Big Ten: bowl index 2012

For the first time this fall, we can say that bowl projections are actually pretty easy this week.

All the Big Ten regular-season games are done, so we know exactly which teams are going bowling and which teams are not. And unless Wisconsin pulls an upset in the Big Ten championship game, the slotting looks fairly clear as well.

We know this much: If Nebraska wins, it will obviously go to the Rose Bowl. There will definitely be no at-large BCS bid in that scenario. The Capital One Bowl would then likely take Michigan with its No. 2 pick. Northwestern would go to the Outback, while Wisconsin would go to the Gator. Michigan State is a near-lock for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, with Minnesota going to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas and Purdue joining the Gophers in the Lone Star State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

The monkey wrench comes in if Wisconsin were to win Saturday in Indianapolis. Nebraska could still be in range for an at-large BCS bid with a loss, but a potential 10-3 Huskers team would probably need some help -- and for a big bowl to be enamored with the Big Red fan base.

If the Huskers were to sneak into an at-large BCS game, everyone but Michigan would then likely just move up a spot. If Nebraska misses out on the BCS party, the Capital One Bowl says it still can select Michigan ahead of Nebraska despite a 2-win differential. The Cap One would like to avoid a Nebraska repeat, but it also doesn't want a Michigan-Alabama rematch if it comes to that.

But for now, we're sticking with our projection of Nebraska as Big Ten champion, though we reserve the right to change our mind before our official Big Ten title game picks later this week. So the bowl lineup looks like this:

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Northwestern
Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Wisconsin
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 29: Michigan State
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Dec. 28: Minnesota
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1: Purdue
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26: At large (will not filled by Big Ten)
We're two weeks from officially knowing the Big Ten's bowl lineup, but there's still a lot to be decided.

Indiana's postseason hopes are dashed after the Hoosiers suffered their seventh loss Saturday at Penn State. Iowa also won't be going bowling for the first time since 2007 after getting pummeled at Michigan to ensure its first losing regular season since 2000.

Purdue and Michigan State are still alive for bowls, but both teams must win this week to reach the six-victory plateau. The Boilers host Indiana in the Bucket game, while Michigan State visits Minnesota. We're projecting both teams to win their games and squeak into the postseason -- hardly the outcome either the Boilers or the Spartans thought would happen when a promising season kicked off 12 weeks ago.

The Big Ten still has an outside shot at getting a BCS at-large berth, although the Pac-12 strengthened its chances for two BCS teams Saturday and the ACC still has both Florida State and Clemson in line to reach BCS games. But if Michigan wins this week against Ohio State and gets into the top 14, it would be a very appealing team with losses only to Notre Dame, Alabama and Nebraska. Could Nebraska reach the Big Ten title game, lose to Wisconsin in Indy and still remain eligible for at-large selection by staying in the top 14 of the final BCS standings? We don't think the Huskers can, but it's not impossible.

One big change this week: We're elevating Northwestern ahead of Wisconsin. Why? The Outback Bowl can't select a team with two fewer losses than another available Big Ten club. If the Wildcats beat Illinois on Saturday and Wisconsin loses at Penn State -- both reasonable assumptions -- then Northwestern would finish 9-3 and Wisconsin would take a 7-5 record to the Big Ten title game, where it would be an underdog. The Badgers would also potentially end the year with three straight losses and be far less attractive as a bowl team.

If you're curious about the Big Ten's bowl selection procedures, here's a refresher from last year. As you're reading, just remember to flip the Insight Bowl (now Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl) for the Gator Bowl, as the two trade spots this year.

But for now, here's how we see things shaking out.

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Northwestern
Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Wisconsin
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 29: Michigan State
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Dec. 28: Minnesota
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1: Purdue
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26: At large (not filled by Big Ten)
The Big Ten bowl picture is beginning to take shape.

We know Wisconsin will be headed back to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game, and Nebraska took a big step toward Naptown after another second-half rally Saturday against Penn State. All along, we've been projecting the Legends Division champion to the Rose Bowl, so nothing changes after Week 11.

There's still a slight chance Michigan could earn a BCS at-large berth, but a lot would have to go right in other conferences, and Michigan would need a significant boost in the rankings from a win against Ohio State. Right now, we still have the Wolverines heading to the Capital One Bowl for the first time since the 2008 game.

