Iowa stumbled through its seventh win of the year against its hated rival, Purdue.
That makes win No. 7, and while win No. 6 secured bowl eligibility, this victory iced it, and let's face it, seven wins is a lot more respectable than six.
Of course, eight wins would be bordering on the record of a quality team, but it's not yet time to go there.
In effect, there is one regular season left this year for both the Hawkeyes and all of their Big Ten brethren.
Therefore, the bowl picture is beginning to take shape, and we can prognosticate, within a reasonable degree of certainty, where the Hawks will end up bowling, as well as which opponent they will face.
As bowl bids start at the top, it is necessary to begin with the BCS.
The key question here is whether or not the Big Ten will receive two BCS bowl bids.
For Iowa's purposes, it doesn't matter who wins the Big Ten Championship Game.
More importantly, Iowa fans want Michigan to beat Ohio State, thereby finishing 10-2, This, in turn, will put them in the BCS top 14; therefore, they will be an available BCS at-large choice.
The only other teams that are likely to be in the BCS pool that will be able to trump Michigan will be SEC teams. As we know, the SEC, or any conference, can only receive two BCS bids (outside of one weird, unlikely scenario that I'm not going to go into right now).
That will leave Michigan as the first or second at-large choice for BCS bowls.
As the SEC will put a team in the National Championship, the Sugar Bowl will get the first pick. It will choose an SEC team.
The Fiesta Bowl will get the second pick. It will get the automatic Big 12 tie-in, and it will choose Michigan as that team's opponent.
In closing, Iowa fans are rooting for Michigan next week, as this will move Iowa up in the Big Ten bowl pool.
With that in mind, the following is how I expect the Big Ten to shake out, which will ultimately determine where Iowa will end up.
I didn't include Minnesota or Indiana, as neither is bowl-eligible, and thus, are irrelevant for my purposes. Also, I didn't include Iowa or Nebraska, as I will get to them shortly.
Michigan State: 10-2 and represents West in Conference Championship.
Wisconsin: 10-2 and represents East in Conference Championship.
Penn State: 9-3
Ohio State: 6-6
Does Penn State go bowling?
Does the NCAA or Big Ten ban them?
Is there precedent for either organization to ban them? Can either organization establish a precedent to ban them?
If they are not officially banned, do the bowls turn their backs on them? After all, the bowls are money-driven, and the advertisers are probably not too keen on having anything to do with Penn State right about now.
I have no idea how it will shake out, but it obviously will have a good deal to do with the Big Ten bowl order.
Either way, I don't think Penn State will be as attractive a bowl team as they normally are.
Therefore, due to the Nits' downgrading, a 7-5 Iowa could jump a 9-3 Penn State, while an 8-4 Iowa will jump a 9-3 Penn State 19 times out of 20.
As I said, for Iowa's purposes, it doesn't matter who wins the Big Ten Championship Game.
In effect, my scenario has the conference championship game as a rematch of Wisconsin and Michigan State, and I think Wisconsin will win that rematch. However, it doesn't matter if they don't.
The winner of the game will go to the Rose Bowl. If the Badgers lose, they will go to the Cap One. If the Spartans lose, they will go to the Cap One or the Outback.
The Wolverines, as previously mentioned, will get the Fiesta Bowl, provided they beat Ohio State.
This is a game I have felt badly about since the conference schedules were announced.
On the other hand, coming into the season, I felt Nebraska would have the best defense in the conference, and after 11 games, the Huskers have a worse scoring defense than Iowa—and Hawk fans know that this has been Iowa's worst defense since Kirk Ferentz's first season.
In short, I'm not sure what to expect.
Due to this, I will explore two scenarios.
If the Hawkeyes win and finish 8-4, they will represent the Big Ten in the Outback Bowl. Once again, this is provided that Michigan beats OSU and gets a BCS at-large bid.
If the Hawks lose, they will finish 7-5, while Nebraska finishes 9-3. In effect, the Huskers would get either the Capital One Bowl or the Outback Bowl.
Meanwhile, Iowa would likely get the Insight Bowl or the Gator Bowl, depending upon the Penn State situation.
Question, Hawkeye fans: Would the lows of this season—Iowa State, Minnesota—have been worth it if the Hawks end the year with a respectable 8-4 record and a win over the Cornhuskers?
