Bowl Selection Sunday: Iowa State to Fiesta Bowl, Iowa to play in Music City Bowl
Don't ask me how we made it to today, but it arrived.
Pandemic, logistics, cancellations, rescheduling ... And yet, college football found itself experiencing bowl selection Sunday, albeit a little later than usual.
It's been a memorable season for both Iowa and Iowa State this year, to boot.
For the Cyclones, we were wondering earlier this weekend whether there was a narrow path to the College Football Playoff. One heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma later, Matt Campbell's 8-3 squad anxiously waited, and received a rich reward with a placement in the Fiesta Bowl, inside the New Year's Six cadre of elite games. Iowa State will take on Pac-12 champion Oregon.
The Hawkeyes, on the other hand, won six games in a row to close the year and finish 6-2. Booking a trip to Nashville, Tennessee, and the Music City Bowl against 5-5 Missouri, however, isn't what Kirk Ferentz's bunch probably had in mind.
In the middle, we broke down the College Football Playoff field and accurately broke down the unfolding situations for Iowa State and Iowa in real time. Scroll through the analysis to understand how the day progressed.
Many more links to team-specific content are included not too far below. Observations are listed by recency. Enjoy!
3:45 p.m.: Thanks, as always, to so many of you for following along, letting me embrace my inner bowl nerdness for a few hours. And, of course, we're here to inform you and let things play out in real time as best as we can discern!
Scroll just a short bit to find a bunch more team-specific coverage if you're hopping on late in the day. Enjoy your postseason, state-of-Iowa fans.
Reaction to Iowa's Music City Bowl berth
3:30 p.m.: Hawkeyes fans, here are some Iowa-specific pieces on Iowa being chosen to play in the Music City Bowl.
- The announcement: New Year's Six dominoes cost Hawkeyes spot in pecking order
- The reaction: Fans show mixed emotions about neat destination, middling matchup
- The analysis: Chad Leistikow says Hawkeyes deserved better postseason fate
2:50 p.m.: The dominoes have quickly fallen in the last 20 minutes. Northwestern makes the Citrus Bowl and will take on Auburn. Presumably, that leaves Indiana to play in the Outback Bowl, although that information has not been announced.
In the meantime, our Mark Emmert has confirmed that Iowa will be playing in the Music City Bowl in Nashville at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 30. The game will be broadcast on ESPN. Brett McMurphy of Stadium is reporting that Missouri will be the SEC opponent. The two teams last played in the 2010 Insight Bowl, with Iowa upsetting the Tigers 27-24.
Reaction to Iowa State's Fiesta Bowl berth + attendance info
2:25 p.m: Cyclones fans, here are some Iowa State-specific pieces on making the Fiesta Bowl.
- The announcement: ISU to make first New Year's Six bowl appearance
- The reaction: How social media took to the Cyclones getting in over Indiana
- The (lack of travel): Fans won't be allowed at the game in greater Phoenix
2:15 p.m.: A good number of people don't really care too much about the whole bowl hierarchy once you're outside the New Year's Six threshold we just announced. But as far as the big Ten Conference is concerned, there is another little mini-tier of prestige beyond those New Year's Six affiliations.
The Citrus and Outback bowls are a cut above the rest when it comes to calendar placement (January) and network placement (ABC and/or a prime window on ESPN). Heading into this weekend, our Iowa columnist, Chad Leistikow, had Iowa pegged as an 85% chance at one of those two higher-tier bowls. And rightfully so, in my opinion, given the positioning of most teams within the playoff structure at the time.
But there's no beating around the bush here: How this weekend's game unfolded were a worst-case scenario for the Hawkeyes.
Ohio State stayed in the playoff, and didn't crush Northwestern so much that the Wildcats could lose much standing; Pat Fitzgerald's team acquitted themselves well.
Iowa State neither won the Big 12 championship (thus sending Oklahoma out of the New Year's Six), nor did the Cyclones themselves get crushed. Their competitiveness Saturday likely contributed to them beating out Indiana for that final New Year's Six slot.
The tough breaks are even worse for Indiana, per reporting from Brett McMurphy of Stadium, who has the Hoosiers getting passed up for the Citrus Bowl by Northwestern. If that's the case, it'll be incredibly hard for Iowa to pass Indiana for the Outback, given where Indiana finished in the final standings. Boy, would the Hoosiers have a gripe if they got passed over twice. (Iowa finished 15th in the final playoff ranking, by the way).
Next in line for Iowa could be either the Music City Bowl (in Nashville against an SEC opponent) or the Duke's Mayo Bowl (formerly the Belk Bowl, in Charlotte against a likely ACC opponent). Both of these games are a step down in matchup quality than either the Citrus or Outback likely would be.
BUT. (Yes, another.) If there was a year to not sweat the pageantry factor of a bowl game, perhaps it's 2020-21, in a limited-fans (or no fans) scenario.
Either way, it'll be quite interesting to see the jockeying that unfolds in the next 90 minutes.
