With just one week left in the regular season, there's still a lot that can change in the Big Ten bowl picture.
Iowa and Michigan State have emerged as the league's best -- and quite possibly, last -- hopes for a College Football Playoff participant. If both win this week, then the Big Ten championship game becomes a de facto playoff quarterfinal.
Michigan State's win over Ohio State added another wrinkle: the possibility that the Big Ten would get a second New Year's Six Bowl slot, in addition to the Rose Bowl. If the Buckeyes beat Michigan, they would be a very attractive choice as an 11-1 defending national champ. Or if Michigan wins, the Wolverines could and should jump in there as a 10-2 team with losses at Utah and against Michigan State (on the game's final play.)
So, yeah, a lot is still to be determined. How do we project it? Well, for now, I'm going with Iowa in the playoff. Maybe they wouldn't be favored against Michigan State (or Ohio State or Michigan) in the Big Ten title game, but the Hawkeyes are 11-0 and sit atop our power rankings. Given that we don't know the status of Spartans quarterback Connor Cook, I'd rather roll with Iowa this week while reserving the right to change course after this weekend.
I'll also give a slight edge to Ohio State for the second New Year's Six slot, even though Michigan is currently favored to win on Saturday. The Buckeyes have so dominated that series in recent years, and Urban Meyer has still never lost to any Big Team other than Michigan State. So I need to see it to believe it with the Wolverines.
And those are just the variables at the top. Four Big Ten teams -- Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska and Minnesota -- enter the weekend with five wins and each needing one victory to become bowl eligible. How many will do so? Only the Hoosiers (against Purdue) are favored to win.
As for a 5-7 team going bowling, it remains a possibility. There are 71 bowl-eligible teams right now, and after this weekend there could be enough for all 80 postseason spots. But Nebraska is still the best bet of all teams to go at 5-7 because of its fan base and APR, so we'll keep the Cornhuskers in for now.
Luckily, we'll start to have much more clarity by Saturday evening. Until then ...
College Football Playoff: Iowa
Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual: Michigan State
Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Michigan
Outback Bowl: Northwestern
National University Holiday Bowl: Wisconsin
TaxSlayer.com Bowl: Penn State
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Minnesota
Foster Farms Bowl: Nebraska
Quick Lane Bowl: Indiana
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Not filled