There are no changes with the next four bowl projections -- Outback, Gator, Buffalo Wild Wings and Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. The only change in this week's projections is Purdue's return following a road win against Iowa. Although the Boilers are just 1-5 in Big Ten play, they must only beat 2-8 Illinois on the road and rival Indiana at home to become bowl eligible at 6-6. Right now, we think Danny Hope's crew can get it done.

Indiana's and Iowa's bowl hopes both took major hits Saturday following home losses. The Hoosiers must win at both Penn State and at Purdue to go bowling, while Iowa must beat Michigan (road) and Nebraska (home). We don't see either squad reaching six wins.

Let's get to the latest projections:

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Wisconsin
Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Northwestern
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 29: Michigan State
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Dec. 28: Minnesota
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1: Purdue
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26: At-large (not filled by Big Ten)
With just three weeks to go in the regular season, some teams are running out of time in their quest to make a bowl. As a result, we're running out of eligible teams to put in our bowl projections.

As we wrote earlier on Sunday, the Big Ten could have its smallest bowl contingent (five teams) since 1998, back when the league had only 11 teams. Right now, only Nebraska, Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern are guaranteed to make the postseason. Minnesota and Michigan State each have five wins and will play each other this month, so at least one of those teams will go bowling.

After that, it gets iffy. We are no longer projecting Iowa -- which is 4-5 with games left at Michigan and home against Nebraska -- to make a bowl game. Purdue already has six losses and does not look capable or particularly interested in winning three straight. Indiana is on the cusp at 4-5, but the Hoosiers will need to beat Wisconsin this week or win at Penn State on Nov. 17 to have a chance. So we're holding off on putting them in a bowl for now.

Nebraska, which is in good shape to make it to the Big Ten title game, remains atop our projections. Michigan and Wisconsin hold serve. While the Gator Bowl might not be thrilled about the prospect of taking Northwestern, at this point its only better options might be a 7-5 Michigan State or a 6-6 Minnesota squad. So the Wildcats move up.

Sorry to break your heart, Heart of Dallas Bowl, but we don't have a Big Ten team eligible for your game in our latest projections, which look like this:

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Wisconsin
Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Northwestern
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 29: Michigan State
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Dec. 28: Minnesota
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1: At-large (not filled by Big Ten)
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26: At-large (not filled by Big Ten)

Big Ten bowl projections: Week 10

October, 28, 2012
10/28/12
8:45
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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
It sounds like a broken record, but the Big Ten bowl projections would be a lot more interesting if Ohio State and Penn State were eligible. Two more teams would be in the mix for a league title and a Rose Bowl berth. Ohio State certainly would be considered for a BCS at-large bid if it didn't win the league but finished with, say, one loss.

Alas, the Buckeyes and Lions are staying home for the holidays, and despite a lot of exciting games around the Big Ten in Week 8, the bowl projections don't feature many changes.

We still project Michigan to the Rose Bowl and Wisconsin to the Capital One Bowl. The Badgers are on the verge of clinching a spot in the Big Ten title game, while the winner of Saturday's showdown between Michigan and Nebraska in Lincoln will have the upper hand in the Legends Division. For now, Nebraska is projected to the Outback -- the Huskers went to the Capital One last year -- but things will change if Big Red beats Michigan.

Northwestern and Iowa flip in the projections after the Hawkeyes' poor showing on their home field against Penn State. Michigan State sits at 4-4 and has some work to do simply to become bowl-eligible. Like the Spartans, Iowa needs two more wins but still has games left against both Indiana schools. Both Purdue and Minnesota are looking like shaky bowl picks at 0-3 in league play, but for now, we'll keep the Boilers and Gophers in the projections. The two teams meet this week at TCF Bank Stadium, and the winner should be in decent shape to make the postseason. Indiana's postseason hopes took a major blow as the Hoosiers squandered a late lead against Navy.

Between Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue and Minnesota, it's very possible one or more misses the postseason. We'll learn a lot in the next two weeks.

Here's our latest stab at projecting the postseason:
  • Rose Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan
  • Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Wisconsin
  • Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska
  • Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Northwestern
  • Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 29: Iowa
  • Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Dec. 28: Michigan State
  • Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1: Minnesota
  • Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26: Purdue

Oh, Gene Smith. If only Ohio State had self-imposed a bowl ban in 2011 before the NCAA did (for 2012), there's a good chance the unbeaten Buckeyes would be headed to some BCS game, perhaps the big one Jan. 7 in Miami.

