We’ll know Sunday afternoon where the Hawkeyes are headed for their postseason soirée. Before the official announcement, Adam Rossow weighs in with his best potential matchups for Iowa’s bowl game.
5. Gator Bowl vs Tennessee (January 2)
I’ll be honest. A weeknight, post-New Year’s Day, mid-tier bowl game doesn’t exactly spark the pilot light at the end of a 9-3 season.
Playing a 7-5 Volunteers team won’t produce much excitement either, but there would at least be some intrigue with a rematch of the 2014 contest.
I know, I know. Jalen Hurd and company made sure that game was over by the end of the first quarter. The final score did not reflect the overall beatdown by Rocky Top.
If you’re a glass half-full person, both “New Kirk” and a freshman linebacker named Josey Jewell were spawned from the loss in Jacksonville.
And don’t forget, the next season ended in Pasadena.
4. Citrus Bowl vs Auburn (January 1)
A date with the Tigers would be a sequel to last year’s Outback Bowl against Mississippi State.
Just like the Bulldogs a year ago, Auburn boasts one of the best defenses in the SEC. Defensive tackle Derrick Brown anchors the unit and would present Iowa’s offensive line with a challenge similar to MSU’s Jeffrey Simmons.
Auburn has also had a gauntlet of a schedule, ranking inside the Top 5 in most expert measurements.
Iowa is battle-tested too, with four games against teams inside the Top 20 of the College Football Playoff rankings.
Most of us believed last year was going to be a low-scoring, snooze-fest in Tampa. It turned out to be one of the most entertaining bowls of the year. That might happen again if the Hawks draw the Tigers in Orlando.
3. Holiday Bowl vs Arizona State (December 27)
I wasn’t covering the Iowa program for the Eno Benjamin saga during his recruitment. What I’ve gathered is that Benjamin wasn’t forthcoming about his desire to take recruiting visits with other friends after he verbally committed to Iowa.
Right or wrong, Iowa was upset by that. Benjamin subsequently decommitted, although there was some question to whether Iowa was going to pull his scholarship offer anyway.
Benjamin has been Arizona State’s leading rusher the past two seasons. He set the program’s single-season record for rushing yards in 2018. He’s a future NFL player.
On the surface, there shouldn’t be any bad blood between Benjamin and Iowa. The situation has worked out for both schools.
Everyone in Division-I football is hyper-competitive, though. Even if both sides said they’ve moved on, I’d suspect both the Hawkeyes and Benjamin would have some extra juice if this matchup happened in San Diego.
2. Holiday Bowl vs Southern California (December 27)
It would be nostalgia overload against the Trojans in San Diego.
The 2002 season is deeply entrenched in Iowa lore. Obviously the 2003 Orange Bowl soured in the second half, but the Hawks fans I know don’t look back with angst at the loss. This was the team, the year, the journey, which returned Iowa football to a national stage.
When Iowa first appeared on that national stage, the Holiday Bowl had a supporting role.
It was one of the Big Ten’s consolation prizes to the Rose Bowl from the early-1980s to the mid-1990s The Hawks went 2-0-1 in three Holiday Bowl appearances between 1986-1991, with both victories coming by a single point.
A date with USC, in the final year of the Big Ten’s agreement with the game, would be a dream scenario for the Black and Gold.
1. Citrus Bowl vs Alabama (January 1)
Seven Big Ten football programs have played Alabama at least once throughout their history.
Iowa is not one of the septet. That could change on January 1 in Orlando.
You might not want any part of Alabama. That’s understandable. Alabama is college football’s ultimate reality check.
You might be fine living in your Black-and-Gold fantasy world.
Deep down, though, haven’t you always wondered how a Kirk Ferentz team would stack up against Nick Saban’s juggernaut?
How it would have been in 2015 if L.J. Scott doesn’t cross the goal line and Iowa gets Bama in the College Football Playoff?
If you want an easier path to the 10th win of the season, then book your flight to Santa Clara or Jacksonville, or even San Diego. If you want a bowl game against the most storied program in college football history, this is the matchup.
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