Preseason bowl projections are a lot like the polls in that they’re premature, based on speculation and they don’t even account for Notre Dame’s traditional inevitable collapse. As Iowa fans, we’re spoiled in that we expect our team to consistently be competing for January bowl games and if they fail to do so, we’re upset. This year is no different, as our beloved Hawkeyes are expected to compete for the Big Ten West and once again find itself playing a postseason game in 2020.

This is the final year of the current Big Ten bowl lineup, which features:

  1. Rose Bowl: January 1st, Pasadena, CA
  2. Citrus or Orange Bowl: January 1st, Orlando, FL or December 30th, Miami, FL
  3. Outback Bowl: January 1st, Tampa, FL
  4. Holiday Bowl: December 27th, San Diego, CA
  5. Music City or Gator (TaxSlayer) Bowl: December 30th, Nashville, TN or January 2nd, Jacksonville, FL
  6. Redbox Bowl: December 30th, Santa Clara, CA
  7. Pinstripe Bowl: December 27th, New York, NY
  8. Quick Lane Bowl: December 26th, Detroit, MI
  9. First Responder (formerly Heart of Dallas) or Armed Forces Bowl: December 30th, Dallas, TX or January 4th, Fort Worth, TX

Starting next year, the Las Vegas, Belk and Cheez-It  Bowl will be added to the list and that’s a big “hell yeah” because the Belk Bowl is the best bowl. For those of you curious, the Cheez-It Bowl is the old Insight.com/Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, making its glorious return after a 7-year hiatus from the Big Ten.

But enough about next year. Here are the rules:

  • Four teams are chosen for the College Football Playoff and six bowls rotate for the semifinals: Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, and Peach. The bowls hosting the semifinals this year are the Peach and Fiesta. The National Championship will be played in the Superdome, NOLA, on January 13th.
  • As the Rose Bowl is not hosting a semifinal, if the Big Ten Champion is selected for the College Football Playoff, the next highest ranked team by the CFB Playoff Committee, or the runner-up, will be selected for the Rose Bowl.
  • The highest-ranked champion from the Group of Five mid-majors (AAC, C-USA, MAC, MWC, Sun Belt) is guaranteed a spot in the non-playoff bowls if they fail to make the playoff.
  • The Big Ten has a six-year contract with the eight non-playoff bowl games (through the 2019 season). The Big Ten has an eight-year contract with the Pinstripe Bowl (through 2021).
  • I used to say that the Big Ten has a tiered selection process when it comes to selecting teams but I don’t really believe that anymore. Basically, the bowls will choose whoever they want. If you want to rank them in “respectability” you could say: 1) Rose, 2) Orange, 3) Citrus, 4) Holiday, Outback, 5) Pinstripe, Music City/TaxSlayer, and Redbox, 6) Quick Lane and First Responder (formerly known as the Heart of Dallas Bowl)/Armed Forces.
  • As the Orange Bowl is not hosting a Playoff semifinal, a Big Ten team will be eligible, but not guaranteed to play in Miami.  
  • Iowa has played in the following bowls since 2010: Insight, Outback, TaxSlayer, Rose, Outback, Pinstripe, Outback.

Latest Media Projections:

247 Sports: Citrus, vs. Auburn

Brett McMurphy: Holiday, vs. Cal

CBS Sports: Citrus, vs. Auburn

College Football News: TaxSlayer, vs. Texas A&M

ESPN (Mark Schlabach): Holiday, vs. Cal

ESPN (Kyle Bonagura): Outback, vs. Florida

SBNation: Music City, vs. Texas A&M

Sporting News: TaxSlayer, vs. Florida

Now, prior to rounding all these projections up, I was going to make a “these are all wrong Iowa is going to the Outback Bowl joke” but then an actual paid ESPN employee made a legitimate Iowa to the Outback Bowl pick and that took the wind out of the ol’ sails. Backtracking to 2013-ish, when the Big Ten entered into majority of the bowl contracts that expire this year, a number of them required that a certain number of different Big Ten teams were to play over a six year period. The Outback was one of those bowls. Now, I’m not sure if this is a contractual obligation or a “goal” but assuming it’s contractual in nature there are going to be some "rules" for Iowa's bowls in 2019. As in:

  • Iowa technically cannot play in the Outback Bowl following the 2019 season. The agreement called for five different teams over a period of six years. Only four teams have played in the Outback Bowl during that timeframe: Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, and Wisconsin.
  • No Big Ten team is to play in the TaxSlayer or Music City Bowl more than once during the term of the agreement. As Iowa played in 2015, they would not be eligible to play in the TaxSlayer Bowl again.
  • However, they would be eligible to play in the Music City Bowl.
  • The Holiday Bowl has met its five-team “quota” so they can choose whoever they want.
  • The Pinstripe Bowl has a “goal” of eight different teams in eight years and they’re actually on track with zero repeats since 2014. At the very least, they must have six different teams and as they’ve had five, they’ve got a lot of room to choose whoever they can get.

Again, this is assuming these guidelines are contractual in nature. If they’re just “goals” then none of this matters.

So, discussing the projections proper, I think every Iowa fan would be happy with FINALLY going to the Holiday Bowl. We crack jokes about the Outback Bowl but back in the late 1980s early 90s Hawkeye fans had to feel the same way, as they’d been to the Holiday Bowl three times in six years. Unfortunately, they haven't returned since.

Jerry Palm and 247 Sports are the highest on Iowa, putting them in the Citrus against Auburn. Personally, I wouldn’t want to play Auburn, but that’s just me. If you look at Iowa’s schedule they’re soon to be 4-0 (sorry, MTSU) and then it goes @ Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, @ Northwestern, @ Wisconsin, vs. Minnesota, vs. Illinois, @ Nebraska.

Assume that Minnesota and Illinois are wins. Iowa is purportedly better than Purdue and Northwestern but that won’t stop Kirk Ferentz from losing to them. Regardless, assume Iowa wins. Nebraska is better than they were but I still count on Iowa. That’s nine wins right there. That leaves Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin as the deciding games. Win a couple of those games and you’re going to the New Year’s Six. Win one and you’re probably looking at the Citrus. Win zero and it’s likely that the Holiday Bowl is the destination.

Or, Iowa goes 8-4 and hello Music City Bowl!