Sunday, October 30, 2011
Big Ten bowl projections: Week 9
By Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg
Well, things got a lot more interesting in the Big Ten race this weekend, didn't they?
Nebraska toppled Michigan State to create a three-way tie atop the Legends Division. Ohio State upset Wisconsin to keep its title hopes alive, while Penn State now has a two-and-a-half game lead in the Leaders Division. It's going to be a wild November in the Big Ten, and we have no idea who comes out on top, let alone where these teams are going bowling.
But we'll give it a shot, anyway. As hard as it might seem to believe at times while watching their offense, the Nittany Lions have to be considered the Leaders favorite right now, even with their rugged finishing kick (Nebraska, at Ohio State, at Wisconsin). We're also projecting Michigan State to make it to Indianapolis, even though the Spartans need a Nebraska loss. The rest of the schedule is highly favorable for Mark Dantonio's team, while Nebraska and Michigan have some challenges remaining. We are picking Michigan State to beat Penn State in the title game. As history shows us, the loser of conference title games has a tough time earning BCS at-large berths, so we're giving the at-large spot to Nebraska, a team we're projecting to finish at 10-2.
The biggest intrigue is at the top, but there are also some interesting possibilities at the bottom of the Big Ten bowl order. Last week, we put Purdue in the projections. But the Boilermakers probably have to beat Iowa to get in the postseason -- they need two more wins, and they play the Hawkeyes and Ohio State at home, with Indiana on the road. And if you believe Iowa loses in West Lafayette, then the 5-3 Hawkeyes might not get to the postseason, since they have Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska as their other remaining games.
We're keeping both the Hawkeyes and the Boilers in the bowl projections -- for now.
It's all a stab in the dark in what might looks like the most jumbled Big Ten picture in years. Turn off the lights, and hand us the knife:
˙Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO: Michigan State vs. BCS team
Allstate Sugar Bowl: Nebraska vs. BCS team
Capital One Bowl: Penn State vs. SEC team
Outback Bowl: Wisconsin vs. SEC team
Insight Bowl: Michigan vs. Big 12 team
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Ohio State vs. SEC team
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Illinois vs. Big 12 team
TicketCity Bowl: Iowa vs. Big 12 team
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Purdue vs. MAC team