Big Ten: Motor City Bowl

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

It's not easy to find corporate sponsors these days, especially in Detroit. The Motor City Bowl knows this, and the game's organizers are looking beyond the usual suspects for a title sponsor. 

Bowl officials are talking with both Little Ceasars about bowl sponsorship, and a decision could come in the next few weeks. Former sponsors Chrysler and General Motors have dropped out because of bankruptcy issues, while Ford remains a sponsor.

Motor City Bowl CEO George Perles, the former Michigan State coach, told WWJ radio that the bowl's name would change to the Little Caesars Pizza Pizza Bowl. I'm sorry, but I can't type that without smiling and thinking of those Little Ceasars commercials from the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

Needless to say, this would be awesome. 

The Motor City Bowl pits a middling Big Ten team against the MAC champion, though only two Big Ten squads have appeared in the game since the tie-in agreement began in 2002. The Big Ten's agreement with the Motor City Bowl expires after the 2009 season. 

This year's game is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Dec. 26. Motor City Bowl executive director Ken Hoffman tells the Free Press that the game could be played without a title sponsor, though it's likely one will be found.

Big Ten lunch links

May, 28, 2009

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Let me explain something to you. I am not Mr. Lebowski. You're Mr. Lebowski. I'm the Dude. So, that's what you call me. You know, that, or his dudeness, or duder, or El Duderino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing. 

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The ACC recently made a change to its bowl lineup, swapping the Humanitarian Bowl for the much-closer GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The Big Ten is locked into its bowl agreements through the 2009 season, but the tie-ins will undoubtedly be discussed at next week's meeting of league coaches and athletic directors in Chicago. 

There's some mounting concern about two Big Ten bowl tie-ins, the Capital One Bowl and Champs Sports Bowl, both of which are held at Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando. At issue is the stadium and plans for renovations, which the Big Ten and SEC desperately want but might not get in the current economic climate. 

[Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan] said the SEC and Big Ten have grown tired of waiting for the renovation -- especially with other cities such as Dallas, with a new $1 billion stadium, looking to muscle in on Orlando's bowl positioning.

"The first thing the commissioners told me was 'I thought you guys had approved renovation of the stadium. I don't think you guys realize how important this is for us,'" Hogan said. " ... I didn't expect to be shocked as I was about how pointed and concerned our existing sponsors are right now."

It would be tough to see the Big Ten dump the Orlando games, especially the Capital One, considered by many to be the most prestigious non-BCS bowl. But it's always a good idea to evaluate the league's entire bowl lineup.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen thinks the Big Ten should make at least one change, swapping either the Insight or Motor City bowls for another game, or possibly adding a game. Asmussen argues that the Big Ten could benefit from a bowl game located closer to the league footprint, or perhaps a second bowl in tourist-friendly California. 

I doubt anyone has a major problem with the Outback or Alamo bowls. Those are solid games, so let's not waste time there.

The Big Ten's decision to trade the Sun and Music City bowls for the Champs Sports and Insight looked good at the time, and despite the stadium issues, the Champs Sports is a solid destination for mid-level Big Ten teams. I love the Sun Bowl and the Pac-10 matchup and would be thrilled if it came back, though El Paso is a tough place to travel to. The Insight Bowl is in a great location, but doesn't provide the exposure of other comparable bowl games.

The Motor City is an interesting dilemma for the Big Ten. Keep in mind the MAC-Big Ten relationship does help with nonconference scheduling, especially in this era of playing FCS teams. Playing a MAC team in the postseason helps this relationship. But few Big Ten fan bases like the idea of downtown Detroit in December.

On the other hand, it's rare when a Big Ten team actually plays in the Motor City Bowl. Only two teams have appeared in the game since the agreement began before the 2002 season.    

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The 2008 Big Ten season officially ends tonight as No. 10 Ohio State faces No. 3 Texas in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, but it's never too early to take a look at 2009. Here are five fearless predictions for the Big Ten next fall. 

1. The Big Ten mercifully gets only one BCS entry -- After sending two teams to BCS bowls for four straight years, the Big Ten is limited to only one participant (Rose Bowl). The league's recent big-game flops turn off the bowl selection folks, but the Big Ten gets a more reasonable bowl lineup and finishes above .500. 

