Iowa football hasn’t played a game west of Nebraska in years.
The last time it played a game on the West Coast, to be exact, came in the 2016 Rose Bowl against Stanford.
That game — a 45-16 loss to the Cardinal — was also the last time it played a Pac-12 opponent, and it left a bitter taste in the Hawkeyes’ mouths for months.
But most of Iowa’s players didn’t experience that. Only the Hawkeyes’ fifth-year players endured that pain.
That makes a trip to California for this year’s Holiday Bowl against USC on Dec. 27 even more out of the ordinary for the current Hawkeyes.
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“I’ve been here for 21 years, and I haven’t been out to the Holiday Bowl,” Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. “So, it’s going to be an experience for us. We’re looking forward to it.”
This appearance will mark Iowa’s fourth in the Holiday Bowl; their last one was in 1991.
That most recent appearance, a 13-13 tie with BYU, contributed to the Hawkeyes’ rare record of 2-0-1 in the bowl.
The Big Ten has excelled in the Holiday Bowl in recent years, with Northwestern, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin each taking home a trophy from San Diego in the past four years.
The last time a Big Ten team lost in the game was when USC beat Nebraska, 45-42, in 2014.
Although it hasn’t played in the Holiday Bowl for 28 years, Iowa has found success in its recent bowl games.
It left New York and Tampa victorious in its last two bowl games — wins over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl and Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl.
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And there have been a lot of Outback Bowls.
The Hawkeyes have played in an Outback Bowl four times in the last 11 seasons, so the opportunity to travel somewhere else for a postseason battle was well-received.
“The older guys, I know they’ve been to the Outback Bowl, like, two or three times or something like that,” Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs said. “As much fun as the Outback Bowl is, I bet they’re probably excited to get somewhere where they’ve never been.”
The trip will also come with some fun.
Along with a Navy ship tour on Dec. 24, Iowa will spare a visit to SeaWorld in San Diego on Dec. 25. But visiting a new place also calls for some other activities that can’t be done in Iowa.
“I want to go on the beach,” Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette said. “Coach Ferentz, if you see this, I want to go on the beach.”
Whether the beach makes Iowa’s list of things to do or not, some want to expand it even more.
“I’m a beach guy, but I like the LA scenery,” Iowa cornerback Michael Ojemudia said. “I want to go to LA — Staples Center, all that. That’s kind of what I’m into. Fashion, all that stuff. Just seeing what the West Coast is about, that’s kind of the guy I am.”