Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
Turning the calendar to November means we are roughly one month from the end of the college football regular season. Every week brings a shifting in the standings and the potential bowl destinations. This article is not a reflection of where things currently stand. Rather, it is an attempt to project how things will finish. This is my best guess at the bowl game assignments for the Big Ten and of course, the Indiana Hoosiers (if there is to be one).
-As of November 4, 2018 -
College Football Playoff Semifinal
Michigan vs. Alabama – Cotton Bowl (original projection: Michigan vs. Alabama)
It is difficult to envision Ohio State beating the Michigan Wolverines after watching the Bucks get blown out in West Lafayette and then struggling with Nebraska. If Michigan goes 11-1, wins the Big Ten Championship game to reach 12-1 and has only a loss to Notre Dame in South Bend (in the opening week of the season) on their resume, they’ll go to the playoff and be selected as the #4 seed. I have Clemson and Notre Dame as the other matchup.
Rose Bowl (B1G vs. PAC-12) – Ohio State vs. Washington State (original projection: OSU vs. WSU)
I am now projecting the Buckeyes to go 10-2 and be runner-up in the East division. The Rose Bowl would be thrilled to have the Buckeyes back in Pasadena as the highest ranked non-playoff team in the conference. Their opponent is currently projected as the Washington State Cougars, a team that is having a very impressive campaign and currently sit at 8-1. They spanked Oregon, won at Stanford and survived against California. The fate of the PAC-12 North could very well come down to the Apple Cup on November 23.
Citrus Bowl (B1G vs. ACC or SEC) – Northwestern Wildcats vs. Kentucky Wildcats (original projection: Iowa vs. Kentucky)
-The Citrus Bowl has a contract to take five different teams in six years if at all possible. That means no Michigan or Minnesota. The opponent is to be the top possible ranked team from the SEC or ACC. Back to back close losses for Iowa leaves me with no choice but to project Northwestern as the winner of the West. The SEC will be really interesting as I have Alabama sitting at 13-0 and the #1 seed and then Georgia being 11-2 and the SEC East champion and going to the Sugar Bowl. I think Florida and LSU could definitely end up being chosen for the Fiesta Bowl or the Peach Bowl. That leaves me with the projected 10-2 Kentucky Wildcats.
Outback Bowl (B1G vs. SEC) – Michigan State Spartans vs. Texas A&M Aggies (original projection: Michigan State vs. Texas A&M)
-Again, this bowl would prefer to have five different teams in six years if at all possible. That means no Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan or Northwestern if possible. I think the Spartans win eight games and they already have the head-to-head edge on Penn State. In addition, they have recently been to the Holiday Bowl and both Wisconsin and PSU have recently been to the Outback Bowl. Texas A&M is having a decent season in Jimbo Fisher’s debut campaign and the SEC field has already been quite picked over.
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl (B1G vs. PAC-12) – Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Washington (original projection: Penn State vs. USC)
-Another bowl that would prefer to have five different teams in six years. So, no Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin or MSU. This would have been a nice landing spot for someone like the 8-4 Wisconsin Badgers but the Holiday Bowl would prefer a new team and Penn State cannot go to the Gator Bowl. That makes this a good spot to slide the Penn State Nittany Lions in. So, how about a rematch of last year’s fun Fiesta Bowl?
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl (B1G vs. SEC) – Purdue vs. Mississippi State (original projection: Wisconsin vs. Mississippi State)
-No Penn State or Iowa if possible. This is a rotation between the Music City Bowl and the Gator Bowl and the B1G played in Music City in 2016 and 2017 so this year will very likely be the B1G in the Gator Bowl. Purdue has surged and now has a realistic shot to win eight games after their dreadful 0-3 start. The matchup against Wisconsin likely decides the slots for both teams. Mississippi State’s defense against Purdue’s offense would be a fun matchup.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl (B1G vs. ACC) – Wisconsin vs. Virginia (original projection: Purdue vs. Virginia)
The Pinstripe Bowl would prefer to have eight different teams in eight years. That means no Iowa, NW, PSU or IU if possible. The Wisconsin Badgers would be bitterly disappointed if their season ended with a trip to New York instead of a New Year’s Six bowl but they are just nowhere near the team many had envisioned them being. The Virginia Cavaliers had a critical trip-up against Pittsburgh making this a landing spot that makes a lot of sense.
Redbox Bowl (B1G vs. PAC-12) – Iowa vs. Stanford (original projection: Northwestern vs. Colorado)
Again, they want five teams in six years so no PU, IU, MD or Nebraska. Iowa’s close losses in the last couple couple of weeks have what a I think is a good team dropping in my projections. “Close” doesn’t cut it and they likely end up at 7-5 or 8-4. In short, what could have been a pretty special season is settling into another “better than average” season for Kirk Ferentz in Iowa City.
Quick Lane Bowl (B1G vs. ACC or Conditional MAC tie-in) – Maryland vs. Eastern Michigan (original projection: Indiana vs. Eastern Michigan)
Indiana could still beat Maryland and Purdue to reach bowl eligibility. I am not a fool however and it would be silly to project that to happen. Giving the Terrapins the win over the Hoosiers on November 10 means IU stays home and the Terrapins go bowling with six victories. Maryland is not particularly good but I’ll believe the Hoosiers win a game again this season when I see it. The ACC has a whole lot of bowl tie-ins but the conference is somewhat down this season and I don’t think they’ll fill out their bowl obligations.
SERVPRO First Responders Bowl (B1G vs. C-USA) – Minnesota vs. UAB (original projection: Maryland vs. UAB)
B1G has not played in this bowl since 2014 so they seem likely to be in it this year instead of Armed Forces Bowl. However, I do not see the Big Ten filling this bowl slot with an eligible team. If a 5-7 team is selected, it could be Minnesota (although I think it must be said, no additional Big Ten squad deserves this slot).