2. Penn State repeats, JoePa returns -- The Nittany Lions fix their secondary and produce one of the nation's most dominating defenses en route to a second consecutive league title. Penn State capitalizes on a favorable home schedule (Ohio State, Iowa, Minnesota), and head coach Joe Paterno opts to return for a 45th season. 

3. Michigan reaches the postseason (barely) -- The Wolverines might be making the short drive to Detroit for the Motor City Bowl, but they won't miss the postseason for the second straight year. Freshman Tate Forcier stabilizes the quarterback spot and Michigan finds a way to win six or seven games. 

4. Northwestern wins a bowl game -- The Wildcats should have ended their drought this year against Missouri, but they'll come through next fall in the Champs Sports or Insight bowl. It marks Northwestern's first postseason victory since the 1949 Rose Bowl. 

5. Ax falls on at least one coach -- After a rare offseason with no forced coaching changes, the Big Ten sees some turnover in 2009. Indiana's Bill Lynch can't afford another losing season, and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema needs to show improvement following an extremely disappointing 2008 campaign. 

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Last year, Purdue fans had an excellent reason to watch the Motor City Bowl. Their team played in the game.

The Boilermakers are staying home for the bowl season this year, but the Purdue faithful still should tune in for tonight's Motor City Bowl matchup between Florida Atlantic and Central Michigan (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET).


Florida Atlantic offensive coordinator Gary Nord will call his final game for the Owls before taking the same position on Danny Hope's staff at Purdue. Nord has been doing double duty in recent weeks, helping Florida Atlantic prepare for the bowl while taking recruiting trips for Purdue. He also has consulted Boilermakers coaches about Central Michigan, a team Purdue has faced three times since the start of the 2007 season.

Purdue fans can get a sense of Nord's play-calling style in tonight's game. He will stick with the spread offense in West Lafayette, though he'll put his own spin on the system. Tonight should provide a sneak preview of what's to come for the Boilers in 2009.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

As Ohio State inches closer to a BCS at-large berth, the Motor City Bowl inches farther away from having a Big Ten representative in Detroit on Dec. 26. 

Unfortunately for Motor City Bowl executive director Ken Hoffman, this scenario has been the rule rather than the exception.

Since becoming a Big Ten tie-in bowl in 2002, the Motor City has hosted only two Big Ten squads, Northwestern in 2003 and Purdue last year. Should Ohio State reach a BCS bowl as expected, the Big Ten won't have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill its Motor City spot for the fifth time in seven seasons. 

"We would certainly like to have Big Ten representation here," Hoffman said Thursday. "That's why we signed the contract with the Big Ten. We share the same geography as the Mid-American Conference and the same fan base, essentially. But the good news is we have lots of other, positive, very strong options, and that's what we'll do this year if Ohio State gets a BCS at-large spot."

One of those options appears to be Rutgers. If Ohio State goes to the BCS and Rutgers beats Louisville tonight, the Motor City Bowl could swap choices with the International Bowl and take the Scarlet Knights. It would set up a possible matchup with No. 12 Ball State, which plays in the MAC Championship Game on Friday night (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET). 

Since 2002, the Big East has placed the same number of teams as the Big Ten in the Motor City Bowl, with Boston College going in 2002 and Connecticut in 2004. 

"We have a verbal agreement with [the Big East]," Hoffman said. "We're going to have to see what the results are of the game tonight and Saturday, but there's a very good chance that it could happen."

If Ohio State is somehow left out of the BCS, the Motor City Bowl would select the seventh Big Ten team, most likely Minnesota. 

The lack of Big Ten representation in the Motor City Bowl over the years doesn't concern Hoffman, who noted that last season the Big Ten had 10 bowl-eligible teams and two (Iowa and Northwestern) stayed home. 

"It's just one of those situations," Hoffman said. "This year was 30 percent fewer bowl-eligible teams out of the Big Ten. Next year could be 10 again. You just don't know from year to year." 

Posted by'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.

Possibilities: Rose

Prediction: Rose


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

Prediction: Fiesta


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

Prediction: Alamo


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

Prediction: Outback


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

Prediction: Insight

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The celebration is on in Columbus and throughout the Big Ten footprint after Oregon State stumbled last night in the Civil War. The Beavers' defense evidently didn't care about reaching the Rose Bowl. Mercy.

