Real, honest-to-God football is just days away, which means it's naturally time for folks to put on their projectin' hats and start pumping out bowl projections for he 2014-15 college football season. A year ago at this time, Iowa appeared on few (if any) of these bowl projections; that's the harsh reality that awaits most teams when they go 4-8 the prior year. (Note: this does not apply if you are a blueblood school like Florida.) But fresh off an 8-5 season and with a team garnering some dark horse Big Ten champion buzz, surely the bowl projections this year are much friendlier for Iowa, right? Let's take a gander...
As a reminder, here are the new Big Ten bowl tie-ins for 2014 and the next few years:
Rose Bowl/At-Large Access Bowl: Big Ten Champion
Orange Bowl: Big Ten/SEC/Notre Dame vs. ACC No. 1
Capital One Bowl: Big Ten/ACC vs. SEC No. 2
Outback Bowl: Big Ten vs. SEC No. 3-8
Holiday Bowl: Big Ten vs. Pac-12 No. 3
San Francisco: Big Ten vs. Pac-12 No. 4
Pinstripe: Big Ten vs. ACC
Gator/Music City: Big Ten/ACC vs. SEC
Detroit: Big Ten vs. ACC
Heart of Dallas: Big Ten vs. C-USA
The Big Ten no longer has a strict hierarchy (i.e., Big Ten #2 to Capital One, Big Ten #3 to Outback, Big Ten #4 to Buffalo Wild Wings/Insight, etc.) in the bowl selection process, a change made so that the conference could exercise more control over the bowl selection process. With this control, they've said that they want to ensure fresher match-ups in the bowl games and avoid having teams make multiple trips to the same bowl in a short span of time; we'll have to wait and see how it actually plays out in practice.
The Big Ten champion will go to the Rose Bowl most years, except when a) the Rose Bowl is the host site for a College Football Playoff semifinal game or b) the Big Ten champion is in the College Football Playoff (and the Rose Bowl is not hosting a semifinal game in the Playoff). It will serve as a host every three years, the first of which happens to be this year. So if Iowa wants to play in Pasadena this year, they're going to need to have an awfully special season. The "access bowls" are the new name for the BCS bowls: Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and two newbies: the Cotton Bowl and the Peach Bowl. If the Big Ten champion is not one of the top four teams and a part of the College Football Playoff, they'll head to one of the non-semifinal site access bowls; this year those bowls would be the Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, and Peach Bowls.
The Big Ten can also get a spot in the Orange Bowl, as the ACC champion (unless they're in the College Football Playoff) will play the highest-ranked team from the Big Ten or SEC (or Notre Dame) that doesn't have an automatic spot in one of the access bowls/playoff semifinals as a result of winning the conference title and/or finishing in the Top 4 of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee's final rankings. If the Big Ten does place a team in the Orange Bowl under that mechanism, though, then it loses its spot in the Capital One Bowl -- that spot goes to an ACC team instead. I think there's also a provision that the Big Ten can only grab that Orange Bowl spot twice in a six-year span.
Oh, and the Big Ten and ACC also have an arrangement to share spots in the Gator and Music City Bowls. In years where the Big Ten sends a team to the Gator Bowl, then the ACC will send a team to the Music City Bowl, and vice versa. This will last for a six-year span, with each conference sending three teams to the Gator Bowl and three teams to the Music City Bowl. I'm not sure which bowl gets which conference this year.
Finally, the "San Francisco Bowl" was formerly known as the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, but they're no longer sponsoring the game. Maybe we won the fight against hunger. (Probably not.) In all likelihood, it will have a new title sponsor by the time the actual game rolls around in late December this year.
Got all that? OK, let's get on to the actual bowl projections...
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First up, our kindly overlords at SB Nation: Holiday Bowl: Iowa vs. Washington (December 27, 2014)
Avenge the 1982 Rose Bowl! And the 1991 Rose Bowl! (We need more than just the 1995 Sun Bowl.)
Jerry Palm at CBSSports.com: Holiday Bowl: Iowa vs.USC (December 27, 2014)
Avenge the 2003 Orange Bowl! (sigh)
Phil Steele: Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. South Carolina (January 1, 2015)
Avenge the... wait, we won the 2009 Outback Bowl. Beat the Cocks (again)!
Athlon Sports: Music City Bowl: Iowa vs. Missouri (December 30, 2014)
Avenge the... dammit, we won that game, too. (#MicahHyde4ever) Still: the Honey War will never be forgotten.
Sporting News: New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa vs. Virginia Tech (December 27, 2014)
We've never played Virginia Tech or played in the Pinstripe Bowl, so this would be a totally novel experience. On the other hand, NYC in late December is a bit of a shock if you're used to trips to Florida, Arizona, or Texas that time of year.
ESPN (Brett McMurphy):Capital One Bowl: Iowa vs. Florida (January 1, 2015)
Iowa's 1-1 against Florida in bowl games since Kirk Ferentz took over; time for the rubber match?
ESPN (Mark Schlabach): Holiday Bowl: Iowa vs. Washington (December 27, 2014)
See above. Those Rose Bowl losses still sting, dammit.
National Football Post: Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. South Carolina (January 1, 2015)
Pound the Cocks (again)!
NFL.com: Capital One Bowl: Iowa vs. Georgia (January 1, 2015)
Iowa hasn't been back to the Capital One Bowl since The Catch (10-year anniversary coming up!) and they've never played Georgia before, so this would be a pretty fresh experience.
College Football News/Scout.com: Holiday Bowl: Iowa vs. Stanford (December 27, 2014)
MANBALL MANBALL MANBALL MANBALL. (Iowa's never played Stanford before, either.)
Prediction Machine: New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa vs. Pitt (December 27, 2014)
Well, this is just lazy. Iowa and Pitt play in the regular season, so there's an exceedingly remote possibility that they would be paired up again in a bowl game. I don't think we have much to fear from the machine uprising if it's led by the Prediction Machine here.
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To recap, that's four votes for the Holiday, two votes apiece for the Capital One, Outback, and Pinstripe Bowls, and one lonely vote for the Music City Bowl. Obviously, the ultimate goal for Iowa is a Big Ten Championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff or one of the access bowls. But if Iowa isn't able to attain those lofty heights, what would be a satisfactory landing spot for the Hawkeyes in the postseason? I have to say, the Holiday Bowl intrigues -- San Diego is always a lovely place to visit and it would be a nice change of pace from all of Iowa's Florida trips over the past decade. It was the site of some rather lovely Iowa memories, too. But what about you? Vote in our poll and hit up the comments.
T/F/J to the good folks at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, who helped compile all the bowl projections for their own Syracuse Orange footballing club, which made my job easier.