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Hawkeyes prepare for bowl season

BY SETH ROBERTS | NOVEMBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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LINCOLN, Neb. — If there was ever a time that the Iowa football team needed to follow its 24-Hour Rule — the one that says all memories of a game, win or loss, must be erased after a day — it would be now.

The Hawkeyes lost to Nebraska, 20-7, this past weekend in the first-ever installment of the Heroes Game. The loss was ugly; the offense was weak at best, the defense couldn't get off the field on a couple key drives, and the Cornhuskers were allowed to do pretty much whatever they wanted all game long.

The postgame interviews were subdued. Most of the players brought into the press room spoke quietly. Eye contact came at a premium.

But while the Hawkeyes didn't have many answers for why they played as poorly as they did, they all shared one sentiment.

It's time to look ahead.

"We have a couple days off right here, and then we'll come back and meet as a team," linebacker James Morris said. "We'll get some workouts in, and from there on out I think it's just bowl prep."

Exactly what bowl will extend an invitation to the Black and Gold remains uncertain, and that likely won't be known until Dec. 3. There are plenty of options, though; eight games have tie-ins with the Big Ten, and Iowa's 7-5 record is more impressive than those of fellow bowl-eligible teams Purdue, Northwestern, and Illinois (all finished 6-6).

Three bowls are out of the question. The Rose Bowl will host the winner of the Big Ten championship game between Michigan State and Wisconsin, and the Capital One and Outback Bowls have win-loss stipulations that the Hawkeyes don't meet. Those spots will likely be filled by Michigan (10-2), Penn State (9-3), or Nebraska (9-3); the odd team out will probably get an invitation to the Insight Bowl.

The Wolverines could potentially still receive an at-large bid to a BCS game, which would move the teams following the Maize and Blue (Iowa included) up a spot. Michigan will need help from schools above them in the BCS standings, though, because it needs to finish in the top 14 to be eligible. Brady Hoke's team sits at No. 16 in the standings released Sunday and is idle this week; at least one higher-ranked team must lose for Michigan to have a chance in next week's final rankings.

Iowa has the best record of the remaining bowl-eligible teams, and a trip to face Florida in the Gator Bowl would be logical. But Ohio State (6-6) could throw a wrench in the Hawkeyes' travel plans, especially if the Buckeyes hire former Florida head coach Urban Meyer.

"With the Urban Meyer-Florida connection, [Buckeyes versus Gators] would be a good matchup for us," Gator Bowl President Rick Catlett told the Orlando Sentinel on Nov. 26.

So the Black and Gold could face a Big 12 team in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas in Houston or a Conference USA team in the Dallas-based TicketCity Bowl. A trip to play a MAC team in Detroit's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl seems unlikely given the number of bowl-eligible teams from the Big Ten with worse records than Iowa's.

All will be revealed on Dec. 3, and until then, the Hawkeyes say they're content going about business as usual. They'll be off until Tuesday, and then begin trying to fix the many things that didn't work against Nebraska — without looking too far back, of course. It's all about the future.

"We don't know who our opponent is yet, but whoever it is, we have a month to prepare," quarterback James Vandenberg said. "We're going to give it our all."


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