Oregon State's loss likely will give Ohio State a BCS at-large berth, giving the Big Ten two teams in BCS bowls for the fourth consecutive year. The final at-large berth likely will come down to Ohio State and Boise State, and though the Broncos are undefeated, it'll be hard to see one of the big bowls turn down the Buckeyes, their enormous fan base and their famous backfield (Terrelle Pryor and Chris "Beanie" Wells). Ohio State would get a chance to redeem itself after back-to-back national title flops.

Penn State also celebrated Oregon State's loss, not wanting a Rose Bowl rematch after dismantling the Beavers on Sept. 6. An underappreciated Nittany Lions squad is out of the national title mix but should get a chance to make a national statement against USC in Pasadena. Be careful what you wish for. The Trojans are playing as well as any team in the country. It'll be a good one.

The Oregon State loss also moves Michigan State into the mix for the Capital One Bowl and sets up an interesting decision for the Outback Bowl between Northwestern and Iowa. Northwestern has the better overall record (9-3) and beat Iowa in Iowa City, but the Hawkeyes are hot and boast a sizable traveling fan base.

Minnesota also has to be thrilled. Oregon State's win likely saves the Gophers from a trip to Detroit for the Motor City Bowl and a matchup with undefeated Ball State. If the Big Ten gets two BCS entries, it won't fill its spot in Detroit (and most likely avoid an embarrassment against Ball State).

Big Ten rooting interests today

November, 29, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Here's a quick reminder of whom you should be rooting for today, depending on your favorite Big Ten team. There will be a lot of Oregon Ducks love out there. 

Penn State wants: Oregon to beat Oregon State (better Rose Bowl matchup). To clear hurdles to the BCS title game, the Lions want Auburn to beat Alabama, Florida State to beat Florida, Oklahoma State to beat Oklahoma, Notre Dame to beat USC and Baylor to beat Texas Tech.

Ohio State wants: Oregon to beat Oregon State (opening up BCS at-large berth). It wouldn't hurt to have USC lose as well to Notre Dame.

Michigan State wants: Oregon to beat Oregon State (virtually ensures spot in Capital One Bowl).

Northwestern wants: Oregon to beat Oregon State (opens up possible Outback Bowl spot).

Iowa wants: Oregon to beat Oregon State (opens up possible Outback Bowl spot).

Wisconsin wants: Not much. The Badgers are probably going to the Insight Bowl no matter what happens today.

Minnesota wants: Oregon to beat Oregon State (opens up BCS at-large spot for Ohio State and keeps the Gophers out of Detroit and the Motor City Bowl).  

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten bowl picture is fairly clear with the regular season wrapped up. Barring a string of unlikely events, Penn State will be headed to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. The other Big Ten teams -- and the Nittany Lions, for that matter -- all are hoping Oregon knocks off Oregon State, clearing a path for Ohio State to earn a BCS at-large berth. Should the Beavers fall, the rest of the Big Ten probably moves up. If the Beavers prevail, the Big Ten probably stays put.

Any questions?

I thought Oregon State would lose to Arizona, and if the Wildcats had bothered to, you know, play defense in the final two minutes, it would have come true. Now that the Beavers have survived, they appear in good shape to beat Oregon.

To recap the situation:

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

Here are the team-by-team projections:

(Read full post)

Big Ten bowl picture: Week 13

November, 21, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Here's a quick reminder of where Big Ten teams stand in the bowl mix heading into the final weekend of the regular season. If you want two Big Ten teams in BCS bowls, you might want to purchase an Arizona shirt or learn the lines to "Bear Down, Arizona."

Big Ten bowl tie-ins (in order of selection): Rose/BCS, Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports, Insight, Motor City


No. 8 Penn State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) -- It's pretty simple for the Nittany Lions. Beat Michigan State and go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since Jan. 1, 1995. Lose to the Spartans, and it's probably the Capital One Bowl. Penn State acknowledged after the Iowa loss that its national title hopes were essentially gone, but Saturday provides a great opportunity to finish strong.

No. 10 Ohio State (9-2, 6-1) -- The Buckeyes will be scoreboard watching more than any other Big Ten team, provided they can handle archrival Michigan. A win against the Wolverines combined with a Penn State loss sends Ohio State to Pasadena for the first time since 1997. Even if Penn State wins, Ohio State has a chance for a BCS at-large berth but likely would need Oregon State to drop one of its last two games, clearing the way for USC to reach the Rose Bowl. Should Ohio State lose, it will fall to the Capital One or Outback bowl. 

