We all know the Big Ten is a mess this year. The best team (Ohio State) is ineligible, as is possibly team two (Penn State, we’ll find out Saturday). Teams expected to compete for divisional titles (Michigan State, Purdue) have underachieved and others just don’t pass the eye test (Minnesota, Iowa). Even decent teams (Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin) have had bad losses.
Yep, this is the season you write off as forgettable — except if you’re a bowl game. The Big Ten has eight designated bowl slots. Last year the league had 10 eligible teams. This year, it might not even reach five. That could cost those bowls some stature and cash.
It’s possible, perhaps likely, that only Wisconsin will reach a bowl from the Leaders Division. Sure Indiana has a chance with a pair of league wins, but expecting two more wins is a stretch. Illinois already has too many losses and Purdue (winless in the Big Ten) must win out to earn a bid.
Looking at the Legends Division, three teams are guaranteed bowl berths: Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern. Minnesota and Michigan State need one more win, but they play one another in the season finale. Minnesota has its best chance at a sixth win this week at Illinois, a team the Gophers actually have beaten the last two years. Michigan State plays host to Northwestern on Nov. 17 before closing with Minnesota.
Iowa (4-5) has earned bowl eligibility 11 straight years but anything less than two wins means that streak ends miserably. The Hawkeyes end their season with Michigan and Nebraska. You can’t expect good results against decent competition when you have yet to see good execution.
So how does the Big Ten shape up? With a home victory over Denard-less Michigan, Nebraska holds the Legends Division advantage. Northwestern already has seven wins, but a 29-28 loss to Nebraska will keep the Wildcats from the Big Ten title game. It’s probable that both Michigan State and Minnesota end up in bowls.
Iowa and Indiana appear set for 5-7 seasons, and both have nobody to blame but themselves. Each lost close home games to MAC teams (Iowa 32-31 to Central Michigan; Indiana 41-39 to Ball State). Both have combined for seven losses of four points or less this year. Both could bite someone above them, but nobody’s betting on it.
As for Iowa State, the Cyclones are one win shy of earning their third bowl trip in four years under Paul Rhoads. Iowa State plays back-to-back road games (Texas, Kansas) before closing with West Virginia. Two wins could put the Cyclones in Phoenix or San Diego. One win could put them in Texas.
BCS Championship — Alabama vs. Oregon
Still pass the eye test as nation’s best teams
Rose — Wisconsin vs. Oregon State
A rematch, yes, but interesting nonetheless
Fiesta — Kansas State vs. Notre Dame
Would be a nice semifinal
Sugar — Georgia vs. Oklahoma
Two long-time, successful coaches who have fans on their backs
Orange — Florida State vs. Louisville
Once considered frontrunners for the Big 12 Conference
BIG TEN BOWLS
Capital One — LSU vs. Michigan
The Les Miles bowl, have a great day
Outback — Florida vs. Nebraska
Touchdown Tommie Frazier … wait that was 17 years ago? Wow
Gator — South Carolina vs. Michigan State
Who’s the better NFL prospect: Jadeveon Clowney or William Gholston
Buffalo Wild Wings — Northwestern vs. West Virginia
Teams would score more in this bowl than against one another in a basketball game
Meineke Car Care — Minnesota vs. TCU
Jerry Kill vs. Gary Patterson: A down-home country Christmas
BIG 12 BOWLS
Cotton — Texas vs. Texas A&M
No bowl would match the intensity of this match-up, at least in the stands
Alamo — Texas Tech vs. USC
Tommy Tuberville finally gets his shot at USC, eight years too late
Holiday — Iowa State vs. UCLA
New York one year, San Diego the next. A charmed life for the Cyclones
Pinstripe — Oklahoma State vs. Pittsburgh
Nobody will question Mike Gundy’s age or gender in the Big Apple
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