Big Ten: Bowl projections 0814
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten was dark this weekend, as regular-season play wrapped up Nov. 22, but the league's bowl picture appeared to get a whole lot brighter.
As Big Ten players, coaches and fans quacked at their TV sets on Saturday night, the Oregon Ducks proceeded to pound Oregon State in the Civil War. The Oregon State loss appears to clear a path for Ohio State to earn the final BCS at-large spot. USC still needs to beat rival UCLA and earn the Pac-10's BCS tiebreaker, which likely puts the Trojans in the Rose Bowl against Penn State.
Should the Trojans prevail, the final BCS at-large berth would come down to Ohio State and Boise State. Despite a worse record (10-2 vs. 12-0), the big-name Buckeyes likely would get the nod, giving the Big Ten two BCS entries for the fourth straight season. It also would move all the other Big Ten bowl-eligible teams up a notch. The Motor City wouldn't be filled by a Big Ten team for the fifth time in seven seasons.
To recap the Big Ten bowl landscape:
Bowl eligible (7): Penn State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten), Ohio State (10-2, 7-1), Michigan State (9-3, 6-2), Northwestern (9-3, 5-3), Iowa (8-4, 5-3), Minnesota (7-5, 3-5), Wisconsin (7-5, 3-5)
Staying home (4): Illinois (5-7, 3-5), Michigan (3-8, 2-5), Purdue (3-8, 1-6), Indiana (3-8, 1-6)
Big Ten bowl tie-ins (in order): Rose/BCS, Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports, Insight, Motor City
Now for the team-by-team projections:
The Nittany Lions didn't want a Rose Bowl rematch against Oregon State, and they likely won't get one. Penn State miniscule hopes for a trip to the BCS title game also vanished Saturday with victories by Oklahoma, Florida, Alabama and others. Head coach Joe Paterno and his team will head to Pasadena for the first time since Jan. 1, 1995.
The Buckeyes were the biggest beneficiaries of Oregon State's loss, which should put them in a BCS bowl for the fourth consecutive season. The Fiesta Bowl is the likeliest destination, where a reunion with Texas most probably awaits Jim Tressel's crew. Should the BCS throw a curveball Sunday night and pick Boise State, Ohio State would head to the Capital One Bowl.
Possibilities: Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, Capital One
Here's another team that cheered when Oregon beat Oregon State. Should the Big Ten get two BCS bowl entries, the Spartans are virtually assured of a New Year's Day trip to Florida. It would be hard to see the Capital One Bowl bypass Michigan State for Northwestern or Iowa, two teams the Spartans beat. If Ohio State somehow gets left out, Michigan State probably will head to the Outback Bowl.
Possibilities: Capital One, Outback, Alamo
Prediction: Capital One
Athletic director Jim Phillips is working hard to convince bowl representatives that Northwestern's history of traveling to bowl games trumps the school's lousy home attendance. If his pitch works, Northwestern could go to the Outback Bowl as long as Ohio State gets a BCS at-large berth. Despite a better record and a head-to-head victory, Northwestern will have a hard time beating out Iowa in the bowl selection order.
Possibilities: Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports
Oregon State's loss might put Iowa into the Outback Bowl, which would be an amazing end to a season that looked extremely shaky in early October. The Hawkeyes are a hot team with the nation's best running back (Shonn Greene) and a large, willing-to-travel fan base. Those factors should help bowl reps look past an 8-4 record.
Possibilities: Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports
The Badgers are probably least affected by Oregon State's loss. They seemed pegged for the Insight Bowl after four consecutive postseason trips to Florida. Wisconsin still could be ticketed for Tempe even if the Big Ten gets two BCS entries. But it will be hard for the Champs Sports Bowl to pass up the Badgers in favor of Minnesota, which lost four straight games to close the regular season. The Alamo Bowl isn't seriously considering Wisconsin.
Possibilities: Alamo, Champs Sports, Insight
Prediction: Champs Sports
Spending Christmas in Detroit with a matchup against undefeated Ball State team in the Motor City Bowl didn't seem too appealing for the Gophers, who likely were saved by Oregon State's loss. If the Big Ten gets two BCS entries, Minnesota will be heading to a much warmer climate, either Arizona or Florida. Should Ohio State get left out of the BCS bowl mix, the Gophers are going to Motown.
Possibilities: Champs Sports, Insight, Motor City