- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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This much is known: Some Big Ten team will show up in Pasadena on Jan. 1.
Which team it will be remains to be seen, but Big Red could end up smelling the roses after its big home win against Michigan. Nebraska is back at the top of the bowl projections after taking control of the Legends Division, at least for now. The Huskers still have big hurdles the next two weeks against Michigan State (road) and Penn State (home), but they have rebounded nicely from the Ohio State debacle and could round into form for the stretch run.
Losses by both Michigan and Wisconsin on Saturday removed the slightest hope of the Big Ten sending two teams to BCS bowls. With Ohio State and Penn State bowl-ineligible because of NCAA sanctions, the Big Ten's streak of multiple BCS entries will end at seven years.
Michigan, meanwhile, drops a spot to the Capital One Bowl, where it last played on Jan. 1, 2008, in coach Lloyd Carr's final game. We're keeping Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl for now, but if the Badgers don't figure out things on offense in a hurry, they soon could slip.
Northwestern could finish with a better record than Michigan State, but it sounds like the Gator Bowl would rather have the Spartans than the Wildcats, so we project Mark Dantonio's squad to Jacksonville. Northwestern is headed to the valley of the sun, while Minnesota took a big step toward bowl eligibility by pummeling Purdue on Saturday.
Iowa's bowl hopes are hanging by a thread, and Purdue's appear dashed despite a soft closing schedule. Indiana needs three more wins to go bowling for the first time since 2007, but there's hope in Bloomington after the Hoosiers claimed their first Big Ten win since 2010.
For now, we're keeping Iowa ahead of Minnesota in the projections -- the Hawkeyes won the head-to-head meeting and travel a lot better -- and Indiana on the outside looking in. But things could change after the Iowa-Indiana game this week.
We no longer have the Big Ten filling its tie-in at the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Eight bowl teams definitely seems like a stretch for such a bad league.
Here are the latest projections ...
Rose Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Wisconsin
Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan State
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 29: Northwestern
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Dec. 28: Iowa
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1: Minnesota
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