1:49 p.m.: Gary Barta on the New Year's Six: Orange Bowl determined first because of contractual obligations. Then it's about matchups. In regards to Indiana vs. Iowa State:
"We had a long discussion about who had earned their way into the top 10. Iowa State was in that discussion. Indiana was in that discussion. Comparing those two teams, Indiana had a historic year. They were 6-1. Their only loss was to Ohio State, but they didn't have the quality wins that Iowa State had. Iowa State had beaten Oklahoma and Texas. So when it came down to comparing those two, in particular, Iowa State was given the nod."
1:37 p.m.: Texas A&M and North Carolina will play each other in the Orange bowl at 7 p.m. Jan. 2. Indiana is left out, one spot behind Iowa State at No. 11 and the highest-ranked team to not make a bowl game. That has significant ramifications for Iowa, and not in a good way. I'll explain shortly.
1:35 p.m.: And Iowa State will reach a New Year's Six bowl for the first time. What a moment for the Cyclones' program.
It's the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon. That game is at 3 p.m. Jan. 2 on ESPN. Iowa State finished 10th in the final CFP ranking, which shows considerable respect for their effort against Oklahoma. They'll get the Pac-12 champs, who underachieved in a shortened Pac-12 season but still finished 25th after beating USC this past weekend.
Giddy-up! A big achievement.
1:34 p.m.: Georgia vs. Cincinnati in the Peach. 11 a.m. on New Year's Day. The annual Group of Five vs. SEC matchup seems to play itself out.
1:33 p.m.: Here we go. Oklahoma vs. Florida in the Cotton Bowl. Track meet! 7 p.m. Dec. 30. What an awesome game that will be to watch.
1:28 p.m.: ESPN has finally done the commercial tease to the New Year's Six reveal. So the matchups will indeed be coming soon.
Part 2: How the bowl picture will take shape
1:11 p.m.: OK, so we're about a half-hour away from the New Year's Six announcements. There are eight spots remaining to fill for the four other New Year's Six games (the playoff matchups constitute two of those).
Based on rules and regulations and contracts and guaranteed spots and all that stuff, we know this much:
- Oregon gets a spot as the Pac-12 champion.
- Cincinnati will get a spot as a Group of Five team ranked in the top 12 (they won't drop this far after taking the American Athletic Conference title last night).
- The Orange Bowl takes an ACC team. It cannot take Clemson or Notre Dame, because of their playoff selections. So that's why you have the reports of North Carolina playing in Miami.
- Oklahoma gets a spot as the Big 12 champion.
- Texas A&M will get a spot, because the No. 5-ranked team will not be left out of the New Year's Six, period.
So, as you can see, we're essentially already down to three positions.
If we are to proceed from here based on last week's full ranking, the only teams in the top 15 who haven't been addressed in some fashion and who are choosing to play in bowl games (for now) are Iowa State (No. 6), Florida (No. 7), Georgia (No. 8), Indiana (No. 11) and Coastal Carolina (No. 12).
Five teams, three spots.
Fair or unfair, Coastal Carolina out of the Sun Belt Conference will not get New Year's Six consideration. That's the nature of this big-money beast.
Florida, in my opinion, should have been ranked considerably lower than seventh following their shocking loss to LSU nine days ago. But the committee clearly values Florida, and the Gators did not hurt themselves by pushing Alabama to a 52-46 decision in the SEC title game last night. They'll be placed somewhere, I'd reckon.
Georgia, with a relatively gaudy record and its brand recognition and placement in the SEC, will give the Bulldogs a likely leg up in this pecking order. Them's the unwritten rules.
So! That leaves one spot and two teams, Iowa State and Indiana. Ultimately, I see two factors that probably push the Cyclones over the finish first (albeit barely). The Cyclones do have two more losses than do the Hoosiers, but they've done so through an 11-game schedule and also possess marquee wins over Texas and Oklahoma in the regular season. Indiana, even though it's just a one-loss team, was given a scheduling kiss in its revised Big Ten slate, and most of the conference hasn't lived up to its usual billing.
Additionally, the committee and bowl organizers want matchups with zest. Unfortunate though it may be, the injury to Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. does considerable damage to the theoretical Q-rating the Hoosiers could carry. Iowa State is healthy, Brock Purdy and Breece Hall have gained some national repute this season, and Matt Campbell's name cache is a factor, too. The Big 12's perceived strength at the top, combined with the conference playing a full season, is what gives Iowa State the advantage to me.
I'll say a 60% chance Iowa State stays in front of the Hoosiers in this jockeying.
Now, this decision, whatever it is, will also have a considerable effect on where Iowa could be sent for a bowl game, as well. But we'll dig into that scenario once we know how the New Year's Six plays out in about 20 minutes' time.
12:03 p.m.: A brief hiatus as we hit the wait-for-New-Year's-Six-games lull. I'll have more here at around 12:45 about how I personally think Iowa State's situation will play out.
