COLUMN: Iowa's fans are too good

Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     Iowa Hawkeye football fans have looked at a number of factors while examining why their team suffered a 30-3 loss at the hands of Florida in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2.

     Some blame the head coach. Some blame the offensive coordinator. Some think a quarterback switch should have happened (as the game’s TV color commentator suggested, oh, about 56 times).

     This is probably not an original idea, but I would offer a different target for the blame. I believe Iowa fans should look themselves in the mirror.

     You. It’s your fault.

     The problem is, you are too good. You love your team so much, love traveling to see it play, love the warm weather opportunities in January, love spending money in the cities that host bowl games. And you are great at it.

     So when bowl officials have a choice – remembering that their primary purpose in life is to rake in as much $$$ as is legally possible – they pick Iowa.

     I realize this was not a factor last year, when Iowa had an undefeated regular season and narrowly lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. When Michigan State was pegged for the national semifinals, Iowa was second in line, and earned a Rose Bowl trip.

     But there have been other years when it wasn’t so clear. When bowl officials do have a choice, they nearly break their necks getting to the phone to issue an invitation to Iowa. They love contemplating three or four days of thousands of Iowans leaving their money in the host city.

     Often, they select Iowa over better teams, or at least teams with better records that don’t travel as well. This season was an example: The Hawkeyes’ record wasn’t as good as Nebraska’s, but the Outback Bowl picked Iowa anyway.

     So maybe we should have seen it coming, what happened this year and two years ago in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Tennessee. Because Iowa is picked for a bowl that it maybe doesn’t deserve, it can come up against an opponent that is too good.

     And the results were a 45-28 loss to Tennessee in 2015, and this year’s meltdown against Florida.

     Sometimes Iowa overcomes this phenomenon, such as in the Outback Bowl of 2009, a 31-10 win over South Carolina. Or the Orange Bowl of 2010, a 24-14 triumph over Georgia Tech.

     But lately it seems the idea of going to a “better bowl” has backfired.

     Not that there’s a solution. Hawkeye fans are certainly going to keep traveling and spending to see their team. And bowl officials are just as certainly going to want them to. College football remains the only sport in which the fans can indirectly determine what some of the postseason matchups will be.

     But hopefully the team improves to the point it gets to exactly the bowl game it deserves.



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