Hawkeyes bowling for dollars…

How bizarre is life sometimes? Twelve weeks ago everyone in the state of Iowa was shaking their collective heads at the Iowa Hawkeyes after they came within a fingernail of losing to Northern Iowa at home. There was wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth and even predictions of them losing to Iowa State.

But now, 12 weeks later, the Hawks are 10-2. In fact, they are a sprained ankle and a couple of dropped passes away from being 12-0 and completely mucking-up the BCS/SEC sweepstakes. But, Ricky Stanzi got hurt, Iowa lost to Ohio State in overtime and now they’re playing the waiting game of seeing where they will go for a bowl game.

Let’s establish a couple of things right off the bat: First, WHATEVER happens, the Hawks are going to be playing in bowl game on New Year’s Day or after. Second they will be playing in one of three bowls and two of the three are BCS bowls.

It is a given that Iowa will play in either the Fiesta, Orange or Capital One bowls. It is probably likely that they will be in one of the first two. Bowl reps love Iowa. Send the Hawks to any bowl and at least 20,000 crazies in black and gold striped bib overalls will show up. Send them to a BCS bowl and 50,000 will go. Heck, I have a friend who planned on breaking out her Tiger Hawk bikini if they made to the Rose Bowl! That fact alone says a great deal.

During the Nebraska/ Kansas State game last night, a BCS analyst from ESPN (that’s actually a job title) was explaining the thing very simply. All the BCS is supposed to do pick the top two teams to play for the national championship. The other bowls are part of the BCS rotation and they pay out the most money and they are the most sought-after by all of the schools. And the rational about picking who plays in them is simple: MONEY!!!

There are guidelines, such as no more than two teams from one conference in any of those bowls, and you have to be in the top 14 of the BCS standings to qualify. But after that, it’s all about money.

The Rose Bowl went back to taking the champions of the Pac-10 and Big 10, while the Fiesta Bowl has an agreement with the Big 12, the Sugar Bowl has the SEC and the Oranage Bowl has the ACC. But, if any of these “automatic” berths are opened up by the teams in the BCS Championship game, anyone who qualifies for them can go.

If we are to say it is a given that Texas will win the Big 12 championship game, that opens up two slots at the Fiesta Bowl. Then there is a slot in the Sugar Bowl (because the loser of the SEC championship game will get one of them), and one in the Orange. Plus, whoever wins the Big East gets an at-large berth. This means that as of now, Florida, Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, the Oregon/Oregon State winner, the Pittsburgh/Cincinnati winner and Georgia Tech/Clemson winner all have guarnateed spots.

So, out of 10 possible spots (the BCS championship game and four other BCS bowls), seven of them are already spoken for. That leaves three. And, there are probably five teams who can make a legitimate argument for one those slots. The Hawkeyes and Penn State are both 10-2 and both could make strong cases. Assumming they beat Oklahoma Friday, Oklahoma State can make a case. And, there ar the Cinderellas, TCU and Boise State. Their conferences (the WAC and Mountain West) are not guaranteed BCS spots, but if they are in the top 14, ONE of them is guaranteed a spot. Right now, TCU is ranked highest so they will get one slot. Boise State probably SHOULD have one, but they don’t have to get one.

So, in essence, there are four teams for two spots — probably one in the Fiesta (because TCU will get on of those) and one in the Orange (Cincinnati will probably go to the Sugar). From a poltically correct standpoint a 12-0 Boise State should get one of the spots.

If anyone is odd-man out of this discussion first, it’s the Nittany Lions. Their fan following isn’t any better than Iowa’s and the Hawks did beat them. And while TV ratings are important, a full loud stadium is more so.

So that takes it to three teams. The Fiesta Bowl could honor their Big 12 commitment, but they don’t have to. Boise State is out of this discussion because if the Broncos were chosen it wouldn’t be for a match-up with TCU. So unless the Horned Frogs ended up in the Orange Bowl, it’s between Iowa and OSU.

In the case of the Orange, the reps there LOVE Iowa. In 2003, Iowa had 40,000 fans in the seats and another 8,000 just there to hang out. And with an ACC team (probably Georgia Tech) in the mix, that almost guarantees a sellout. Penn State might be able to do that as well, but with Iowa is a guarantee. Boise State? Maybe, but that would be long haul.

Personally, I would love to see the Hawks in the Fiesta Bowl. Half the population of the Phoenix area is Iowa transplants, TCU would be an interesting match-up and Iowa has never been to that bowl.

But if it does end up being a BCS bowl, I’m betting on the Orange. The Miami crowd loves the Hawks, and Iowans have proven that they’ll travel well there — as trips to the Outback and Capital One bowls have proven. Then there’s that whole image of the Tiger Hawk bikini….

About the only variable left would be if Oklahoma was able to beat OSU. Then, the Hawks will probably end up in the Fiesta and Boise State in the Orange.

But that’s just my guess. Whatever happens the Hawks will go bowling, it will be in January and it will be fun!

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