Will Iowa Go To Second Consecutive Rose Bowl?

Jan 1, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; General view of the Rose Bowl before the game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Stanford Cardinal in the 2016 Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; General view of the Rose Bowl before the game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Stanford Cardinal in the 2016 Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Iowa has a chance to go to their second straight Rose Bowl, but will they?

Every Hawkeye fan wants to forget the 2015 Rose Bowl. Stanford literally dominated from the get-go. They scored on the first play from scrimmage – a 75-yard touchdown reception by Christian McCaffrey. Stanford took a 35-0 lead into halftime and left with a 45-16 victory, and the many people who doubted Iowa football season continued to shake their heads.

It was the first time since 1990 that Iowa was in the Rose Bowl. Although, they still haven’t won the game since 1958, when they defeated the California Golden Bears 38-12. Overall, Iowa is 2-4 in the Rose Bowl and has never gone to back-to-back Rose Bowls. With that being said, the team who has lost in their last four Rose Bowl appearances, and bowl games overall, has a chance to make the Rose Bowl for a second consecutive season.

Every year the Rose Bowl has the Big Ten and Pac-12 winners. Although, with Michigan State making the College Football Playoff last season, Iowa, the Big Ten’s runner-up, was rewarded with a spot in the Rose Bowl.

With Iowa likely being ranked in the AP Top-25 to start the year this season – ESPN has them at #23 – the Hawkeyes have a better shot of actually making the CFP if they were to run the table, again. With Iowa sneaking into the top four two weeks straight last season, there’s no doubt that with their stronger schedule this season a perfect record would carry more weight.

However, another 12-0 season with a Big Ten Championship win is more than wishful thinking. It’s hard for teams to go undefeated during one season, let alone two. Expectations are hard to live up to and pressure can get to teams. Ohio State showed that last season as they went 11-1 and didn’t make the conference championship game. Iowa won’t catch any team by surprise and they’ll have a target on their back coming off their historic season.

Besides, with Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Penn State on their schedule, at least one trip-up wouldn’t be unbelievable. Also, while they did manage to not draw Ohio State and Michigan State for the second straight season, Michigan is coming into the season as heavy favorites to win the Big Ten, and possibly the national championship.

They will likely start the season in the top-four, as ESPN ranks them at #3. With that being said, a good season by Michigan is how Iowa will end up back in the Rose Bowl. Of course, Iowa wants more than just another Rose Bowl trip. Making the College Football Playoff would make all the doubters go away and cement them as a premier football school in the Big Ten, right now.

However, as previously noted, that seems like a long shot as one loss would likely ruin their chances. Still, going 11-1 in the regular season, and even a Big Ten championship loss, could be enough for Iowa to make the Rose Bowl.

Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s safe to say that if Iowa doesn’t run the table then no one in the Big Ten East will. Purdue, Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois are each coming off losing seasons. Also, Northwestern travels to Ohio State and Michigan State, while Wisconsin takes on the three-headed monster out West.

Iowa is bringing back their starting quarterback, leading receiver, a running back who had 145 carries last season, and one of the best defensive backs in the nation. While they did lose their two starting defensive ends, Josey Jewell, the team’s leading tackler, returns. When it comes down to it, Iowa lost a couple of key players, but every team does. However, overall, they returned a good amount of their starters and should be even better than last year. That leaves Iowa as heavy favorites to represent the East Division.

A matchup against one of the Big Ten West’s three-headed monster – Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State – is expected, although, Iowa has to hope that those three don’t beat each other up too much during the regular season.

All three play each other throughout the season, therefore, having each of them lose, and possibly lose once more during the season, could force the Big Ten out of the College Football Playoff overall. With five power conferences and only four Playoff spots, at least one major conference gets left out each year. That could mean trouble for Iowa if the Big Ten West beats each other up, especially with Penn State able to pull an upset.

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It’s the same idea as when the Big Ten is a dominating conference in basketball. While having multiple top-25 teams looks good for a conference during the regular season, most teams enter the NCAA Tournament with six or seven losses, forcing all the teams to get seeded lower. The same thing could happen to the Big Ten in football this season, as putting a two-loss team over multiple one-loss or undefeated teams would be hard to do.

That would leave Iowa’s only option as pulling off an upset in the Big Ten Championship game. However, as seen last season, that’s no easy task.

When it comes down to it, Iowa’s best chance of making it to the Rose Bowl will be if another Big Ten team makes the College Football Playoff. That means a win over Michigan could be detrimental if Michigan loses again but still makes the championship game. Of course, rooting against Iowa in any game for a hypothetical situation would be crazy.

Iowa needs to take care of their own business before they get caught up in the possibility of making the College Football Playoff or Rose Bowl. Although, with the dominating team Michigan seems to be, Iowa seems to be in good shape to make back-to-back Rose Bowls for the first time in school history if they win the games they’re suppose to.