By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Kirk Ferentz likes to say there is no such thing as a bad bowl game.
And we can assume he means the one in Detroit, too.
Now don’t worry, Iowa isn’t at risk of being sent to the Motor City, not with a 7-5 record and a fan base that has a reputation for traveling to just about anywhere to watch a bowl game.
My hope is that Iowa will make its first appearance in the Music City Bowl in Nashville because that’s what the fans overwhelmingly want to happen. But those hopes took a hit on Sunday with Alabama being picked for the playoff over Ohio State.
Also in play are the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York City and the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, although, the Holiday Bowl would seem to be a long shot at best.
The Pinstripe Bowl has now emerged as the favorite to land Iowa based on what I’m hearing and reading from the so-called bowl experts who dive deep into this kind of speculation.
The fact that Ohio State didn't make the playoff pushes all the Big Ten teams down a spot and that could send Iowa to New York City instead of to Nashville.
The Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif., used to be part of the discussion, but those talks have since faded.
Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta spoke with reporters after the men’s basketball game on Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and it was typical bowl talk as Barta said a lot without really saying a lot.
Barta likely knows more than he is willing to share with the media, but he said Saturday that he didn’t know which bowl would take Iowa.
“I tell every bowl what the value of us coming to their bowl is,” Barta said. “I give them all the data. I just tell them we want to be there and one of them selects us.
“The Big Ten wants to know what our preferences are. We make sure we share with them what they are. Maybe even in what order. But at the end of the day, and I mean this sincerely, I could give a good reason why it would be exciting to go to the Holiday Bowl. I could give a good reason why it would be exciting to go to Nashville. I could give a good reason why it would be exciting to go to New York. They’re all different.”
The Music City Bowl, which is played on Dec. 29, is the peoples’ choice partly because it’s not in New York City or California.
New York might be the city that never sleeps, but it does get cold in the winter and sitting in Yankee Stadium in late December is kind of like visiting a Colorado ski resort in late July.
Iowa will learn its bowl destination by mid-afternoon on Sunday.
Ferentz and select Iowa players will then meet with the media to discuss the matchup and why Iowa can’t seem to win a bowl game anymore, or even be competitive in a bowl game.
In addition to losing five bowl games in a row, Iowa also has been outscored 108-10 in the first half of the five games.
So despite what Ferentz says, there is such a thing as a bad bowl game because his team has played in five in a row.
The Music City Bowl is appealing, for one, because it’s in Nashville where there is lots to do, and two, because it’s a drivable distance for fans in the Midwest.
It also is cheaper from a tourist standpoint than California and New York.
Nearly three decades have passed since Iowa last played in the Holiday Bowl in 1991, and San Diego is a warm and glamorous vacation spot.
But it also is expensive and some Iowa fans probably still are feeling the effects from attending the Rose Bowl just two years ago.
The additional 15 practices will be beneficial, the chance to win eight games is another plus to playing in a bowl game and fans will have one more chance to watch the seniors, most notably star linebacker Josey Jewell and running back Akrum Wadley.
The bowl game also could be Josh Jackson’s final appearance as a Hawkeye. The star cornerback is a fourth-year junior and a hot commodity after a regular season in which he led the nation with seven interceptions and 25 passes defended.
I’m guessing Jackson will skip his senior season and enter the NFL Draft because he is close to graduating and because it would be hard to match what he has accomplished this season, especially if teams were to avoid throwing his way next season, which almost certainly would happen.
The only risk to playing in a bowl game, of course, is losing, or in Iowa’s case, being humiliated for the sixth time in a row. It just wouldn't cost fans as much to witness the humilation if it occurred in Nashville.
Iowa’s possible bowl destinations
Music City Bowl, Dec. 29, Nashville, SEC opponent
Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 27, New York City, ACC opponent
Holiday Bowl, Dec. 28, San Diego, Pac-12 opponent