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Sunday, November 13, 2011
Big Ten bowl projections: Week 12

By Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg

With only two weeks left in the regular season, it's time to get down to some serious business. No more excuses about it being too early to start nailing some of our bowl projections.

Week 11 brought us, if not clarity, at least a little better idea of what might happen. Wisconsin and Michigan State look like they have the best paths to the Big Ten title game. Sorry, Spartans fans, but we'd like the Badgers in a rematch on a neutral field after they lost on a Hail Mary on the road.

We also like Nebraska to win out and claim the league's second BCS bid with a 10-2 record. From there, it gets a little trickier.

What to do with Penn State? The Nittany Lions have only one conference loss, but we don't like their chances on the road in Columbus and Madison. So if they lose both of those games, they'd be 8-4 with a three-game losing streak and more importantly, the stain of scandal and a fan base that might not exactly be thrilled to go see them in a distant city. So we're knocking Penn State down in our projections.

The bottom is even more confusing. We like Purdue and Northwestern to reach bowl eligibility now, which would give the Big Ten 10 bowl teams. So there would have to be an at-large opening for the 10th team and some jostling among the bowls for the most attractive picks. The team we think might be the least attractive right now is Illinois, which is in danger of losing a fifth straight game this week against Wisconsin. Illini fans may not be too enthused about traveling to support their team this postseason, especially if they go from 6-0 to 6-6 .

Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO: Wisconsin vs. BCS team

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Nebraska vs. BCS team

Capital One Bowl: Michigan State vs. SEC team

Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. SEC team

Insight Bowl: Ohio State vs. Big 12 team

TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Penn State vs. SEC team

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Iowa vs. Big 12 team

TicketCity Bowl: Northwestern vs. Big 12 team

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Purdue vs. MAC team

At-large: Illinois vs. TBA