clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Minnesota Football’s Big Ten title, bowl, and College Football Playoff scenarios

New, 71 comments

A breakdown of what Minnesota has to do to accomplish the lofty goals it has available to it this season.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Media Days Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

This has already been a special season for Minnesota’s players, coaches, staff, and fans. But the Gophers are very close to delivering on 3 key goals that everyone who supports the program has wanted for a while now:

  • A B1G West division title
  • A B1G conference title
  • A Rose Bowl or College Football Playoff berth

To help everyone understand what possibilities are out there and just how close the Gophers are to accomplishing some big goals, I want to run through the potential scenarios. Before I go further, here are a couple key points:

  • Iowa and Illinois (yes, they have a mathematical shot to the division title still) are essentially eliminated already. There are too many things they need to have happen, namely, both have to win out, Minnesota needs to lose out, and Wisconsin needs to lose at least one (if you’re Illinois) or two (if you’re Iowa) games.
  • Minnesota’s magic number is 2. This means that Minnesota either needs to win two more games or win one and have Wisconsin lose one. If Minnesota loses out they can win the division, but it requires some extremely unlikely scenarios. Also, Minnesota losing out is similarly very unlikely.
  • How does the Rose Bowl decides what Big Ten team plays in Pasadena? Here is the Big Ten’s official language for the selection criteria used by the Rose Bowl:

1. When not hosting a CFP national semifinal, the Big Ten Champion will play in the Rose Bowl Game, unless it is among the top four teams.

2. If Big Ten Champion is selected to play in a national semifinal, then the Rose Bowl will select a Big Ten replacement team for the 2020 Rose Bowl. (GoAUpher note: As you can see, there is no listed definition for the “replacement” team, which means the Rose can do what it wants.)

Ok, with all of that out of the way, let’s cover what can happen based on how the Gophers perform down the stretch. I’ve chosen to break this out based on how Minnesota does in their final 3 regular season games. Then, within each category I talk about possible outcomes based on the result of the B1G title game.

————————————————————————————————-

Minnesota wins out

This is the option that simplifies things a great deal. Here’s what happens if Minnesota wins out in the regular season:

  • They win the Big Ten West title outright

What if Minnesota wins the B1G title game?

  • They win the Big Ten title
  • They go to the College Football Playoff

What if they lose the B1G title game?

  • If the Big Ten title game winner goes to the playoff, then Minnesota goes to the Rose Bowl.
  • If the Big Ten title game winner is left out (which won’t happen to an undefeated Ohio State, but could happen to 1 loss Ohio State or 1 loss Penn State) then Minnesota could be selected for the Orange Bowl if they had a high enough College Football Playoff ranking. Otherwise they’ll end up in a non “New Year’s Six” NYD bowl, probably the Citrus or Outback.

Rooting interests for this scenario: Ohio State to win out. If they beat Minnesota in Indianapolis then the Gophers are guaranteed the Rose Bowl.

————————————————————————————————-

Minnesota wins 2 of their final 3

For Minnesota fans this outcome is really as good as winning out in my opinion. It would potentially (I’d argue, likely) doom the team’s playoff hopes but all the other goals would be fully in play. Here’s what would happen if the Gophers won 2 of the next 3 games:

  • They win the Big Ten West title outright, regardless of whether the loss is to Wisconsin.

What if Minnesota wins the B1G title game?

  • They win the Big Ten title.
  • They go to the Rose Bowl. It is *possible* for them to end up in the College Football Playoff, but I wouldn’t buy that in this scenario until the Gophers were selected.

What if they lose the B1G title game?

  • If the Big Ten title game winner goes to the playoff, then Minnesota should go to the Rose Bowl.
  • NOTE: This isn’t guaranteed. There is one scenario where the Rose could have reason to select another team. The scenario in question? The one where PSU beats OSU on 11/23 and then MN in Indy and then the Nittany Lions make the CFP. Additionally for this scenario, assume that 11-1 Ohio State sits ahead of 11-2 Minnesota in the Playoff rankings. I don’t think the Rose Bowl would pick an OSU team who didn’t win their division based on their emphasis on tradition, but there’s nothing in the language of their bowl selection policy that precludes it. But that’s just my opinion and there are other members of the TDG staff who disagree.
  • If the Big Ten title game winner is left out, then I would expect Minnesota to end up in a non either the Citrus or Outback make the most sense.
  • Rooting interests for this scenario: Ohio State to win out. If they beat Minnesota in Indianapolis then the Gophers are guaranteed the Rose Bowl.

————————————————————————————————-

Minnesota wins only 1 more

This is where things get trickier. Here’s what would happen if the Gophers won 1 of the next 3 games:

  • They win the Big Ten West title if: (A) the win is over Wisconsin or (B) Wisconsin loses a game to either Nebraska or Purdue.
  • If the win isn’t over Wisconsin and the Badgers win out, then UW goes to the Big Ten title game.

(Assuming Minnesota won the West) - What if they win the B1G title game?

  • They win the Big Ten title.
  • They go to the Rose Bowl because they won the conference. There is no way a two loss Minnesota team is in consideration for the College Football Playoff.

(Assuming Minnesota won the West) - What if they lose the B1G title game?

  • If the Big Ten title game winner goes to the playoff, then Minnesota might go to the Rose Bowl. You’re now looking at scenarios where Minnesota is 10-3 and being compared against either a 10-2 PSU or 11-1 OSU. I wouldn’t expect them to get picked for Pasadena in that case.
  • If the Gophers don’t end up in the Rose, then they end up in either the Citrus or Outback.
  • Rooting interests in this scenario: Anyone to beat Wisconsin, OSU and another team to beat Penn State again, and Ohio State to win out.

————————————————————————————————-

Minnesota loses the next 3

Look, this isn’t going to happen so I’m not bothering to game it out. Stop being so darn Minnesotan about this thing ok?

Final Thoughts

According to the current SP+ data, Minnesota has a 75.9% chance of finishing the regular season either 12-0 or 11-1. There is a 22.6% chance they only win one more game. The chances they lose out are barely over 1%. What does this mean?

As of today, a Big Ten West title is very good possibility (this is true whether or not you buy into SP+, any other metric is going to have Minnesota’s chances of this at well over 50%). That means it’s looking really good for Minnesota to end up in at least the Rose Bowl and if you’re so inclined, you can start to dream about a College Football Playoff Berth.

History isn’t written yet, but the chance for a truly #specialseason rolls on.