The bowl match-ups will be officially announced in a few hours, which means it's time for one final look at where Iowa might be headed. Things played out mostly as expected for the Power 5 conferences during conference championship weekend, with the exception Oregon upsetting Utah. Utah's loss -- coupled with Oklahoma's win over Baylor yesterday and LSU dispatching Georgia -- sets up what should be a fairly controversy-free Playoff field: Ohio State, LSU, Clemson, and Oklahoma. The only intrigue there is which team gets the #1 seed and how Ohio State, LSU, and Clemson are ordered 1-3.
But that intrigue won't have any impact on Iowa. What will have impact on Iowa's postseason destination is how the rest of the New Year's Six bowls shake out. Most bowl projections have settled around these match-ups for the non-Playoff big bowls:
ROSE: Oregon vs Wisconsin
Oregon won the Pac 12 championship and as we all know the Pac 12 and Big Ten champions go to the Rose Bowl unless they're in the Playoff. Ohio State won the Big Ten, but will be in the Playoff. Wisconsin was #8 ahead of Penn State prior to the Big Ten Championship Game and it doesn't seem like their showing in that game (they led 21-7 at halftime and lost just 34-21) was poor enough to drop them below the Nittany Lions. The Big Ten has also tended to send the Big Ten Championship Game loser to the Rose Bowl if the winner is not able to go due to being in the Playoff.
SUGAR: Georgia vs Baylor
The Sugar Bowl is contracted to take the Big 12 and SEC champions, but both of those teams (Oklahoma and LSU, respectively) should be headed to the Playoff. Enter: the next highest-ranked teams in each conference. That's Baylor for the Big 12 (they were #7 entering the weekend and losing in OT to Oklahoma isn't likely to drop them much) and should be Georgia for the SEC. Georgia was #4 entering the weekend and the next highest-ranked SEC team was Florida at #9 -- who Georgia also beat head-to-head this year. So it's hard to see the Dawgs dropping below the Gators.
ORANGE: Virginia vs Florida
The Orange Bowl is contracted to take the ACC champion, but Clemson is once again headed off to the Playoff. The only other ACC team ranked in the Playoff Top 25 entering the weekend was Virginia at #23. If they remain in the Top 25, they'll be the automatic selection here. If they fall out of the Top 25, the Orange Bowl has more discretion in picking a replacement for Clemson, though their options still wouldn't be great -- they'd choosing between Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest. Regardless, the ACC slot here (and whoever fills it) isn't going to have any impact on Iowa's bowl destination.
The other spot in the Orange Bowl goes to the highest-ranked team among Notre Dame, the SEC, and the Big Ten that's not already slotted elsewhere. The highest-ranked SEC teams are LSU (currently #2), Georgia (currently #5), and Florida (currently #9). The highest-ranked Big Ten teams are Ohio State (currently #1), Wisconsin (currently #8), and Penn State (currently #10). Notre Dame is ranked #15. As noted, LSU and Ohio State are slotted for the Playoff. Georgia and Wisconsin are slotted for the Sugar and Rose, respectively. Florida was the next highest-ranked among those teams and there's no reason to expect Penn State to suddenly jump them after a week when both were inactive.
COTTON: Memphis vs Penn State
The Cotton Bowl gets the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion this season; that ought to be Memphis, who was #17 entering the weekend and beat #20 Cincinnati to win the AAC. Boise State (ranked #19) and Appalachian State (ranked #21) also won their conference championship games, but it doesn't seem likely that they would jump the Tigers. The other Cotton Bowl slot is an at-large for the next-highest ranked team in the committee's rankings; that looks to be Penn State, who was #10 entering the weekend. The only wrinkle here is how far Utah drops after their loss to Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship Game; the Utes were #5 entering that game and if they stayed ahead of Penn State, then the Utes would be the Cotton Bowl pick here, not the Nittany Lions. But given the general lack of respect for the Pac 12 and the fact that the Utes got blitzed 37-15 by the Ducks in that title game, it doesn't seem like a stretch for them to get dumped out of the Top 10 in the committee's final rankings.
So what about the non-NY6 bowls? The big domino there is the Orange Bowl. If, as expected, Florida gets that spot (and not a Big Ten team), then the Big Ten keeps its slot in the Citrus Bowl. Most projectors have Michigan filling that spot from the Big Ten -- and taking on Alabama. (Good luck, Wolverines.) And that's probably the last domino that needs to fall to send Iowa to the Holiday Bowl. The projections concur:
ESPN (both): Holiday Bowl -- Iowa vs USC
The Athletic: Holiday Bowl -- Iowa vs USC
CBS Sports: Holiday Bowl -- Iowa vs USC
247 Sports: Holiday -- Iowa vs USC
Athlon Sports: Holiday -- Iowa vs USC
Brett McMurphy: Holiday -- Iowa vs USC
SB Nation: Holiday -- Iowa vs USC
Sporting News: Holid -- er, Gator Bowl -- Iowa vs Texas A&M
So, yeah, there is a pretty strong consensus among the bowl projectors that a) Iowa is likely headed to the Holiday Bowl and b) that they'll play USC in that game. The only outlier I've seen so far is Sporting News. And, frankly, the more clued-in folks (Mandel, McMurphy, Palm, etc.) have Iowa in the Holiday, so I'm far more inclined to believe them than one off-beat pick from Sporting News.
Anyway, we'll find out soon where Iowa's headed. How does a Holiday Bowl showdown with USC sound?