Iowa Improves in BCS Rankings; Fiesta Bowl Takes Notice

B.Senior Analyst INovember 23, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 14:  Split end Derrell Johnson-Koulianos #15 of the Iowa Hawkeyes celebrates after making a catch against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Saturday's shutout win over the Minnesota Gophers helped move the Iowa Hawkeyes up two spots to No. 11 in the latest BCS rankings. 

Iowa might have struggled on offense against the Gophers, but the defense stepped things up a notch and secured the win.

Close games and style points might be hurting the Hawkeyes in the AP, Coaches and Harris polls, but take it from a professional computer nerd: computers don't care much for style points. 

Iowa moved ahead of Oklahoma State and remained ahead of Penn State in the latest BCS standings. Iowa and Penn State are tied for second place in the Big Ten, but the Hawkeyes beat the Nittany Lions convincingly in Happy Valley back in September. 

Iowa has also played a tougher schedule, with wins over Arizona and Wisconsin, and an overtime loss to another top-ten BCS team in Ohio State.

The bowl committees can invite any team in the top 14.  While there are still two weeks of football left, a tenth win made Iowa a very intriguing team for a selection committee looking to narrow down at-large bids.

Also adding to their overall appeal are Iowa's better-than-average television ratings.  According to ESPN's Mike Humes , this year's Iowa-Indiana game was the second most viewed 11 a.m. game ever to air on ESPN, with 3.2 million households watching.

A well-traveled, eager-to-spend fan base doesn't hurt the Hawkeyes chances, either.

Remember, BCS bowl games are big business. That is a huge reason the Fiesta Bowl has expressed interest in Iowa. 

The Fiesta Bowl is held in the Phoenix area, a part of the country with a large transplant of Iowa natives. The idea of filling the University of Phoenix Stadium with zealous Hawkeye fans that hemorrhage cash is a no-brainer.

In the past, the Fiesta Bowl has gone with a Big 12 team, but this year looks a bit different than past years because Texas is on course for a national championship game. With the Big 12 having its champion play for the national title, the Fiesta Bowl is free to make a selection from the at-large pool.  

If you are one of the Fiesta Bowl representatives, do you select an Oklahoma State team that has not filled the 60,000 seats in their own stadium this year, or do you take an Iowa team that can easily bring 50,000 fans to an area already saturated with their fan base?

Of course, as Iowa athletics director Gary Barta reminded after Saturday's game, the Hawkeyes could also go to a non-BCS bowl like the Capital One Bowl in Orlando or Outback Bowl in Tampa.

"I think I counted 37 different scenarios," Barta told reporters.  "I made the number up, but the concept is true."

John Miller at Hawkeye Nation thinks Fiesta. So does Mike Hlas at the Cedar Rapids Gazette. So do several other sports writers throughout the country. 

Invitations to the Fiesta Bowl will be delivered December 6, when BCS selections are announced. Until then, all Hawkeye fans and writers can do is lobby and speculate.