IOWA CITY, Ia. --The Big Ten Conference welcomes a new, slightly confusing, yet vastly improved bowl-selection process this weekend. And for a 7-5 team such as Iowa, that means a little lobbying and a lot of waiting.
"I remember the old days," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said Saturday, "where we might know a bowl by the first of December."
Now, Iowa won't get a hint of its destination until Sunday (Dec. 7) afternoon.
The first College Football Playoff has created a delayed trickle-down effect on everyone else's bowl fate.
It'll start to crystallize around the time some of you get home from church Sunday.
First, the 13-member Selection Committee doles out four berths for two national semifinals — this year, the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl gets those Jan. 1 games. Those matchups are revealed during Sunday's 11:45 a.m. CT broadcast on ESPN. (FYI: The national-title game is Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas.)
So much can happen Saturday to affect the committee's direction. Does the SEC get shut out completely if Alabama is shocked by Missouri? Can Florida State survive one more time to stay undefeated? Does TCU or Baylor win its way into the Final Four? Does Ohio State beat Wisconsin with a third-string quarterback to get a closer look?
Once that drama is settled, the committee hashes out four more bowl games affiliated with the playoff in future years — the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange and Peach — and reveals those choices at 2 p.m., also on ESPN. That completes the committee's "New Year's Six" lineup. (As many as three Big Ten teams — Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State — or as few as one could land in the New Year's Six mix.)
At that point, other bowls are dealt into the game. And by about 4:30 p.m., all the cards should be on the table.
BARTA ON BOWLS: AD addresses disappointing finish
For the Big Ten and its bowl partners (some new), the goal is to diversify their lineups over the course of a six-year cycle. The goal is to avoid "fatigue" — for either a bowl or a fan base — when one program frequently returns to the same location.
For example, Iowa has been to the Outback Bowl four times since 2003, including last year's 21-14 loss to LSU.
What's familiar in the bowl process: The affiliated bowl submits its team request to the Big Ten. Throughout the process, schools can lobby for their own cause.
What's new: The Big Ten can reject the bowl's wishes by assigning a new team to the bowl based on its new guidelines.
Also new: Each Big Ten bowl has agreed to select at least five different teams over the next six years. It's a signal that fan-base travel will carry less weight over the course of the cycle.
After the New Year's Six, the Big Ten has bowl tie-ins with the Outback in Tampa, Fla.; Citrus in Orlando, Fla. (if no Big Ten team is in the Orange); Holiday in San Diego, Calif.; either Music City in Nashville, Tenn., or Taxslayer (formerly Gator) in Jacksonville, Fla.; Pinstripe in Bronx, N.Y.; Foster Farms in Santa Clara, Calif.; the Heart of Dallas; and Quick Lane in Detroit.
Barta said he has been in touch with the Big Ten and would have conversations with bowl representatives this week. It's notable that Iowa hasn't played in a California bowl since the 1991 Holiday — with 15 appearances since, including seven in Florida, six in Texas and two in Arizona.
"I know our fans love to go to Florida. I'm certainly pushing for that," Barta said. "I know our fans would be able to drive to Nashville.
"I know our fans have in the past loved going to the Holiday Bowl. So that's on our list. San Francisco would be new. So we just talk back and forth about what would be the best game matchup, and what would be the best location for our fans to travel."
Sunday night, Barta and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz will meet the news media in Iowa City. What bowl will they be discussing? Here are the five most plausible possibilities, listed in order of kickoff time (and if it's not one of these five? Hello, Dallas or Detroit!):
Specifics: 3:30 p.m. CT, Dec. 27 (ESPN), Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.
Possible opponents: Duke, Boston College, N.C. State (ACC)
Why it makes sense for Iowa:There's an allure to playing in The House that Ruth Built. Rutgers is out of the equation, since it played in last year's Pinstripe.
Why it doesn't: Most bowl projections put 6-6 Penn State — with its East Coast fan base — in the Bronx for its postseason return.
Specifics: 7 p.m. CT, Dec. 27 (ESPN), Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Possible opponents:UCLA, USC, Arizona State (Pac-12)
Why it makes sense for Iowa: Rose Bowl-starved Hawkeye fans would love an excuse to return to Southern California.
Why it doesn't: This is a possibility only if three Big Ten teams are in the New Year's Six. Minnesota or Nebraska is more likely.
RICK BROWN: Rocky season fueled by inconsistency
Specifics: 2 p.m. CT, Dec. 30 (ESPN), LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.
Possible opponents: Auburn, Georgia, Texas A&M (SEC)
Why it makes sense for Iowa: It's less than a nine-hour drive from Iowa City. And the opponent would offer a chance at redemption. Also: country music.
Why it doesn't:Although it's a good fit for Iowa, there's a case for offering Big Ten newbies who are also 7-5 (Rutgers/Maryland).
Specifics: 9 p.m. CT, Dec. 30 (ESPN), Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
Possible opponents: USC, Stanford, Utah (Pac-12)
Why it makes sense for Iowa: Many permutations have this as the most likely landing spot. Iowa has never played a Bay Area bowl.
Why it doesn't: The travel sell is tougher right after Christmas — expensive flight, expensive city, high temps in the 50s.
Specifics: 2:20 p.m. CT, Jan. 2 (ESPN), EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
Possible opponents: Georgia, Ole Miss, South Carolina (SEC)
Why it makes sense for Iowa:A Florida bowl game would be a warm prize after a cool finish to the regular season.
Why it doesn't:If the Music City gets a Big Ten team, the Taxslayer doesn't — and vice versa.