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Potential Bowl Games, Ranked

What should we hope for when the announcement is made this weekend?

This Sunday will feature the announcement of bowl season, and Iowa State is a thankful participant for the 3rd straight year. Gone are the days of simply hoping for 6 wins and a trip anywhere, even Boise, Idaho. Matt Campbell has done great work turning around the football program, and Iowa State fans have responded by filling Jack Trice Stadium all fall. Our reputation as a fan base that travels is starting to be established, from the annual pilgrimage to Kansas City for the Big 12 basketball tournament, to hosting ESPN’s College Gameday, and running the state of Texas out of Busch Light.

The regular season didn’t end the way many of us wanted to, especially being 1 or 2 plays away from a chance at the Big 12 championship game. It seems as though the season will end in either Phoenix, Houston, or Memphis, depending on if Oklahoma or Baylor sneaks into the College Football Playoff. Let’s look at those potential landing spots, and see where we should hope to book travel for the week after Christmas.

I wanted to isolate a few factors and rate them on a scale of 1 to 5.

  1. Location/Weather - Pretty self-explanatory, how far do fans have to travel? What weather should we expect?
  2. Prestige - Where does this bowl rank in national recognition? How big a TV audience will it generate?
  3. Potential Opponent - The bigger the brand, the better, but also, we’re looking for a winnable matchup.
  4. Familiarity - Has Iowa State been here before? Would we want to go back.


Location/Weather - Houston is one of the largest cities in the country, and will provide plenty of entertainment for fans. Similar to San Antonio, it’s a long road trip by car, but a pretty easy flight out of Des Moines. Bonus points here for the game being played in a dome, eliminating the chance of bad weather on gameday. SCORE: 4/5

Prestige - The Texas Bowl is likely part of the argument against how many bowl games exist. It very rarely sees great teams, and this year’s edition won’t even be the only game in it’s time slot. SCORE: 2/5

Potential Opponent - The SEC will be sending a team here. In the past few years, the Texas Bowl has seen matchups of 6-6 or 7-5 teams against each other. It might not be a great matchup on paper, but we should have a good shot a winning the game in this scenario. SCORE: 3/5

Familiarity - Iowa State has never played in the Texas Bowl, but did play in the former Houston Bowl, way back in 2005. SCORE: 5/5

Total - 14/20


Location/Weather - Brock Purdy getting a chance to play at home would be great. Phoenix will have great weather. This game is played in a baseball stadium, which adds a little quirkiness. It gets even better if the pool is open. SCORE: 5/5

Prestige - Haha. SCORE: 1/5

Potential Opponent - The Pac-12 is supposed to send a team here, but this spot is probably going to another conference, especially if Utah makes the College Football Playoff. So, we’re either looking at a 6-6 Pac-12 team (Washington State rematch?) or a team from the Mountain West with a good record. Athlon Sports projects us here against 10-2 Air Force. SCORE: 3/5

Familiarity - Iowa State hasn’t played in this game since 2009. We’re due for a return trip. SCORE: 4/5

Total - 12/20


Location/Weather - Memphis is a great town, and they will know how to cater to Iowa State fans. Beale Street will promise to be a good time, but weather is a potential factor. Each of Iowa State’s last 2 trips to this game have been played in 40 degree temperatures. SCORE: 3/5

Prestige - The Liberty Bowl has been around for a long time. It’s down on the Big 12’s pecking order, but it will receive a national audience and has seen ranked teams in the past. SCORE: 3/5

Potential Opponent - Projections here make it likely that this game will get a mid-level SEC team, such as Kentucky, or one of the better teams from the AAC, such as Cincinnati. Iowa State has never played either school, so at least we’d see a new opponent. SCORE: 3/5

Familiarity - This would be Iowa State’s 3rd trip to the Liberty Bowl since 2012. With all due respect, no thanks. SCORE: 1/5

Total - 10/20

Bottom line, root for a Big 12 team in the Playoff. That only helps our cause for a better bowl bid.