Bowl projections: Slicing the Big Ten field in half

Iowa and Iowa State land in bowl games in the latest version of bowl predictions

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April 1, 2014 | 2:01 am

What we know thus far about the Big Ten and its feeder bowls is divided into three categories:

1. Teams that are ineligible to play in a bowl game (Ohio State, Penn State)

2. Teams that are unlikely to qualify for a bowl game (Indiana, Illinois)

3. Everybody else

You could argue that six different teams still have a solid shot at representing the league at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and five of them are in the Legends Division. Iowa and Michigan are unbeaten in league play, and Nebraska and Northwestern boast just one Big Ten loss. Michigan State has enough talent to make a push, but a 1-2 Big Ten record and likelihood of running the table puts their Rose Bowl chances on life support.

Wisconsin re-established its running prowess and pounded Purdue 38-14 to secure a major advantage in Leaders Division play. With Ohio State and Penn State out of Big Ten title game consideration, only a major collapse would keep the Badgers away from Indianapolis on Dec. 1. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) has two more Big Ten wins than Purdue, Illinois and Indiana combined.

In analyzing the Legends Division race, Michigan (4-2, 2-0) may have the most talent but faces the toughest competition. The Wolverines host a desperate Michigan State squad Saturday that has beaten them four straight. Michigan follows with a pair of road trips to Nebraska and Minnesota before hosting Northwestern. Michigan ends the season at home against Iowa and then at arch-rival Ohio State.

Iowa (4-2, 2-0), while limited offensively, sees the most advantageous schedule. The Hawkeyes face Penn State at home, then plays at Northwestern and Indiana and hosts Purdue. The final two games -- at Michigan, home against Nebraska -- will decide Iowa's postseason destination.

Nebraska (4-2, 1-1) gets a pair of fast teams -- at Northwestern, home against Michigan -- then plays two power punchers (at Michigan State, home against Penn State). A final home game against Minnesota precedes a road date at Iowa.

Michigan State (4-3, 1-2) has no margin of error and plays at Michigan and Wisconsin the next two weeks before hosting Nebraska and Northwestern and ending with Minnesota. Northwestern (6-1, 1-1) faces a four-week blitzkrieg of Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State before finishing with Illinois.

The Legends Division title could be decided by tiebreaker. In a three-way tie, which is possible this year, it could come down to who-beat-whom in divisional play. Divisional record is the second tiebreaker (after head-to-head) followed by record against the division's fourth-best team. If needed, it goes to fifth and then sixth.

It all could be decided by who played Ohio State (Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska) and who didn't (Iowa, Northwestern).

Here are this week's bowl projections:

BCS BOWLS

  • BCS -- Alabama vs. Oregon
  • Rose -- Michigan vs. USC
  • Fiesta -- Kansas State vs. Notre Dame
  • Sugar -- South Carolina vs. Oklahoma
  • Orange -- Florida State vs. Louisville

BIG TEN BOWLS

  • Capital One -- Wisconsin vs. Florida
  • Outback -- Nebraska vs. LSU
  • Gator -- Iowa vs. Tennessee
  • Buffalo Wild Wings -- Michigan State vs. West Virginia
  • Meineke -- Minnesota vs. Oklahoma State
  • Heart of Dallas -- Northwestern vs. TCU

BIG 12 BOWLS

  • Cotton -- Texas vs. Texas A&M
  • Alamo -- Texas Tech vs. Oregon State
  • Buffalo Wild Wings -- West Virginia vs. Michigan State
  • Holiday -- Iowa State vs. UCLA
  • Meineke -- Oklahoma State vs. Minnesota
  • Pinstripe -- TCU vs. Connecticut
  • Heart of Dallas -- Baylor vs. Northwestern

OTHERS

  • Chick-fil-A -- Georgia vs. Clemson
  • Music City -- North Carolina State vs. Mississippi State
  • Liberty -- Tulsa vs. Missouri
  • Compass -- Temple vs. Vanderbilt
  • Independence -- Maryland vs. Arkansas
  • Sun -- Virginia Tech vs. Arizona State
  • Las Vegas -- Boise State vs. Stanford
  • Kraft -- Navy vs. Washington
  • New Mexico -- New Mexico vs. Arizona
  • Belk -- Duke vs. Cincinnati
  • Russell Athletic -- Miami vs. Rutgers
  • Military -- Ohio vs. Marshall (Ohio replaces ACC/Marshall replaces Army)
  • Beef O'Brady's -- Western Kentucky vs. East Carolina (Western Kentucky replaces Big East)
  • Poinsettia -- BYU vs. Nevada
  • Hawaii -- Fresno State vs. Central Florida
  • Armed Forces -- Air Force vs. Houston
  • Potato -- Kent State vs. Utah State
  • GoDaddy -- Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
  • New Orleans -- Louisiana-Monroe vs. Louisiana Tech (Louisiana Tech replaces C-USA)
  • Little Caesar's -- Toledo vs. Middle Tennessee State (MTSU replaces Big Ten)

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