No. 15 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) -- Perhaps the most interesting bowl scenario calls for a Michigan State upset of Penn State and an Ohio State win against Michigan. The Buckeyes would go to the Rose Bowl because of the head-to-head edge, but Michigan State could be in the mix for a BCS at-large berth if Oregon State stumbles down the stretch. In this case, it might come down to Michigan State against a second non-BCS team (Boise State, BYU) for the final at-large spot. A Spartans loss in State College puts them in the Capital One or Outback bowl.

Northwestern (8-3, 4-3) -- The best-case scenario for Northwestern would be a win Saturday against Illinois, an Iowa loss to Minnesota and two Big Ten teams reaching BCS bowls. At 9-3, the Wildcats would get serious consideration for the Outback Bowl. If Iowa wins, the Hawkeyes likely will jump Northwestern on the bowl pecking order. Northwestern's most realistic options remain Alamo, Champs Sports or Insight.

Iowa (7-4, 4-3) -- The Hawkeyes should root against Oregon State just as hard as Ohio State. If two Big Ten teams reach BCS bowls and Iowa wins its regular-season finale at Minnesota, it would be in excellent shape for the Outback Bowl. It's amazing to think about, given where Iowa was only weeks ago. But the Hawkeyes travel well and will be in the mix for the Alamo Bowl and the Champs Sports Bowl no matter what happens Saturday.

Minnesota (7-4, 3-4) -- A win Saturday is imperative for the Gophers to improve their postseason options. Four consecutive losses to close the season doesn't look good to bowl representatives, and Minnesota doesn't travel as well as some of its primary competitors. If the Gophers beat Iowa, they'll be in the mix for the Alamo, Champs Sports and Insight. A loss could send Minnesota to the Motor City Bowl.

Wisconsin (6-5, 3-5) -- Athletic director Barry Alvarez has a bowl destination in mind, but Wisconsin would be well served to take care of Cal-Poly, a dangerous FCS opponent. Despite a poor Big Ten record, a 7-5 overall mark probably gets Wisconsin to the Insight Bowl. The Badgers travel well and boast a sizable alumni base. A loss Saturday probably puts Wisconsin in the Motor City Bowl.


Illinois (5-6, 3-4) -- The Illini need a win at Northwestern to avoid becoming the first Big Ten team to avoid the postseason a year after reaching the Rose Bowl since ... Illinois in 1984. Even if Illinois wins, it likely needs two Big Ten teams to reach BCS bowl games in order to make the postseason. Head-to-head losses against Wisconsin and Minnesota hurt, but if things go right, Illinois could make the Motor City Bowl or perhaps the Insight.


Michigan (3-8, 2-5) -- As defensive tackle Terrance Taylor told me this week, Saturday will serve as Michigan's bowl game. A huge upset of Ohio State would momentarily take the sting off a miserable season. Michigan won't be going bowling for the first time since 1974.

Purdue (3-8, 1-6) -- The Tiller Bowl takes place Saturday against Indiana (ESPN2, noon ET), as Joe Tiller coaches his final game at Purdue before heading into retirement. Purdue will miss the postseason for just the second time during Tiller's 12-year tenure.

Indiana (3-8, 1-6) -- Another bowl appearance was on the Hoosiers' radar entering the season, but a rash of injuries combined with inconsistent defensive play leave them at the bottom of the league. This will be a critical offseason for Indiana, which can't afford to lose any more momentum.

Projecting the Big Ten bowls

November, 17, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Much like the conference championship, the Big Ten bowl picture remains a bit blurry heading into the final week of the regular season. Here's what we know, what we don't know and what we might know at this point. 

Bowl eligible (7): Penn State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten), Ohio State (9-2, 6-1), Michigan State (9-2, 6-1), Northwestern (8-3, 4-3), Iowa (7-4, 4-3), Minnesota (7-4, 3-4), Wisconsin (6-5, 3-5)

Still alive (1): Illinois (5-6, 3-4)

Staying home (3): 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

Big Ten bowl selection procedures: The Capital One, Outback, Alamo and Champs Sports can select any eligible team except a team that has two fewer wins or two more losses than another eligible team. The Insight and Motor City Bowls have no restrictions, so they can take whatever teams are remaining. However, no 7-5 or better Big Ten team can get pushed out of the Big Ten's bowl lineup by a 6-6 team.

