SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ George Schroeder breaks down the state of the Playoff spots ahead of conference championship games.
USA TODAY Sports
AMES, Ia. — You’re an Iowa State football fan. You’ve got a few bucks of discretionary money. It’s been a while since the Cyclones have been to a bowl game, and you’re like:
What the heck …
You had a wonderful time at the 2012 Liberty Bowl in Memphis. You were the Mayor of Beale Street. You had such a good time that you want to do it again, but where?
Back to Memphis? Farther south to Florida?
Those are the best bets as we near Decision Day. Narrowing it down further would only be a guess, so the best I can do now and before football’s version of Selection Sunday is to provide some tips.
Follow along closely.
PAY ATTENTION TO SATURDAY
This is where it begins: the 11:30 a.m. Big 12 Conference championship game between league champion Oklahoma and runner-up TCU. The Sooners, third in the most recent CFP rankings, need a win to assure a spot in the College Football Playoffs. TCU, 11th, needs a win to lock up a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
“The question becomes does TCU go up or not?” Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard said during our conversation in his office recently.
Going up means either playing in the College Football Playoffs, or an invitation to the next-level Peach, Fiesta, Orange or Cotton bowls.
Or not means landing among a larger group of Big 12 teams eligible for the Alamo, Camping World, Texas, Liberty, Cactus and Heart of Dallas bowls. That’s everyone except Baylor and Kansas — and maybe TCU. Oklahoma is “going up” regardless what happens Saturday.
IF TCU GOES UP
It’s possible, even with a third loss. Wisconsin and USC played in New Year’s Six bowls despite three losses a season ago, so with that as our guide:
If TCU is picked for the Cotton Bowl, then it’s likely Oklahoma State goes to the Alamo – and Iowa State, Kansas State and West Virginia are in Orlando — aka Camping World Bowl — contention.
Iowa State has played in a dozen bowl games, yet none in Florida. West Virginia played in that bowl last year, losing against Miami of Florida. Kansas State fans didn’t even fill Bill Snyder Family Stadium last Saturday.
Prediction: With Oklahoma and TCU out of this equation, then how about Oklahoma State to the Alamo, Iowa State goes Camping, Texas goes to the Texas Bowl in Houston, West Virginia gets the Liberty, Kansas State heads to the Cactus and Texas Tech stays in the state with the Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas.
IF TCU DOESN’T
This gets complicated. Back in the Wild, Wild West days of bowl selection, athletics directors and/or influential coaches cut their own secret bowl deals. Smoke-filled rooms. Late-night phone calls. Meetings in clandestine locations. Major schmoozing. It was awesome.
“Hey slick, we’ll bring a bunch of fans, they’ll spend a ton of money in your town, and we’ll even be responsible to either sell or reimburse you for 35,000 tickets,” went the bartering banter from the coach and/or AD. “And by the way, we’ll even help ya pick out opponent.”
Oh for the good ol’ days.
It’s not done that way now. There’s a pecking order once the New Year’s Six bowls have been filled, so back to the question:
What if Oklahoma is the only Big 12 team that goes up?
Prediction: TCU to the Alamo, Oklahoma State to Orlando, Iowa State to Memphis, Texas to Houston, Kansas State to the Cactus, West Virginia to Dallas and Texas Tech to a bowl outside the Big 12’s partnership.
AND WHAT ABOUT MEMPHIS?
Iowa State sold 15,000 tickets the last time it played there, its 31-17 loss against Tulsa. Like they do for Big 12 basketball tournaments in Kansas City, Cyclones fans swarmed the city.
“We know how loyal they are, how well they travel, and in our business, that’s priority No. 1,” Liberty Bowl rep Harold Greater told me before the Cyclones’ game last Saturday at Kansas State
Elvis. The Zoo. The Gibson Guitar factory tour. Beale Street. Brisket. Iowa State fans did it all — and more, I’m told.
And from a football practice standpoint, the Dec. 30 Liberty works out best.
“We have a longstanding relationship with those folks,” Pollard said. “I probably know that bowl rep the best. We did really well when we were there.
“We’re the closest school to them, of the (Big 12) schools they can pick from.”
It’s not one-sided sentiment:
“Matt Campbell is one of the young star head coaches in all of college football,” said Greater, the only bowl rep at last Saturday’s Cyclones game. “They’re having a magical year. They’ve certainly got our attention; they’re attractive to any bowl game.”
Iowa State is a storyline-filled pick for someone. Campbell and his staff have worked wonders in their second season in Ames. Joel Lanning plays extensively on both sides of the ball. Four quarterbacks have shared in the Cyclones’ best regular season since 2005.
And Iowa State fans?
“The merchants on Beale Street are still talking about Iowa State fans,” Greater said. “From the first opportunity to sell a beverage, to the last opportunity to sell a beverage — Iowa State fans were right there.”
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @RandyPete.
Source: Des Moines Register
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