Penn State's bowl possibilities have been trimmed to two, but the wait for the official word will go on until at least early Sunday evening.

And at the center of it all will be one of the toughest decisions the Fiesta Bowl has had in years.

Of course, there are plenty of big games coming up this week that will have a say in who the BCS bowls pick, including the national title game. But no matter, nearly all situations still point to the Fiesta choosing between Iowa and Penn State for an at-large bid.

The loser drops to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on New Year's Day, almost certainly to face LSU.

To many national experts, it seems like a clear pick for the fun-loving Fiesta suits; Iowa gets the nod based on its 21-10 victory at Beaver Stadium and, to a lesser extent, its gallant fight and overtime loss at Ohio State with a backup quarterback.

Pick your media outlet -- ESPN, CBS Sports, College Football News -- and they all are banking on Iowa.

Only a select few, such as BCS expert Jerry Palm in Indiana and NBC Sports, are giving the edge to Penn State, based on its tradition, national appeal, huge alumni following and celebrity attraction for legendary coach Joe Paterno.

"Penn State will travel better to that game," said Palm, the creator of www.CollegeBCS.com. "They may not sell more tickets because Iowa has great local support. But Penn State will bring in more people from out of state. They have a great national following and the casual fan will be interested in watching Penn State play" on TV.

BCS bowls can choose anyone ranked in the top 14 and almost always go for the biggest financial gain -- the team that will sell the most tickets, bring in the most fans, produce the best TV ratings. Season resumes don't always mean much in the end.

The positives for Iowa include one of the most dedicated fan bases anywhere and a huge relocation population in the Phoenix area.

Nearly 7,000 registered Iowa alumni live in the area, to go with 28,000 other Iowa natives, according to a recent report in the Des Moines Register. It's also been estimated that at least 20,000 fans attended an Iowa-Arizona State regular season game in the Phoenix suburbs in 2004.

"I think that's a huge advantage for Iowa," said Andy Hamilton, who has covered the Hawkeyes for the Iowa City Press Citizen since 2003. "I think, generally, the sense I get is that people here think Iowa is going to the Fiesta Bowl, but no one is booking non-refundable tickets yet. No one out here is talking about making arrangements for Orlando."

You could pick sides and argue this one all the way to Sunday evening.

Remember that the Nittany Lions are 6-0 in the Fiesta and pretty much made the game into a big player. The 1987 Fiesta Bowl was the first big bowl played after New Year's Day and was the most-watched college game ever, with the Lions upsetting the Miami Hurricanes for the national title.

"Certainly, we have a very long and storied success and happy history with Penn State and Coach Paterno," said Tony Alba, the Fiesta's media director. "In a lot of ways we grew up together. ... Certainly, that history is there. And we haven't had them in quite a while."

It's been 13 years since the Lions played and won there over a surprise Texas team.

Then again, Iowa could be appealing because it's never played in the game.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz owns Penn State, but Paterno is the name that everyone knows, even the most casual football fan.

Then consider possible opponents for the games.

As long as Texas defeats Nebraska as expected in Saturday's Big 12 title game, the Fiesta will pick immediately after the Sugar Bowl chooses the loser of the SEC championship game.

And though Alba won't say it publicly, Fiesta officials will choose between Iowa and Penn State for their money pick.

Under that scenario, the Orange Bowl then probably takes undefeated TCU, leaving the Fiesta to choose the Big Ten's opponent from a pool including undefeated Boise State and the winner of Saturday's Pitt-Cincinnati game.

The Fiesta probably favors Boise, which traveled well there three years ago.

Even if Nebraska upsets Texas and gets the automatic bid to the Fiesta, the Orange probably would take the Longhorns, enabling the Fiesta to take Iowa or Penn State with its second pick anyway.

So the Lions could play Boise, Nebraska or even TCU in the desert late on Jan. 4.

If they can just get there.
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