The big question: Can the Big Ten can get two teams into BCS bowls for the fourth straight season? Much depends on whether Oregon State wins its final two games and heads to the Rose Bowl. If the Beavers win out, USC likely would get the final BCS at-large spot. If the Beavers stumble and USC heads to Pasadena, the final at-large spot likely would come down to a Big Ten team (most likely Michigan State or Ohio State) and a non-BCS team. It'd be hard to see the bowls not going with the Big Ten squad in this case. 

Here's the team-by-team rundown of possibilities. 

(Read full post)

Big Ten bowl picture: Week 12

November, 14, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten has six bowl-eligible teams, and both Wisconsin and Illinois can reach the milestone this week. Despite Penn State's loss to Iowa, the Big Ten is still in fairly good position to get two teams in BCS bowls.

The postseason picture should take shape even more after Saturday's games. Here's a closer look:

Big Ten bowl tie-ins: 7 (Rose/BCS, Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports, Insight, Motor City)


No. 8 Penn State (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) -- The loss to Iowa likely took Penn State out of the national championship mix, but the Lions remain in good shape for a BCS bowl. If Penn State wins its final two games against Indiana and Michigan State, it wins the Big Ten's BCS tiebreaker and heads to the Rose Bowl. A loss could put the Lions in the Capital One Bowl.

No. 11 Ohio State (8-2, 5-1) -- If the Buckeyes win out and Penn State stumbles, they win the Big Ten's BCS tiebreaker and head to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1997. Even if Penn State wins out, Ohio State would remain in good shape for a BCS at-large bid, provided that Oregon State doesn't win the Pac-10's automatic berth. If USC goes to the Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes likely would go to another BCS bowl ahead of a second non-BCS team.

No. 15 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) -- The Spartans will be playing on New Year's Day. The big question is where. They need to upset Penn State on the road Nov. 22 and have Ohio State lose one of its last two to win the Big Ten's BCS tiebreaker. If Michigan State beats Penn State and Ohio State wins out, the Spartans could grab a BCS at-large berth. Otherwise, they would end up in the Capital One Bowl.

Northwestern (7-3, 3-3) -- A split of the last two games likely would ensure Northwestern a berth in the Alamo, Champs Sports or Insight bowls. If the Wildcats sweep the final two, they could end up in the Outback. But because of poor attendance and a smaller fan base, Northwestern could get leapfrogged in the bowl pecking order, particularly if it loses its final two games.

Minnesota (7-3, 3-3) -- Back-to-back losses likely have taken the Gophers out of the mix for a New Year's Day bowl, though a win Saturday at Wisconsin could change things. Minnesota can improve its postseason position by beating two rivals (Wisconsin and Iowa) that are also in the running. The Gophers look like a good bet for Champs Sports or Insight.

Iowa (6-4, 3-3) -- Not only did the Hawkeyes get bowl eligible by upsetting Penn State, but they vaulted into the mix for a New Year's Day bowl. Iowa has one of the best traveling fan bases in the Big Ten, and it could sneak into the Outback Bowl by winning its final two regular-season games (Purdue, Minnesota). A split could get the Hawkeyes into the Alamo Bowl.


Wisconsin (5-5, 2-5) -- With Cal-Poly on the slate next week, the Badgers should be able to get bowl eligible. But a 2-6 conference record just doesn't look good, and Wisconsin would benefit from beating rival Minnesota on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). Wins in the final two games puts the Badgers in the mix for the Champs Sports or Insight bowls. A split could bump Wisconsin to the Motor City.


Illinois (5-5, 3-3) -- After missing an opportunity to get bowl eligible last week against Western Michigan, Illinois finds itself in a tough spot. Ohio State comes to Champaign this weekend, and the Illini wrap up with a trip to Northwestern. This is an attractive team for bowl representatives, but Illinois needs to find a way to win one of its last two. Otherwise, it will be Rose Bowl to no bowl for Ron Zook's squad.


Michigan (3-7, 2-4) -- The Wolverines' first complete performance of the season came a little too late, though the win at Minnesota could signal a strong finish. Michigan will miss the postseason for the first time since 1974.

Purdue (3-7, 1-5) -- Last week's loss to Michigan State ensured that Purdue will not go to a bowl for just the second time in coach Joe Tiller's tenure. The Boilers need wins in their final two games (Iowa, Indiana) to avoid the lowest wins total in Tiller's 12 seasons as head coach.

