What’s at stake for Iowa football in the Big Ten Championship Game

The 10-2 Hawkeyes will take on the 11-1 Wolverines in the Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.


Grace Smith

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras throws a pass during a football game between No. 16 Iowa and Nebraska at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Petras replaced quarterback Alex Padilla at the start of third quarter. The Hawkeyes defeated the Corn Huskers 28-21.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Iowa hasn’t been to the Big Ten Championship Game in a long time — six years to be precise.

The Hawkeyes earned their last conference title game bid in 2015, when they won the Big Ten West Division outright for the first time. Now, with its second outright Big Ten West Division title in its back pocket, 10-2 Iowa will travel to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to take on 11-1 Michigan with a Big Ten championship on the line.

Iowa hasn’t won a Big Ten title since 2004. The Hawkeyes, coincidentally, shared the league championship with the Wolverines that season. In 2004, the Big Ten Conference didn’t even have its teams play in a championship game. The first-ever Big Ten Championship Game was played in 2011.

The 2004 Hawkeyes finished their season 10-2, with a win in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Florida. The name of that game has since changed to the Citrus Bowl.

The Hawkeyes won their last outright Big Ten title in 1985. Under then-head coach Hayden Fry, Iowa went 10-2 overall and made an appearance in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

With a win in the Big Ten Championship Game Saturday, the 2021 Hawkeyes could find themselves participating in this season’s Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

The Hawkeyes haven’t won a Rose Bowl since 1959, when Iowa defeated the University of California, 38-12. Forest Evashevski was Iowa’s head coach at the time. Iowa’s overall record is 2-4 in the Rose Bowl. Under Fry, the Hawkeyes went 0-3 in Rose Bowl games.

Current head coach Kirk Ferentz is 0-1 in the Rose Bowl. In 2015, Ferentz’s Hawkeyes were stomped by Stanford, 45-16, in the Golden State.

RELATED: Iowa football team ranked No. 13 in latest College Football Playoff rankings

Before the Hawkeyes can win their first Rose Bowl in over 60 years, they have to be selected for it. Rose Bowl representatives have attended a number of Iowa football games this season. A Big Ten title would probably make Iowa a shoo-in for this year’s Rose Bowl Game.

If Iowa loses the 2021 Big Ten Championship Game, it may miss out on the Rose Bowl.

If the Hawkeyes don’t end up in the Rose Bowl, experts project the Hawkeyes to land in the Citrus Bowl.

Iowa hasn’t played in the Citrus Bowl in 17 years. In the 2004 Citrus Bowl, the Hawkeyes beat the LSU Tigers, 30-25. Quarterback Drew Tate completed a hail mary touchdown pass to wide receiver Warren Holloway on the last play of the game to give the Hawkeyes a slight edge over the Nick Saban-coached Tigers.

Before the Hawkeyes qualified for the 2021 Big Ten Championship Game, pundits also predicted an Outback, Las Vegas, or Music City Bowl appearance for Iowa this season.

But with the Hawkeyes playing for the Big Ten title now, there seem to be two likely options for Iowa’s postseason play: the Rose Bowl or the Citrus Bowl. Iowa needs to be ranked inside the top 12 of the College Football Playoff rankings to go to a New Year’s Six Bowl, including the Rose Bowl. Iowa is No. 13 in this week’s rankings. A win over Michigan would shoot Iowa up the rankings and likely clinch the Hawkeyes a spot in Pasadena.

A loss to the Wolverines would keep the Hawkeyes out of New Year’s Six play, likely sending them to the Citrus Bowl.

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