Who's going bowling in the Big Ten this year?

August, 11, 2009
8/11/09
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Ever since the Big Ten extended its BCS bowl losing streak to six games in January, I've predicted that the league will produce only one BCS selection from the 2009 season. I'm sticking with the prediction now, but I'm not nearly as sure of it.

As much as the Big Ten has slipped in the eyes of the nation, its teams remain extremely attractive to bowl committees. With enormous and passionate fan bases that are willing to travel, Big Ten teams could get the nod over higher-rated squads from, say, the Pac-10. It'd be awfully hard to turn down a 10-2 team from Penn State or Ohio State.

Here's how I see things shaking out this fall:

OHIO STATE

Bowl bound? Count on it

Best case: A more polished Terrelle Pryor leads Ohio State past USC on Sept. 12 and dominates the Big Ten schedule to earn a spot in the national title game as an undefeated team.

Worst case: If the offense stalls and the defense can't replace several stars, Ohio State will drop three games and fall to the Outback Bowl.

Prediction: Rose Bowl

PENN STATE

Bowl bound? Count on it.

Best case: The Lions fill their holes in the secondary and along the offensive line and capitalize on a favorable schedule to run the table, earning them a spot in the BCS title game.

Worst case: If Penn State can't reload and suffers a key injury or two, especially to star quarterback Daryll Clark, it could lose 4-5 games and fall to the Alamo Bowl.

Prediction: Capital One

IOWA

Bowl bound? Count on it.

Best case: Jewel Hampton makes people forget about Shonn Greene and the Hawkeyes begin a rough road slate by beating Penn State in Happy Valley. Iowa won't go unscathed on the road but ends up sharing the Big Ten title and earning an at-large BCS berth.

Worst case: If Iowa can't overcome the losses of Greene and defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, it could finish 7-5 and slip to the Champs Sports or Insight bowls.

Prediction: Alamo

MICHIGAN STATE

Bowl bound? Count on it.

Best case: The Spartans reload in the offensive backfield and capitalize on a schedule that doesn't include Ohio State to win 10 games.

Worst case: If the offense stalls and Michigan State struggles at the line of scrimmage, the team could backslide to six or seven wins.

Prediction: Outback

NORTHWESTERN

Bowl bound? Count on it

Best case: Mike Kafka becomes a complete quarterback and the Wildcats reload at running back and wide receiver, taking advantage of a favorable schedule to win 9-10 games.

Worst case: If Kafka falters and the defense takes a step back, Northwestern could finish right around the .500 mark.

Prediction: At-large bowl berth (Texas Bowl, Hawaii Bowl, Eagle Bank Bowl)

WISCONSIN

Bowl bound: Count on it

Best case: The quarterback issues sort themselves out and running back John Clay plows through defenders as Wisconsin capitalizes on a soft schedule to win nine games.

Worst case: If the problems under center continue and the Badgers can't fill holes on defense, they could be fighting for their bowl lives again.

Prediction: Champs Sports

ILLINOIS

Bowl bound? Possibly

Best base: Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn lead the Big Ten's most dynamic offense, while linebacker Martez Wilson becomes a star as Illinois notches several signature wins and reaches a January bowl game.

Worst case: If the defense doesn't improve and the team chemistry problems linger, Illinois could miss a bowl again.

Prediction: Insight

MICHIGAN

Bowl bound: Possibly

Best case: Freshman Tate Forcier takes his first step toward stardom and Michigan's defense clicks in Greg Robinson's system, as the Wolverines start 4-0 and finish with eight wins.

Worst case: If the offense falls apart again, Michigan could miss a bowl for the second straight season.

Prediction: Motor City

MINNESOTA

Bowl bound: Possibly

Best case: The Big Ten's most experienced team transitions seamlessly to a new offense, upsets Cal at home on Sept. 20 and becomes the league's surprise team, winning 9-10 games.

Worst case:  If the offensive line doesn't come together and the defense struggles against the run, Minnesota won't go bowling.

Prediction: At-large bowl berth (Texas Bowl, Hawaii Bowl, Eagle Bank Bowl)

PURDUE

Bowl bound: Forget about it

Best case: A strong stable of running backs lead the way on offense and Purdue fills in the gaps on defense to win seven games and head to Detroit.

Worst case: Too many young players and too much transition could keep the Boilers out of the postseason for the second straight year.

Prediction: Home for the holidays

INDIANA

Bowl bound: Forget about it

Best case: A veteran defense finally steps up and lets the offense find its rhythm without Kellen Lewis, as Indiana scratches out 6-7 wins.

Worst case: If Indiana can't stop the run and endures another swell of
injuries, it will be lucky to win five games this fall.

Prediction: Home for the holidays

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