- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Who should Iowa root for Saturday in Happy Valley? It depends on your confidence level in the Hawkeyes. As you get ready for another big college football Saturday, here's who needs your support, depending on your primary allegiance.
Iowa should root for ...
Ohio State to beat Penn State. Any true competitor wants to play the best, and if Iowa wants to get the credit it deserves for completing a brutal Big Ten road schedule, it should want Ohio State to be ranked as highly as possible for next week's clash at Ohio Stadium. The anti-Iowa crowd is looking for any ammunition to shoot down Iowa's case for national title consideration, and a three-loss Ohio State team would certainly help. If Ohio State wins, it will be ranked in the top 15 nationally, giving Iowa yet another chance at a signature win and another boost for an already strong schedule. On the other hand, if you believe Iowa has no chance of reaching the title game and can only get to the Rose Bowl, root for Penn State to beat Ohio State.
Alabama to lose to LSU. If Texas wins out as expected, Iowa's best chance to reach the title game would be to leapfrog a one-loss SEC team. Iowa would benefit from Alabama losing to LSU and then either the Tide or the Tigers beating Florida in the SEC championship game. The Hawkeyes still might have a rough time winning the argument, but they'd have a better chance.
Florida to struggle against Vanderbilt. I can't see the Gators losing this one, but they could pay a price if they don't obliterate the 'Dores. Close wins in the SEC seem to hold a lot more weight than close wins in the Big Ten this season, but struggling to beat Vanderbilt should carry a penalty.
Cincinnati to lose or struggle to beat UConn. The Hawkeyes would like to get the Bearcats off their backs, especially given the national love affair with Brian Kelly's crew and the lack of respect given to Iowa. Cincinnati must be impressive every week to maintain its ranking, and a Saturday night showcase game provides the opportunity to strengthen or weaken its case.
TCU to struggle with San Diego State. First-year coach Brady Hoke has done a nice job with the Aztecs, who host the undefeated Horned Frogs on Saturday. Maybe TCU looks ahead to its matchup against Utah and comes out flat against San Diego State. Much like Cincinnati and Boise State, TCU can't afford a lackluster win to maintain its ranking.
Boise State to struggle with Louisiana Tech. Same argument as above. The Broncos need to crush their opponents every week because the WAC doesn't get much respect.
Arizona and Wisconsin to beat Washington State and Indiana. Iowa beat the Wildcats and the Badgers, so it wants both teams to keep on winning.
Penn State should root for ...
Northwestern to beat Iowa. The Lions need two Hawkeyes losses to head back to the Rose Bowl. If Penn State runs the table and the Hawkeyes stumble twice, the Lions win the Big Ten outright at 7-1.
Navy to beat Notre Dame or keep things close. Notre Dame is the main obstacle to Penn State earning an at-large BCS berth. Now no bowl with bills to pay will select Boise State or TCU over an 11-1 Penn State team, but the Fighting Irish get the nod over just about anyone when they're BCS-eligible. Penn State needs Notre Dame to stumble two more times or fail to finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings. The Irish would pay the price if they struggle against Navy.
San Diego State and Louisiana Tech to beat or stay close with TCU and Boise State. Like I said earlier, Penn State shouldn't have to worry about getting beat out for an at-large berth by a non-BCS team. But it wouldn't hurt to get either TCU or Boise State out of the picture.
Arizona State to beat USC. The Trojans' Rose Bowl hopes took a huge blow last week against Oregon, but they could still be alive for an at-large berth. A third loss in Pac-10 play would virtually eliminate USC from BCS contention. Though Penn State travels a lot better than USC, the Trojans are still appealing to bowl reps.
Texas to beat Central Florida. Penn State isn't in the national title hunt, so it would just as soon see only one Big 12 team reach a BCS bowl. The Lions should root for Texas to win out, which would prevent the Longhorns from entering the mix for an at-large berth.
Ohio State should root for ...
Itself. The Buckeyes won't receive a BCS at-large berth with three losses, so they must win out and earn the Big Ten's automatic bid to the Rose Bowl.
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