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The Big Ten Bowl Picture

Rbg_logo_citi_mediumThis is kind of like predicting the weather in Minnesota this time of year (note: 32 and snowing today; 50 and sunny tomorrow).  But why not take a shot.

The Big Ten bowl picture is always messy and although it generally resembles the final standings although most of you know that it doesn't have to.  After the Rose Bowl and BCS games get their picks the Big Ten affiliated bowls get their choice of who they want.  As stated the generally pick in order of standings but they are allowed to grab a lower team as long as their record is within a game of the higher finishing team.  For example, in my predictions below the Capital One Bowl could easily select Ohio State over Wisconsin if they would rather have the Buckeyes.  In my predictions below I am taking that into consideration a little bit but I'm not going to spend too much time trying to guess what the bowl selection committees are thinking.

Bowl lineup B10 prediction Predicted Record Pred B10 Record Potential Opponent Date
BCS Title Game none
1 Rose Bowl Iowa 12-0 8-0 USC / Oregon 1-Jan
2 BCS Bowl (Fiesta) Penn St 11-1 7-1 Boise State 1-Jan
3 Capital One Bowl Wisconsin 10-2 6-2 LSU 1-Jan
4 Outback Bowl Ohio St 8-4 5-3 South Carolina 29-Dec
5 Chammps Minnesota 7-5 4-4 Clemson 2-Jan
6 Alamo Bowl Michigan 7-5 3-5 Oklahoma 31-Dec
7 Insight Michigan State
6-6 4-4 Nebraska 26-Dec
8 Little Ceasars Northwestern W Michigan


Here are my team-by-team synpsi...



IOWA -Iowa stands a good shot at running the table and finishing 12-0. Their schedule is far from easy but the toughest remaining game, a trip to Columbus, is starting to look slightly less daunting than it did a week ago. It could all be moot if they don't take care of business at Michigan State but this team is very good along both lines and this goes a LONG way towards wins in the Big Ten. The real question is, would Iowa get a BCS title game invitation if they remain undefeated? Two of the three teams ahead of them need to lose but assuming Alabama and Florida win all of their remaining games, would the loser of that SEC title game get the nod over undefeated Iowa? Would a one-loss USC team leapfrog them since they have a tougher strength of schedule? Would Oregon leapfrog Iowa if they manage to beat USC? I think the Big Ten's reputation will keep Iowa out of the BCS title game unless they are the only undefeated BCS-team remaining, but the last several weeks will be very interesting for the Hawkeyes.

PENN STATE - After losing to Iowa the Nittany Lions' only remaining difficult games are @ Michigan and then Ohio State at home. Their offensive line and special team struggles cost them the Iowa game. But since then their offensive line has played much better and with Ohio State at home this looks like the second place Big Ten team. Obviously they get bumped up a spot if Iowa manages to sneak into the BCS title game but I think they are on a collision course with the SEC's third best team (Assuming Alabama and Florida get BCS invitations).

WISCONSIN - Ohio State won the head to head match-up but I just don't see another loss on Wisconsin's schedule. Michigan at home is their most difficult remaining game, which could end up as a loss for the Badgers but I think they'll clearly be favored. Part of my assumption here is that Ohio State is going to lose to both Iowa and Penn State, if they manage to win one of those games they'll have the same conference record as Wisconsin and will then move into the third bowl slot because they are Ohio State and because they beat Wisconsin already. Regardless of the team representing the Big Ten the Outback Bowl this appears to be a winnable game against what will likely be the 4th or 5h place SEC team.

OHIO STATE - This would be a pretty significant blow to Buckeye fans were they to finish 4th in the conference. My assumptions made here is that they will lose to both Iowa and Penn State. Obviously those assumptions could be very wrong but after their Purdue debacle I'm not convinced they should be favored in those two games. Anyway a fourth place finish puts them behind Wisconsin and looking at a trip to the Outback Bowl (IN DECEMBER). As mentioned above they will hold the head-to-head tie breaker with Wisconsin and even if they finish a game behind the Badgers the Capital One Bowl could pick Ohio State ahead of them. Buckeye fans should be excited by this bowl slot though as they would stand a very good chance at winning a bowl game for the first time since beating Notre Dame in 2005!

MINNESOTA - I'm assuming Minnesota beats Michigan State and I don't have to assume because Michigan State beat Michigan. In this scenario Minnesota finishes 5th in conference with an identical 4-4 conference record with Michigan State. Michigan would be 3-5 and could be picked for this bowl as well, but I'm going to assume that Michigan will not leap-frog two teams to earn this slot. It would be within the Champs committee's rights but a team leap-frogging two is not the norm and I'm guessing the Big Ten would discourage that. Ultimately this is the best case scenario for Gopher fans (as well as unlikely). This game would be against a middle of the road ACC team and a decent match-up for whichever Big Ten team gets invited.

MICHIGAN - With the Wolverine fanbase, I just don't see Michigan getting slotted to the bowl that is appropriate to their final Big Ten standing (in this scenario). Currently 1-2, I'm giving Michigan three more losses (Ohio St, Penn St and @Wisconsin). That puts their Big Ten record at 3-5, 7-5 overall and despite their loss to Michigan State they will be picked for that Alamo Bowl ahead of the Spartans due to their passionate and well-traveled fan base.

MICHIGAN STATE - The team that I predict will fall the most from their current 3rd place standing in the standings. Michigan State gets Iowa this weekend, travels to Minnesota, travels to Purdue and then gets Penn State. 1-3 is not an unlikely scenario for their final four games of the year. Barring a big upset in their other three games the Minnesota game is rather huge for both teams. If the Gophers can hold off the Spartans at home this is where I see MSU falling for their bowl destination.

NORTHWESTERN - sneaks in thanks to the Big Ten getting two teams into BCS games.


Gopher Bowl Thoughts

Best Case Scenario (with some realism) - best case is the Champs Sports Bowl. Even this would require some help and hope that a lower finishing team wouldn't get bumped up for lack of traditional fan traveling clout. Obviously best case sees the Gophers finishing 4-0 and working their way into the Capital One Bowl, but if anybody has seen anything on this current team to suggest we have a 4-0 finish in us, please mail me whatever it is you smoke during games.

Most Realistic Scenario - a return trip to the Insight Bowl. Assuming two Big Ten teams get into BCS games I think it would be really hard for the Gophers to fall all the way to the Motor City Bowl and there is a very good chance that we'll get passed over by the Champs Sports and Alamo Bowls for the Michigan schools.  But a 3-5 Big Ten finish should guarantee a return trip to Phoenix.

Worst Case Scenario - no bowl game.  South Dakota State should be a win, but if the Gophers manage to lose the rest of their Big Ten games they'll finish 5-7 and not be bowl eligible.  Almost as bad as not making a bowl at all would be earning a trip to lovely Detroit in December for the Motor City Bowl.  The location is terrible and you'd be in a no-win situation facing a MAC team for your bowl.