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That BCS gleam

BY SCOTT MILLER | NOVEMBER 20, 2009 7:21 AM

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Nearly three weeks ago, all was right in eastern Iowa.

The beloved Hawkeyes were 9-0 for the first time in school history. They were dubbed a team of destiny — or some fluffy, make-mama-beam-with-pride thing like that. They were featured in national publications such as Sports Illustrated, which pictured wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos leaping over fullback Wade Leppert on one of its regional covers.

At that point, I predicted a Rose Bowl berth — or at the very least, another BCS Bowl — to be in Iowa’s future. The Hawkeyes had Northwestern, Ohio State, and Minnesota remaining on their schedule, leaving me to believe they would finish at 11-1.

That was then.

This is now: Iowa sits at 9-2, after dropping two-consecutive games, and the Hawkeyes no longer have their quarterback, Ricky Stanzi, under center, after he suffered a high ankle sprain against the Wildcats.

Iowa’s postseason destinations range anywhere from three places in Florida (Miami, Orlando, and Tampa), one place in Arizona (Glendale), or one place in Louisiana (New Orleans), after the Buckeyes sealed a spot in the Rose Bowl. A BCS bowl that was once a near-certainty is now anything but.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has always said he won’t campaign for his team, so allow me to do it for you, Coach.

I’ll bill you later.

Here are the facts: Iowa is ranked No. 13 in the BCS, which is good news for Hawkeye fans, because a team has to be ranked in the top 14 to be considered for a BCS at-large bid. Penn State, a team Iowa beat, 21-10, on the road earlier this season, is one spot behind the Hawkeyes at No. 14. And USC, which has owned the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl recently, is out of contention for a BCS game after its most recent slip-up against Stanford.

All of these things work in the Hawkeyes’ favor. So, too, does the fact that they beat quality opponents all year — Penn State, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Michigan State, to name a few — while also playing Ohio State to a three-point overtime loss.

By the way, three of these five teams are ranked in the top 16 of the BCS.

“Yes, we are,” Sports Illustrated cover boy Johnson-Koulianos said when asked if Iowa was a BCS team. “We’ll play anybody in the nation right now. We’re not afraid of anybody, and we can beat anybody. I think we’ve proved this year [that if] you give us an opportunity to play the best opponent, we’ll make it a hell of a ball game.”

But the pollsters will continue bring up Iowa’s two close calls against Northern Iowa and Arkansas State earlier in the year, as if to nullify the Hawkeyes’ nearly impossible Big Ten road slate.

I understand this sentiment. A Penn State team that squashed Eastern Illinois, 52-3, is far sexier than an Iowa team that only beat Northern Iowa and Arkansas State by four combined points. Simply, it comes down to what’s more important to the bowl committees — playing a Rose-Bowl bound Ohio State team within three points on the road or nearly losing to two subpar opponents.

Penn State is not a better team than Iowa. That much was settled in State College, Pa., on Sept. 26. Neither is Oklahoma State — another team that could squeeze into a BCS bowl over the Hawkeyes if it beats Oklahoma on Nov. 28.

Here’s another fact for you: The Cowboys play in a conference that boasts two teams in the BCS’ top 25.

Sorry, but that’s not good enough.

So put the Hawkeyes in Glendale, Ariz., home to the Fiesta Bowl — and a large contingent of Iowa fans. The Hawks have beaten enough quality opponents to earn that much.

You can thank me later, Coach.


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