Indiana (3-7, 1-5) -- A season that began with plenty of hope for a second straight bowl appearance has turned into a big disappointment. Injuries have ravaged the Hoosiers, but a defense that couldn't build off last year's bowl run didn't help matters. Last week's loss to Wisconsin eliminated Indiana from postseason contention.

Big Ten bowl picture: Week 11

November, 7, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Saturday is moving day for bowl hopefuls in the Big Ten. Penn State tries to inch closer to the national title game, while teams like Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin are playing for their postseason lives. Michigan is already out of the running, and both Purdue and Indiana will see their dreams dashed without upset wins.

Big Ten bowl tie-ins: 7 (Rose/BCS, Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports, Insight, Motor City)


No. 3 Penn State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) -- Despite getting leapfrogged in the BCS standings, Penn State still has an excellent chance to run the table and reach the national championship game. A road trip to Iowa could be tough -- the Hawkeyes have been in every game this season -- but Penn State has greater balance and can gain national respect with a blowout victory. Anything less than a BCS bowl would be a disappointment at this stage.

No. 11 Ohio State (7-2, 4-1) -- USC seems ticketed for the Rose Bowl, which could dissuade the selection committee from picking the Buckeyes. Then again, the Big Ten has a lot of pull with the folks in Pasadena, so a second BCS berth still could be possible if Penn State reaches the big one. Otherwise, Ohio State goes to the Capital One Bowl.

No. 18 Michigan State (8-2, 5-1) -- A New Year's Day bowl in Florida looks like the destination for Mark Dantonio's team. The Spartans don't win with style points, but running back Javon Ringer and the fact the program hasn't played on Jan. 1 since 2000 should be good draws. Michigan State still has a shot at winning the Big Ten's BCS tiebreaker, but it probably ends up in the Capital One or Outback.

No. 24 Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) -- Injuries could make things tough in the final three games, but Northwestern is more resilient than most Big Ten teams, as it showed last week at Minnesota. The Wildcats should get one more win and maybe two, but their likely destinations are the Alamo, Champs Sports and Insight.

Minnesota (7-2, 3-2) -- The Gophers haven't responded well from tough losses in the past, but they've shown greater poise and leadership this season. Saturday's meeting with Michigan kicks off three consecutive trophy games, all of which are winnable. Two or three wins might get Minnesota to the Outback Bowl, but it more than likely heads to San Antonio (Alamo) or Orlando (Champs Sports).


Iowa (5-4, 3-3) --With a fan base that travels extremely well, Iowa likely needs only one more win to lock up a bowl berth. It will take an incredible performance to beat Penn State, but the Hawkeyes still have Purdue and Minnesota on the slate. November has recently been a problematic month, but this Iowa team should get another win or two. Champs Sports and Insight are likely destinations.

Illinois (5-4, 3-3) -- The Illini prevailed in a must-win game last week against Iowa and face another one against Western Michigan in Detroit. Bowl representatives covet this team, which boasts an excellent quarterback (Juice Williams) and a big-play offense. But Illinois' inconsistency this season has been troubling, making a second consecutive win Saturday all the more important.


Wisconsin (4-5, 1-5) -- The Badgers and Illinois switch places this week, and Wisconsin now faces a must-win situation at Indiana. Wisconsin finishes with Minnesota and Cal Poly at home, but getting a step closer to bowl eligibility is critical. The Badgers are probably looking at the Motor City Bowl -- if the Big Ten gets two BCS teams, that is -- but they have to take care of business in Bloomington.


Indiana (3-6, 1-4) -- A second consecutive bowl bid looked likely in August, with eight home games and several key players back from last year. Now Indiana needs to win out to keep its slim hopes alive. Wisconsin has been struggling and the season finale at Purdue could go either way, but there's no way Indiana upsets Penn State next week in Happy Valley.

Purdue (3-6, 1-4) -- The Boilermakers prolonged their fast-fading quest for the postseason by beating Michigan in a shootout. But road trips to Michigan State and Iowa won't be easy, and the quarterback position remains unsettled. It's hard to see Purdue winning either of those games.

Michigan (2-7, 1-4) -- The nation's longest current streak of consecutive bowl appearances (33) is over, and Michigan will be playing for pride from here on out. Michigan could prevent Minnesota, Northwestern and Ohio State from playing in more prestigious bowl games the next three weeks, but it can't save itself.