As it stands, Ohio State is out of the mix (along with Penn State), and Michigan, despite two losses to top-10 teams, looks like the Big Ten's best bet to reach the Rose Bowl. The Wolverines have been dominant in their first two Big Ten games, and enter a crucial Legends stretch against Michigan State and Nebraska. Right now, Brady Hoke's squad clearly is the team to beat.

Wisconsin makes a nice move in the projections after dismantling Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium. Following back-to-back trips to Pasadena, the Badgers are pegged for a familiar bowl site -- Orlando, Fla. -- in the Capital One Bowl. Nebraska drops a spot in the projections, partly because of its struggles and partly because it visited the Capital One Bowl last season. Iowa, meanwhile, moves up after its road upset of Michigan State. Although Iowa and Northwestern could finish with similar records, Iowa's larger fan base gets it the nod to the Gator Bowl.

Michigan State, our preseason Rose Bowl pick, tumbles to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas following its third home loss of the season. The Spartans could be looking at more defeats, as their upcoming schedule (Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska) only gets tougher.

We're keeping both Minnesota and Purdue in the bowl projections for now, but both teams have some work to do. The Gophers certainly could get to six wins with MarQueis Gray, but the senior quarterback's health remains a question mark. Purdue is an absolute mess and could have a tough time winning three more times. Indiana isn't in the projections just yet but has shown impressive fight in Big Ten play and has some winnable games left.

Here's our latest way-too-early stab at projecting the postseason:

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan

Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Wisconsin

Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska

Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Iowa

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 29: Northwestern

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Dec. 28: Michigan State

Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1: Minnesota

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26: Purdue


Big Ten bowl projections: Week 7

October, 7, 2012
10/07/12
12:00
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If only Ohio State were eligible for the postseason, our bowl projections would be a lot easier. We could just slot the Buckeyes into the Rose Bowl and work from there.

But it's not that easy. While the Buckeyes look like the class of the Big Ten at this point, they can't go to Pasadena. Somebody has to go. We're just not entirely sure who that is.

One thing is clear: After Nebraska got smoked 63-38 by the Buckeyes, the Huskers are dropping from the top spot in our bowl projections. Not that the Huskers can't get there; they still get the benefit of playing Michigan at home, and their toughest remaining road game is against a far-from-impressive Michigan State club. But you don't lose the way Nebraska did and stay on top in these kinds of projections.

That's why we're going with ... Michigan. Yes, two-loss Michigan. The Wolverines' defeats came against a pair of top-10 teams. Their Big Ten-opening 44-13 win at Purdue was mighty impressive, and the defense seems to be improving by the week. The maize and blue are not a no-doubt choice by any means, but at least they're a choice.

The Boilermakers take a big tumble in our projections after the humbling home loss. Northwestern drops a notch as well. Although Wisconsin wasn't great against Illinois until late, the Badgers look like a safer choice to take the Leaders Division spot in Indianapolis, so they move up.

We'd be lying if we said we had any clear idea of the bowl pecking order right now, but here's our latest stab at projecting the postseason ...

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska
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: Purdue
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26: Minnesota
With Big Ten play now in full swing, the postseason bowl picture is much clearer.

Well, OK, not really. But at least we have some head-to-head play to base things on, even if things are as murky as ever. Nebraska hangs on to our top spot after hanging on against Wisconsin at home. Northwestern takes another step up with its 5-0 start, while Michigan State falls after its second loss of the year (both at home).

Not much else has changed, except that Minnesota flip-flops with Iowa after the Hawkeyes dominated the Gophers in Iowa City. The No. 2 bowl slot is still anyone's guess, but we'll stick with Michigan -- and no at-large BCS bid -- for now.

Here's our latest stab at projecting the bowls ...

Rose Bowl (Jan. 1): Nebraska
Capital One Bowl (Jan. 1): Michigan
Outback Bowl (Jan. 1): Purdue
Gator Bowl (Jan. 1): Northwestern
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Dec. 29): Michigan State
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (Dec. 28): Wisconsin
TicketCity Bowl (Jan. 1): Iowa
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (Dec. 26): Minnesota
So ... how about you, Nebraska?

We need to project somebody from the Big Ten to win the league and make the Rose Bowl. Michigan State's passing offense is too anemic. Michigan is too sloppy and still too reliant on Denard Robinson. Ohio State is ineligible. Wisconsin still has offensive issues. Northwestern and Minnesota are both 4-0 but probably not ready. Purdue would have to take a major step up.

So why not Nebraska, which we know at least has a seriously potent offense? We're not projecting Nebraska to the Rose Bowl because of anything that happened against Idaho State, mind you (well, except maybe for Rex Burkhead's return). There just isn't a better candidate right now.

