Many a bowl-scenario has been blown up before college football's version of Selection Sunday.
Memorable examples involving Iowa: Everyone around here including myself thought the Hawkeyes were going to the Rose Bowl after the 2002 season. If I'm not mistaken, Kirk Ferentz was handed a rose during the postgame party on the Metrodome field following the Hawkeyes' romp there to finish 8-0 in the Big Ten. But the Orange Bowl had other ideas.
Three years ago, I went all-in believing the then-Insight Bowl would match Nebraska and Iowa. But Nebraska was about to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten, and the Insight didn't want a future Big Ten rivalry game to offend the Big 12, so it went with Missouri instead of the Huskers.
Mizzou left the Big 12 a year later.
It seemed Friday night like Iowa had a good chance of getting an Outback Bowl invitee next Sunday. It's still possible, but probably only if Michigan State beats Ohio State Saturday night in the Big Ten title game. Should it happen, it would add to the list of parallels between this year's Iowa team and the last Hawkeyes team to play there, the 2008 edition. Let us count the ways:
1. Both the '08 and '13 teams were coming off extremely disappointing seasons for Iowa the year before, the only two seasons in this century that didn't end with bowl-appearances.
2. Neither set the world afire in the first half of the season. Iowa of 2008 dropped consecutive games to Pittsburgh, Northwestern and Michigan State by a total of nine points to slip to 3-3. Iowa was 4-2 at the halfway mark this year, and 4-3 after going to Ohio State. But both teams looked more competitive in those opening six games than they had in the last six games of the previous season.
3. Both rallied from deficits for big November home wins that seemed to be the season's corner-turners. For the '08 team, it was coming back from a 23-14 hole to beat Penn State, 24-23. For this year's team, it was rallying from a 21-7 halftime deficit for a 24-21 win over Michigan.
4. Both played their best ball in November. Iowa '08 crushed Minnesota in its regular-season finale, 55-0. Iowa '13 gave Nebraska a 38-17 beating Saturday.
There could be one more common thread. Iowa '08 went to the Outback Bowl and hammered South Carolina, 31-10. The Hawkeyes led 21-0 at halftime, 31-0 after three quarters.
If the Hawkeyes do get invited to Tampa this year, they'll get a tougher foe than the Gamecocks were that year.
South Carolina took a 7-5 record to the Outback. It was fresh off of losses to Florida (56-6) and Clemson (31-14). The SEC has two more teams than it did in 2008, and both (Missouri and Texas A&M) are good at football. So the league could provide a Mizzou or an LSU or an A&M or a South Carolina this year. All would be superior to the Gamecocks of '08.
No bowl-projector I saw had Iowa slotted for the Outback all year until this weekend. If the Hawkeyes do go to that game, they'll be underdogs. They were 4-point favorites on their last trip.
“Now we’ve got a month," Iowa linebacker James Morris said after the Nebraska game. "Given how much we’ve improved from week to week, I’m hoping we’re able to improve that much more over that extended period.”
It's been known to happen.