Noon: The second notable thought, and the more interesting one to me, is how many teams are still going to opt out of bowl games. USC, after falling in the who-really-cared Pac-12 championship game Friday night, opted out of a bowl. That likely means just two teams from that conference — league champ Oregon and Colorado — will represent the league in bowl games.
Nebraska and Michigan State of the Big Ten have also opted out of bowl games. So there will not be enough teams to go around this year, meaning several more bowl games could be canceled today in addition to the 11 that were already nixed entering Sunday (these are listed in alphabetical order):
- Bahamas Bowl
- Fenway Bowl
- Frisco Bowl
- Hawaii Bowl
- Holiday Bowl
- Las Vegas Bowl
- Los Angeles Bowl
- Redbox Bowl
- Pinstripe Bowl
- Quick Lane Bowl
- Sun Bowl
11:55 a.m.: Soon, we'll hear discussion about how the rest of the bowl games will take shape. Again, for those jumping on piecemeal, we're not going to hear official declarations until about 1:30 p.m., although Stadium's Brett McMurphy — who, frankly, is the most plugged-in reporter of all on this stuff — says that North Carolina is locked into the Orange Bowl, likely against Texas A&M.
The first notable thought, already, is that probably means that either Indiana or Iowa State is going to be left out of the New Year's Six fold. So, Hoosiers or Cyclones ... that debate could be quite interesting come a couple hours from now. I wonder if the injury to Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. could prove decisive from an attractiveness standpoint.
11:45 a.m.: Barta on the No. 4 spot: "Two teams with similar resumes and similar schedules." But he said Notre Dame had earned its way because of its entire resume, meaning a second ranked win this season (Notre Dame over North Carolina; Texas A&M's only ranked win was over Florida this year.)
11:42 a.m.: Gary Barta, again, Iowa athletic director and selection committee chair, said there was "not dissension in the room" about putting Ohio State in the No. 3 spot, despite the Buckeyes playing just six games this year.
In response to the unbalanced schedules: "I think it would be a challenge to use this year, this pandemic year, to estimate how one should schedule their football games in the future. I think people will realize that this was a unique set of circumstances."
11:38 a.m.: Opening lines for the two playoff games are already in. Alabama is a 17.5-point favorite over Notre Dame, according to William Hill, which is the sportsbook attached to Prairie Meadows Hotel and Casino in Des Moines, for what that's worth.
Clemson is a 6.5-point favorite over Ohio State.
As I expected, Alabama-Notre Dame will be played at 3 p.m. Central on New Year's Day. Clemson-Ohio State will be at 7 p.m. I'll take my victory lap way later (although, really, this setup was obvious).
11:28 a.m.: Notre Dame is not a surprise, either, at No. 4. Texas A&M is fifth. Oklahoma, which edged Iowa State 27-21 in the Big 12 championship game yesterday, moved to sixth.
Alabama and Notre Dame will play in the "Rose Bowl" game that's now been moved to Arlington, Texas, because of fan limitations in California. Clemson and Ohio State will play in the Sugar Bowl, still scheduled to be contested in New Orleans.
Times will be determined later, although I'd wager that Alabama-Notre Dame will be the earlier game, since perception will be that the Fighting Irish will get rolled by the Crimson Tide. ... But I've been wrong before.
11:26 a.m.: Alabama is No. 1 (surprise). Clemson is No. 2 (surprise). Ohio State, with just six games played this year and an underwhelming performance in the Big Ten championship game against Northwestern, still gets the No. 3 spot. So it's Clemson and Ohio State in one of the semifinals.
11:20 a.m.: We're in a commercial before the College Football Playoff reveal. The first dominoes will fall in a few minutes.
11:10 a.m.: Watching the ESPN broadcast, the narrative of predestination for Notre Dame is being sold hard with the Fighting Irish being the fourth team selected over Texas A&M. I'm sure, after watching Notre Dame get blasted 34-10 against the fully-staffed Clemson juggernaut — the Irish's double-overtime win against the Tigers earlier in the season came without quarterback Trevor Lawrence under center for Dabo Swinney's bunch — that eyes will roll and that playoff spots were already decided before yesterday's ACC Championship game would be played.
And that frankly may be the case. We'll find out in a few minutes from the selection committee, led this year by Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, who's had the unenviable task of heading a 13-person group who's had to navigate evaluating these teams during a pandemic-stricken season that involves teams in Power Five conferences playing different numbers of games.
Here's the rough sketch for when we'll know how the bowl picture takes shape.
11:15 a.m.: The four College Football Playoff teams are revealed. And then we wait a bit (or see if things begin to leak).
About 1:30 p.m.: The remainder of the New Year's Six bowl games will be revealed. Those games encompass essentially the top 12 teams in the nation. This is where Cyclones fans hope to see their names called.
2 p.m. and onward: Matchups will be revealed in all the other bowl games still scheduled at a fast and furious pace after the New Year's Six lineup is finalized.
Danny Lawhon works across the Register’s sports department, from editing, social media and sports wagering to bowls, brackets and data dives. Reach him at email@example.com or follow @DannyLawhon on Twitter.