Big Ten bowl picture: Week 10

October, 31, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Penn State remains the Big Ten's BCS front-runner and a viable candidate for the national championship. Where does that leave Ohio State? What about Michigan State, Minnesota and the rest? Unlike last season, when the Big Ten had 10 bowl-eligible teams and seven wins was the bowl barometer, the league could get several six-win teams in the postseason. 

As the calendar flips to November, here's a look at the Big Ten bowl race.

Bowl tie-ins: 7 (Rose/BCS, Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports, Insight, Motor City)


No. 3 Penn State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) -- The Lions got a boost in the BCS computers after knocking off Ohio State on the road. They likely won't pass Texas or Alabama if those teams remain undefeated, but there's little chance they'll be jumped by a one-loss team. The BCS title game looks like a good bet for Penn State.

No. 12 Ohio State (7-2, 4-1) -- There won't be a third trip to the national championship game, and the Buckeyes might miss a BCS bowl for the first time since 2004. If Penn State runs the table and the Buckeyes win out, the Rose Bowl remains a good possibility. Otherwise, plan on the Capital One Bowl for Jim Tressel's crew. 

No. 21 Michigan State (7-2, 4-1) -- The Spartans snapped their six-game losing streak to rival Michigan and put a New Year's Day bowl back in the crosshairs. Wins on Saturday against Wisconsin and next week against Purdue should put Michigan State in position for either the Capital One or the Outback Bowl. And keep in mind that Michigan State still controls its own destiny. If the Spartans sweep the final three, including the finale at Penn State, they head to Pasadena because of the tiebreaker (no FCS opponents). 

No. 17 Minnesota (7-1, 3-1) -- Can the Gophers win out? That's the buzz up in the Twin Cities with four winnable games remaining. Minnesota has only one win against a team with a winning record (Northern Illinois) and could go through the year without beating a ranked opponent. These factors likely keep them out of the Rose Bowl mix, but a New Year's Day destination is possible. 

Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) -- A trip to sputtering Indiana proved costly for the Wildcats, who lost the game and possibly their starting offensive backfield. Win No. 7 looks a bit tough from here on out, but Northwestern still should go bowling. Upsetting Minnesota in the Metrodome would put Northwestern back on track for the Alamo, Insight or Champs Sports bowls. 


Iowa (5-3, 2-2) -- After a bye week, the Hawkeyes can get bowl eligible by beating Illinois for the sixth consecutive time. Two wins in the final four games puts Iowa in the mix for the Alamo, Champs Sports or Insight bowls. A loss in Champaign could make things tough. Penn State comes to Iowa City next week, and the Hawkeyes close with a trip to Minnesota. 

Wisconsin (4-4, 1-4) -- The Badgers move up a category after knocking off Illinois last week. Since Wisconsin wraps up the regular season against Cal-Poly at home, it likely needs only one other win to ensure a bowl bid. A road victory against Michigan State could boost hopes for the Alamo Bowl or the Champs Sports Bowl, while a loss puts the Badgers under .500 and facing a must-win game next week at Indiana. 


Illinois (4-4, 2-3) -- There's a sense of disbelief among Ron Zook and his players that they're in this position with four games left. Illinois' final four opponents have a combined record of 24-9, so there are no gimmes left. A home win Saturday against Iowa would ease some concern before a potentially tough trip to Detroit to face 6-2 Western Michigan. 


Indiana (3-5, 1-4) -- To be fair, the Hoosiers aren't completely out of the bowl mix. They ended their slide last week against Northwestern and can pick up another win against Central Michigan, a talented team that struggles with BCS opponents. A trip to Penn State doesn't look promising, so Indiana must beat Central Michigan, Wisconsin at home and Purdue on the road to have any chance at a second straight bowl.

Michigan (2-6, 1-3) -- The nation's longest current streak of consecutive bowl appearances (33) should come to an end in the next few weeks. A loss Saturday against Purdue ensures Michigan's first losing season since 1967 and its first bowl-less campaign since 1974. Michigan would have to win out, beating both Minnesota and Ohio State on the road, to have a chance at a bowl. 

Purdue (2-6, 0-4) -- Coach Joe Tiller admits this isn't the way he envisioned his final season going. The Boilermakers likely will miss a bowl game for just the second time in Tiller's 12 years as head coach. A win against Michigan would be nice, but Purdue then must travel to both Michigan State and Iowa. With questions at the quarterback spot, things don't look good.