IOWA CITY – Once Ohio State was left out of the College Football Playoff – a byproduct of a 31-point loss to Iowa – the Hawkeyes’ bowl destination changed in a New York minute.
Forget about a holiday in sunny San Diego. Maybe later, Music City.
Iowa will take its final cuts of the 2017 season at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, facing Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City on Dec. 27.
“It’s unique. It’s a different part of the country," said coach Kirk Ferentz, who will be coaching the Hawkeyes in a bowl game for the 15th time in the last 17 seasons.
“… Bowl games are special and the biggest thing is that we want our players to have an enjoyable month and also, it’s an opportunity to win a football game. The whole idea is to improve and try to go out and win our eighth game. That’s really, simply, what it gets down to."
Ferentz, who will tie Hayden Fry as the winningest coach in Iowa history with his next victory, said the experience of playing a bowl game in one of the nation’s most iconic sporting venues should be memorable.
“I think it’s going to be really a great adventure for all of us to see a very unique city and see it in ways that most people don’t get to see it," Ferentz said.
That is happening because the Big Ten did not get a team into the College Football Playoff this year, leaving three league teams in other New Year’s Six bowl games.
That includes Wisconsin playing in the Orange Bowl, which by selecting a Big Ten team meant by contract the Citrus Bowl was obligated to take an Atlantic Coast Conference team in place of a Big Ten team.
That impacted destinations for all other bowl-bound Big Ten teams, with Michigan going to the Outback Bowl and Michigan State and Northwestern being chosen for Holiday and Music City bowl spots that Iowa was also considered for.
Director of athletics Gary Barta spent the past week advocating Iowa with representatives of the Holiday, Music City and Pinstripe bowls, but conceded that ultimately, “the university doesn’t choose which bowl. We just graciously accept whatever bowl we’re invited to attend."
The Big Ten representative in the Pinstripe Bowl has an allotment of 7,500 tickets to sell and Barta believes Iowa fans will attend, pointing out that the university has 20,000 alumni living in that region.
Iowa and Boston College share 7-5 records heading into the first-ever meeting between the teams, a 4:15 p.m. game which will be televised by ESPN.
The Eagles have won five of their last six games, building around a solid rushing attack and a defense coordinated by Jim Reid, the linebackers coach of the Hawkeyes’ 12-2 team in 2015 which reached the Rose Bowl after winning the Big Ten West.
“That adds a little something to it," Iowa linebacker Ben Niemann said. “It definitely will be fun to catch up with him. He’s a great guy and a real energetic coach. I know he’ll have his guys ready."
Iowa offensive lineman Sean Welsh said familiarity with Reid helps the Hawkeyes understand what to expect.
“He’s a tough-minded guy and I’m sure his team plays that way," Welsh said. “We know we’re going to face a good opponent."
Boston College, which has averaged 36 points over its last six games, also features one of the top young running backs in the nation in AJ Dillon, the rookie of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
His 1,432 yards trails only Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor among freshman running backs in college football.
The Pinstripe Bowl will be a homecoming for at least two Hawkeyes.
Running back Akrum Wadley and receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette are both Newark, New Jersey, natives and Wadley welcomes the chance to conclude his collegiate career with a game that friends and family can attend.
“That part of it will be good," Wadley said. “Home for the holiday, I guess, but it will be cool to get a chance to play close to Jersey in my last game. Looking forward to that."
Other Hawkeyes will be making their first-ever visit to New York City.
“It will be different. I’m more of a country guy," defensive tackle Nathan Bazata said. “I’ll probably just follow Akrum around."