The Huskers take the top spot for now. Northwestern, Purdue and Minnesota are all trending upward, while Iowa is hanging on by the thinnest of threads. Illinois is out after its 52-24 loss at home to Louisiana Tech.

Our latest attempt at picking the bowls (at least it's officially fall now):

Rose Bowl (Jan. 1): Nebraska
Capital One Bowl (Jan. 1): Michigan
Outback Bowl (Jan. 1): Purdue
Gator Bowl (Jan. 1): Michigan State
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Dec. 29): Northwestern
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (Dec. 28): Wisconsin
TicketCity Bowl (Jan. 1): Minnesota
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (Dec. 26): Iowa
Heaven help us.

We need to somehow project where every Big Ten team is going bowling today, even though we can't even tell you for sure who the best teams are in either division. All Saturday did was make the picture much cloudier, as the team we've been pegging for the Rose Bowl -- Michigan State -- had a dreadful performance against Notre Dame.

Ohio State likely will be the top Big Ten team in The Associated Press poll this week, but of course, the Buckeyes aren't even eligible for a bowl. So where does that leave us?

Well, since no other team has taken the bull by the horns, we might as well stick with our preseason pick of the Spartans winning the Big Ten, even if that seems much less plausible today. We bump up Northwestern (3-0) and Purdue, which is looking pretty good in the Leaders Division race. Wisconsin, which is a missed kick away from being 1-2, falls a couple of more notches. And 3-0 Minnesota stays in the bowl picture after another win.

The latest stab in the increasing darkness:

Rose Bowl (Jan. 1): Michigan State
Capital One Bowl (Jan. 1): Michigan
Outback Bowl (Jan. 1): Nebraska
Gator Bowl (Jan. 1): Purdue
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Dec. 29): Northwestern
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (Dec. 28): Wisconsin
TicketCity Bowl (Jan. 1): Iowa
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (Dec. 26): Illinois
At-large (TBA): Minnesota

 
After a Saturday filled with carnage for the Big Ten, it's kind of hard to think about bowls.

But, hey, things will get better, and bowls will still be filled by Big Ten teams -- and their massive fan bases -- in December and January. And it's our job to try and forecast them, even at this ridiculously early date.

Following troubling losses by Nebraska and Wisconsin, we no longer project a league team gaining a BCS at-large bid. For now. So that bumps everybody down a notch. The big movers this week are Northwestern, which improved to 2-0 by beating Vanderbilt, and Minnesota, which looked good enough against New Hampshire to convince us it can grab at least two Big Ten wins and get bowl eligible. Which all of a sudden doesn't look too hard to do in this league.

Iowa and Illinois took a tumble after poor showings on Saturday, while Indiana is inching closer after a 2-0 start.

The rundown:

Rose Bowl (Jan. 1): Michigan State
Capital One Bowl (Jan. 1): Michigan
Outback Bowl (Jan. 1): Nebraska
Gator Bowl (Jan. 1): Wisconsin
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Dec. 29): Purdue
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (Dec. 28): Northwestern
TicketCity Bowl (Jan. 1): Iowa
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (Dec. 26): Illinois
At-large (TBA): Minnesota
One week of games is in the books, and we think we have all the answers. Or not.

It's time for bowl projects as we try to look way, way into the future based on limited evidence. These are fun and will change throughout the season, so don't take them too seriously (shameless ploy for less hate mail).

OK, Michigan State is still feeling Rose-y after its win against Boise State. Michigan got completely outclassed by Alabama, and while the Wolverines won't face a team like the Tide the rest of the season, their weaknesses and lack of depth were exposed Saturday night. They fall down the pecking order a bit. Nebraska enters the BCS mix as an at-large, while Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois are Florida-bound. Ohio State and Penn State both are ineligible for the postseason, while both Minnesota and Indiana need to show us more to get in the mix.

Unlike the preseason projections, these ones are a combined effort and will be the rest of the way.

Without further ado ...

Rose Bowl (Jan. 1): Michigan State
Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 3): Nebraska
Capital One Bowl (Jan. 1): Wisconsin
Outback Bowl (Jan. 1): Michigan
Gator Bowl (Jan. 1): Illinois
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Dec. 29): Purdue
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (Dec. 28): Iowa
TicketCity Bowl (Jan. 1): Northwestern
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (Dec. 26): Non-Big Ten team

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