The Iowa Hawkeyes walked off the Memorial Stadium turf Friday afternoon knowing they bettered their bowl resume.
"This puts us in a great bowl, probably the Outback, a Jan. 1 bowl," wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley said during Friday's postgame. "We just finished the year off strong and when you finish something strong, you really feel good about it."
When considering Iowa (8-4) bowl scenarios, you have to think how many Big Ten teams could earn BCS bowl bids.
Ohio State and Michigan State face off in the Big Ten title game Saturday night in Indianapolis. BCS bowl bids go out Sunday evening. OSU is in line for a spot in the BCS title game. Michigan State could end up in the Rose Bowl, win or lose. The Spartans haven't played in the Rose since 1988.
So, let's assume two Big Ten teams in BCS bowls. Even if Ohio State loses, it'd be a 12-1 team with big-market TV and a traveling fan base behind it. This also will be Urban Meyer's first bowl game as OSU's coach. You don't think that will be attractive to Orange Bowl execs?
That leaves the Big Ten with Wisconsin (9-3), Iowa (8-4), Nebraska (8-4), Minnesota (8-4) and Michigan (7-5).
By the way, a bowl bid is worth a $100,000 bonus in coach Kirk Ferentz's contract. Iowa received votes in this week's coaches poll and Associated Press poll. A top 25 finish is worth $125,000 and top 20 worth $150,000. The six wins and bowl bid netted, Iowa's top nine assistants plus strength and conditioning coach and top strength staff assistant and director of football operations an eight-percent raise. A top-25 finish would bump that to 10 percent.
With an 8-4 record, Iowa is tied for third among all BCS schools in win total improvement from 2012 to 2013, trailing only Auburn (+8), Boston College (+6) and Missouri (+6). The Hawkeyes are tied with Michigan State and Duke. Iowa is bowl eligible for the 12th time in 13 seasons and has won at least eight games in four of the last six years.
This is such a different conversation from the 4-8 finish in 2012.
"As I understand it, there are only a couple of teams in the country that had that kind of turnaround," Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said. "As Coach (Ferentz) likes to talk about, there is no magic formula. He certainly has a process and a system, a process to go through since last November and, fortunately, his players bought into it.
"The seniors really did carry us through. I’m so proud of all of them. Now we have a chance to go back to a bowl, probably a warm bowl.”
One thing to keep in mind is TV and matchups. That math is a fuzzier fight for Iowa. Bowls will be officially announced on Sunday.
Capital One -- There is a Big Ten rule that teams with two losses more than another team can't jump into the Capital One. So, long story short, Michigan can't jump Wisconsin for this bowl.
This leaves Wisconsin and Iowa. Before the Badgers went on a Rose Bowl binge, claiming the last three Pasadena bids, they played six bowl games in Florida for six consecutive years, including four of those six years in Orlando, site of the Capital One and former home of the Champs Sports Bowl.
Of course, you know that Iowa hasn't played in the Capital One since Warren Holloway's senior year in 2005. Minnesota doesn't have the travel rep to compete here.
Iowa plausibility factor: 35 percent
Outback -- This feels like the logical landing for Iowa, if the Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureau doesn't make a bid for your Iowa dollar.
The two-loss rule goes out the window here, though, and so Michigan would very much be in the mix for the Tampa, Fla.,-based bowl.
It's been a disappointing year in Ann Arbor, so the RV cavalcade from Detroit might be chancy. UM does bring the TVs, however.
Iowa plausibility factor: 40 percent
Gator -- Michigan or Nebraska for the Jacksonville, Fla.,-based bowl?
What about Minnesota? What about Minnesota.
Iowa plausibility factor: 15 percent
Buffalo Wild Wings -- The Phoenix, Ariz., bowl has had Iowa twice. The B-Dubs won't have a Big Ten tie-in after this season and so it will go for a classic matchup. Michigan or Nebraska would deliver that matched with Texas.
You'd watch. You know you would.
Iowa plausibility factor: 2 percent
Texas -- Will the fact that the Gophers haven't played in a Jan. 1 bowl since 1961 move any of the New Year's Day bowls to make an invite?
Iowa plausibility factor: 8 percent
Here's the Big Ten 2014 bowl lineup. It changes significantly.