Iowa football bowl outlook: Predicting Hawkeyes' destination after Big Ten title game
Iowa football team will play in the 14th and final game of its 2023 season. The Cheez-It Citrus Bowl is most likely.
The star punter for the Hawkeyes, a finalist for the Ray Guy Award, was surrounded by media members before the Big Ten Championship Game. Roughly 15 hours after the game against Michigan, the Iowa football team will find out who and where they will play in the final game of their 2023 season. The Cheez-It Citrus Bowl is the most likely destination, with Ole Miss as the probable opponent. If Iowa loses, they are widely projected to play in Orlando on January 1st. The outcome of the Big 12 Conference title game will determine if Penn State or Iowa will go to the Citrus Bowl. If Iowa beats Michigan, they will be the outright Big Ten champions, earning them a New Year's Six bid. Regardless of location, this will be the Hawkeyes' 11th straight bowl bid. The possibility of opt-outs and a potential return by star tight end Luke Lachey are also worth watching for.
If Texas beats Oklahoma State, then Penn State is likely to remain in the New Year's Six bowl lineup, meaning the Citrus Bowl would have its first choice of a Big Ten team. If Oklahoma State wins, then both Big 12 schools would be earmarked for the New Year's Six, and Penn State would likely wind up in Orlando. In that case, the Hawkeyes would either go to the Jan. 1 Reliaquest Bowl in Tampa or the Dec. 23 Vegas Bowl in Las Vegas. If a Big Ten team lands in the Orange Bowl, then Iowa to Tampa is a very low possibility on many levels.
The New Year's Six lineup will be revealed by early afternoon Sunday. If Iowa lost to Michigan and Penn State is in the New Year's Six, the Hawkeyes are headed back to Orlando. Regardless of location, this is the Hawkeyes' 11th straight bowl bid. The 2020 Music City Bowl didn't happen due to COVID-19, but the Hawkeyes have been invited to a bowl game in 11 straight seasons and 15 of the last 16 years. Kirk Ferentz's teams have also won four of their last five bowl games. If they face Ole Miss, they'll almost certainly be a big underdog. The possibility also exists for just the fourth 11-win season of the Ferentz era.
Opt-outs have been rare under Ferentz, but it is increasingly common across college football. Players are skipping bowl games to prepare for the NFL, but at Iowa, players have always been encouraged to seize every opportunity to play a college football game. The only expected first-round pick on the Iowa roster is defensive back Cooper DeJean, and he's out anyway with a broken leg. There is cautious optimism within the Iowa program that star tight end Luke Lachey will play in the bowl game. He has been eyeing a bowl-game return, and the bowl game would mark close to 3½ months since his surgery. With the way sophomore Addison Ostrenga has emerged as a late-season option at tight end, adding Lachey would essentially be an "opt-in" of sorts.