qualcomm Stadium
Date: Tuesday, December 30 at 7 p.m.
Network: ESPN
Payout: $2.35 million
Team most likely to play: USC, Arizona State or UCLA
SCORE:
Locale: 4
Competition: 4
Payout: 4
Publicity: 4
Draw: 4
TOTAL SCORE: 20

San Diego has clear skies 7 out of every 10 days of the year, by far the most sunny days of any of the possible bowl destinations. So, yeah, you should plan to get damn good weather (average temps are low 70s). The Holiday Bowl brings back good memories for older Iowa fans as the Hawks are 2-0-1 in this bowl game. As far as the possible matchups go, see the Foster Farms Bowl for more info and the same applies here. San Diego is a great destination for the person who wants to land and then figure it out, as there is a lot to do here--especially for those who long to be in the outdoors, or are interested in military history and gawking at caged marine and land fauna while drinking a Mexican beer nestled a neoprene sleeve. If you are traveling with a crowd that cannot agree on what to do as a group, this is your bowl destination. Oh, and remember to bring your money belt for that side trip to Tijuana.

Franklin America Mortgage Company Music City Bowl

Conference Affiliations (if any): SEC vs. Big Ten
Location: Nashville, TN
Venue: Vanderbilt Stadium
Date: Tuesday, December 30 at 2 p.m.
Network: ESPN
Payout: $2.75 million
Team most likely to play: Tennessee
SCORE:
Locale: 2
Competition: 3
Payout: 4
Publicity: 3
Draw: 3
TOTAL SCORE: 16

Nashville, like fried gizzards, is an acquired taste. And also like fried gizzards, Nashville looks like vomit if you squint your eyes and catch it at the right angle. But, for some this is the perfect destination. Bear in mind that the average temperature in late December in Nashville is a high of 46 and a low of 29 degrees. So, uh, yeah, you'll be inside a lot and likely either drunk or nursing a hangover, and some people consider that a perfect vacation. Entertainment is overwhelmingly of one variety, which is to say, I hope you love to sit in a bar and sip bourbon while listening to a guy or gal sing with a heavy hick accent (some with a real one and most with a fake one) about vaguely racist things. I kid. Kinda. I am not convinced this is a great destination for most Iowa fans. Traffic in Nashville can be insanely stupid and while Southerners are known for their hospitality, they do do it differently than the Midwesterners. I expect a small Iowa fan turnout for this bowl, should it happen, but it will likely be a very focused group. One major upside? We would play the one SEC team we could beat.

Quick Lane

Conference Affiliations (if any): ACC vs. Big Ten
Location: Detroit, MI
Venue: Ford Field
Date: Friday, December 26 at 4:30 p.m.
Network: ESPN
Payout: TBD (past payouts for bowls in this venue have been approx. $750,000)
Team most likely to play: Pittsburgh or Virginia Tech
SCORE:
Locale: 1
Competition: 1 or 2
Payout: 1
Publicity: 2
Draw: 1
TOTAL SCORE: 6 or 7

This is the bowl that will not die. If Iowa ends up accepting a bowl invite to play here, then you know we are near the end of days. Ironically, or stupidly, it could very well end up being Pittsburg that we would play....again, which means at BHGP we would absolutely have to resurrect, in full, the whole CJB v. JR debate to keep us even marginally interested. For those that are just unable to stop attending Iowa bowl games, I strongly suggest a fly-in, fly-out approach.

Tax Slayer Bowl

Conference Affiliations (if any): SEC vs. Big Ten
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Venue: EverBank Field (former Gator Bowl)
Date: Friday, January 2 at 3:20 p.m.
Network: ESPN
Payout: $3.825 million
Team most likely to play: Auburn, LSU or Ole Miss
SCORE:
Locale: 4
Competition: 5
Payout: 4
Publicity: 5
Draw: 4
TOTAL SCORE: 22

This is the most intriguing and ALL things considered most attractive possibility, albeit it may be the least likely to happen (Phil Steele predicted this as a landing spot, but no one else that I could find did). This is the most high profile of the bowl possibilities because it is on that day where college football fans glue themselves to the sofa and hire people to feed and clean them, King George IV style. Also known as the best day of the year for college football. The payout is the best of the lot---suggesting the fan activities linked to the game itself will be the most robust of all. The weather is, more often than not, great. You can fish, golf, eat, swim, bike, drink, you name it and maybe all at the same time. Make no mistake, Iowa will get blistered in the actual game by a really good SEC team, but that just takes all the worry out of it. Go and enjoy yourself as if attending an Irish wake. Oh, and remember to tell yourself that because Iowa is playing Auburn, Iowa must be just as good as Auburn. I mean, why else would the bowl people have Iowa play Auburn?