If Iowa beats Nebraska and Michigan beats Ohio State, Iowa will get the a bid to the Outback Bowl.
If Iowa beats Nebraska and Michigan loses to Ohio State, Iowa will get a bid to the Insight Bowl or the Gator Bowl.
If Iowa loses to Nebraska and Michigan beats Ohio State, Iowa will get a bid to the Insight Bowl or the Gator Bowl.
If Iowa loses to Nebraska and Michigan loses to Ohio State, Iowa will get a bid to the Gator Bowl, the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas or the TicketCity Bowl.
Opposition: SEC No. 4
Where: Tampa, FL
When: Jan. 2, 2012. 1 p.m. (EST)
Who: Georgia, South Carolina or Auburn
The SEC will put two teams in the BCS. Also, the top two non-BCS SEC teams will go to the Cotton Bowl and the Capital One Bowl.
This will leave Georgia, South Carolina or Auburn as the likeliest teams to go to the Outback.
I don't know that any of these matchups are any better or worse for Iowa than any other.
I would like for Iowa to have a crack at Auburn because I can't stand Gene Chizik. On the other hand, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is just about the best in the game, and I don't like the Hawks' chances against him.
Either way, the Hawkeyes have to beat Nebraska to get to the Outback.
Opposition Team: Big 12 No. 4
Where: Tempe, AZ
When: Dec. 30, 2011, 10 p.m. (EST)
Who: Baylor, Texas or Texas A&M
The way this shakes out will depend in large part on how many teams the Big 12 puts in BCS bowl games. Right now, though neither Oklahoma nor Oklahoma State will go the National Championship Game, both have a decent shot at getting to BCS bowls.
In effect, as Kansas State is the probable Big 12 No. 3, Baylor, Texas and Texas A&M are the most likely options for the Insight Bowl.
I do not like Iowa matching up against Baylor. The Bears' quarterback, Robert Griffin III, could destroy Iowa. It is also true that the Hawks could score at will against Baylor's lackluster defense, but "scoring at will" and Kirk Ferentz make for strange bedfellows.
I'd love for Iowa to get a shot at Texas just because it's Texas. Meanwhile, a Texas A&M matchup would be a good game. It would be straight-up football, with the tougher team winning.
Opposition: SEC No. 6
Where: Jacksonville, FL
When: Jan. 2, 2012, 1 p.m. (EST)
Who: Auburn, Florida, Tennessee or Vanderbilt
I've already mentioned my enmity for Auburn head coach Gene Chizik.
Other than that, I think Iowa would match up fairly well against any of these other teams.
Also, I'd prefer Iowa go to the Gator Bowl than to the Insight for recruiting purposes. The Hawks don't actively recruit in Arizona. They do recruit heavily in Florida.
Opposition Team: Big 12 No. 6
Where: Houston, TX
When: Dec. 31, 2011, Noon (EST)
Who: Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Missouri or Iowa State.
Obviously, the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas would like to avoid a rematch of last year's Insight Bowl or Iowa-Iowa State, but the situation may dictate the matchup.
Iowa State will likely be the last Big 12 team picked. Therefore, unless Texas Tech beats Baylor or the Big 12 doesn't put two teams in the BCS, that puts Iowa State in Houston.
Meanwhile, Missouri will probably go second or third-to-last in the Big 12. Again, depending upon the situation, that puts them either in Houston, Tempe or San Diego for the Holiday Bowl.
It is highly unlikely that any bowl will pass up the Hawks for all of the Big Ten teams under them except Ohio State, and even that seems improbable this season.
In short, if it comes to this, do Hawk fans want a rematch with Iowa State? Missouri?
Opposition Team: Conference USA
Where: Dallas, TX
When: Jan. 2, 2012, Noon (EST)
Who: Tulsa, SMU, East Carolina or Marshall.
On the surface, this is an unlikely scenario, but if Iowa loses to Nebraska and Michigan loses to OSU, not only does the Big Ten bowl order get pushed back one spot, but it leaves both Iowa and Ohio State with 7-5 records.
The Buckeyes are obviously down, but they are generally a more attractive bowl team than Iowa. After all, how often will the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas have a chance to host Ohio State as compared to Iowa?
In effect, this could push the Hawks down to the TicketCity Bowl.
As for need-to-know information, Iowa would handily beat ECU or Marshall, though Tulsa and SMU could make for good games.