Nonconference play is just about finished in the Big Ten, save for a few more stray games. The last two-thirds of the season will really determine who ends where in the postseason.
But, as we do every week, we're attempting to project those bowl bids now.
We won't be surprised if the Big Ten receives a BCS at-large berth because, well, that's what happens most seasons. But it's hard to justify giving this league two BCS spots right now, as Michigan's struggles move the Wolverines out of the mix. Also, leagues such as the Pac-12 and ACC seem better positioned for two BCS berths, along with the SEC, which definitely will get two.
Although Wisconsin and Northwestern have been more consistent than Michigan so far, we don't expect the Capital One Bowl folks to pass up the Wolverines, who last played in Orlando in Lloyd Carr's final game as coach (Jan. 1, 2008). Wisconsin hasn't been to the Sunshine State since 2009 after a lengthy run of Florida bowl appearances. The Outback Bowl gladly will scoop up the Badgers.
Northwestern won't make a repeat appearance in Jacksonville, so we like Nebraska to go there, while the Wildcats head to the desert. Michigan State, Minnesota and Iowa round out the Big Ten bowl tie-ins, while we expect Illinois to grab an at-large spot. Indiana's 2-2 mark in nonconference play will make reaching the postseason a challenge.
Things will change during the next few weeks as there really isn't much separating teams such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern and Michigan State.
Without further ado, the projections ...
Rose Bowl presented by VIZIO, Jan. 1: Ohio State
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Wisconsin
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 28: Northwestern
Texas Bowl, Dec. 27: Michigan State
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1: Iowa
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26: Minnesota
At-large bowl: Illinois