Big Ten Bowl Outlook
November is finally here, and with it comes rampant anticipation for bowl season. While there are still four weeks left in the regular season, we have begun to shift focus towards the postseason. For the first time ever, four Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 10 of the College Football Playoff rankings, setting the league up nicely for several significant bowl appearances. The Big Ten currently has ties to nine different games, but a playoff berth is likely for the conference which could put as many as 10 teams into bowl games.
In this article, I will list the bowl game and the team projected to participate in it, as well as a brief description of why I chose that team for that spot.
College Football Playoff at the Fiesta Bowl – No. 3 Michigan (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten)
The Wolverines were safely into the top four in the initial rankings, and they have looked like the most dominant team in the Big Ten all season. Their biggest test remaining is a trip to Columbus in the last week of the season, but if they clear that hurdle it’s full speed ahead to Glendale barring a big upset in the conference championship game.
Rose Bowl – No. 12 Penn State (6-2, 4-1)
This may seem far-fetched for a team that lost to Pitt and got blown out by Michigan, but the Nittany Lions still have a significant shot to play in Pasadena. In the event of a Big Ten team making the playoff (Michigan), the Rose Bowl will take the second-highest ranked team from the conference. Penn State is currently the fifth-ranked team in the Big Ten, but a Nebraska loss at Ohio State, an Ohio State loss at Michigan and a Wisconsin loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game could springboard Penn State into that second spot. The Nittany Lions and Wisconsin are the only ones without a ranked team remaining on the schedule.
Orange Bowl – No. 6 Ohio State (7-1, 4-1)
The Buckeyes will have everything to play for in their matchup against Michigan, and even if they lose, their strong road wins at Oklahoma and Wisconsin will all but lock them up for a spot in the New Year’s Six. If they find a way to conquer the Wolverines, they could rise up to take Michigan’s spot in the Fiesta Bowl.
Outback Bowl – No. 10 Nebraska (7-1, 4-1)
The Cornhuskers have been a mild surprise this season, starting 7-0 before losing in overtime at Wisconsin last week. Unfortunately, Nebraska faces another tough test this weekend in Columbus and a loss would be a serious hit to its New Year’s Six hopes.
Holiday Bowl – Minnesota (6-2, 3-2)
An eight-win season is entirely plausible for the Gophers, and if they can pull an upset over Wisconsin or Nebraska, we could see them poke into the rankings.
TaxSlayer Bowl – No. 8 Wisconsin (6-2, 3-2)
To clarify, the Badgers are only here on a technicality. They are much more deserving of an appearance in the above two bowls than the teams listed, but they are currently ineligible because they have participated in both games at least once within the last six years. It will be interesting to see if the Outback or Holiday Bowls will waive their requirements to set up the best matchup possible.
Pinstripe Bowl – Iowa (5-3, 3-2)
This season has gone a little differently than last year’s 12-0 start and Rose Bowl berth. The Hawkeyes do still have a chance to pick up some quality wins against Penn State and Michigan to slide into a better bowl game.
Foster Farms Bowl – Indiana (4-4, 2-3)
Back-to-back bowl appearances are well within reach for the Hoosiers, as games against Rutgers and Purdue still remain on the schedule. Indiana would be ineligible for the Pinstripe Bowl because of last year’s appearance.
Quick Lane Bowl – Northwestern (4-4, 3-2)
A disastrous 0-2 start put bowl eligibility immediately in question for Northwestern, but the Wildcats have responded nicely over the last six weeks. Victories over Purdue and Illinois should clinch a bowl berth for the seventh time in the last nine years.
Heart of Dallas Bowl – Maryland (5-3, 2-3)
Five wins look a lot better than one, which was all the Terrapins were able to muster up last year in conference play. Maryland better hope for a win against Rutgers as its other three remaining games are against top 10 opponents.
Didn’t Make the Cut – Michigan State, Rutgers, Purdue, Illinois
Tom Shively is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.