Big Ten Bowl Outlook: Week Twelve

Story posted November 17, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Tom Shively

The College Football Playoff committee was kind to the Big Ten in its most recent rankings, placing four teams in the top eight and two in the ever-changing top four. However, the most intriguing part of the rankings is not the inclusion of both Ohio State and Michigan in the playoffs, but rather the potential to see neither of those teams in the conference title game. This brings up the question of whether a conference can get two teams into the playoff for the first time in its brief history.

Here are my projections for where each team will fall on the bowl landscape as well as a brief description of why I have put each team in its respective game. 

College Football Playoff at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: No. 2 Ohio State (9-1, 6-1 B1G)

The Buckeyes may have actually been hurt by arch-rival Michigan’s stunning loss at Iowa because they no longer control their own destiny to reach the Big Ten title game. They need to win out and hope Penn State slips up in its final two games for a berth in Indianapolis. But the résumé for the Buckeyes is still stout even without a conference championship. Wins over Wisconsin, Oklahoma and potentially Michigan (three teams currently in the top 10) spell playoff for Urban Meyer’s bunch, especially if the Pac-12 or ACC champion were to lose another game.

College Football Playoff at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 7 Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2 B1G)

To answer my own question, I think it’s very reasonable to see two Big Ten teams in the top four. The Badgers have all but locked up the West division crown, and a likely matchup with Penn State in the title game would give them a leg up. It’s hard to leave the champion of the best conference in college football out of a semifinal considering its only two losses are one-score stumbles against the teams currently ranked second and third.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual: No. 3 Michigan (9-1, 6-1 B1G)

A tall task awaits the Wolverines as they now must go into Columbus on Nov. 26 without their starting quarterback. They do have the advantage over the Buckeyes in that a win would punch their ticket to Indianapolis. They are still very much alive in the playoff picture, but a loss at Ohio State will send them packing to Pasadena to face the Pac-12 representative. The name of the game may be a little wordy, but the grandeur is certainly still there. No shame at all for the Wolverines to cap a great season.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl: No. 8 Penn State (8-2, 6-1 B1G)

Two teams in the playoff opens up the door for a fourth Big Ten team in the New Year’s Six, and Penn State looks to reap the benefits of that scenario. If they can win the East, the Nittany Lions will be looked upon kindly by the committee as a team that kept both Ohio State and Michigan out of the Big Ten Championship Game. Penn State’s win over Ohio State also seems to be the best win in the country right now, so the Nittany Lions can look forward to a date with the Group of Five representative (Boise State or Western Michigan) in Arlington. 

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: No. 18 Nebraska (8-2, 5-2 B1G)

The Cornhuskers finally got back in the win column after a tough stretch at Wisconsin and Ohio State. Mike Riley’s team doesn’t have a quality win on the résumé, or else they might have a shot at a New Year’s Six bowl. Still, playing in a good bowl against an SEC team is a vast improvement over last year’s 5-7 season.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Iowa (6-4, 4-3 B1G)

A season-defining win over Michigan clinched a bowl berth for the Hawkeyes and perhaps numbed a bit of the pain from all their close losses. They have a chance to build a little more momentum heading into the postseason as they host Nebraska in the final week of the regular season.

Holiday Bowl: Minnesota (7-3, 4-3 B1G)

All three of the Gophers’ losses have been by seven points or less, so this team is just around the corner from contending for a Big Ten West title. Nonetheless, 7-3 is still an impressive record for the boys from Minneapolis, with opportunistic games against Wisconsin and Northwestern left on the schedule. 

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Northwestern (5-5, 4-3 B1G)

This would probably be Indiana’s spot if the Hoosiers had not played in this game last season. It’s been quite the turnaround for the Wildcats after an 0-2 start and they have two winnable games remaining. They’ll have big shoes to fill if they end up in New York, considering the last two Pinstripe Bowls have been overtime thrillers.

Foster Farms Bowl: Indiana (5-5, 3-4 B1G)

The Hoosiers face a stout test at Michigan this weekend, but they should be able to pick up their sixth win in their final game against Purdue. Indiana has had some gritty battles against the top teams in the Big Ten in the last couple of years, but they have to find a way to finish games and have success on the road if they want a puncher’s chance in this conference.

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Maryland (5-5, 2-5 B1G)

D.J. Durkin’s team has cooled off after a 4-0 start, but a 3-9 season a year ago now seems a distant memory. A win over Rutgers at home next weekend will punch their ticket to a bowl game for the third time in four years and a chance at their first bowl win since 2010.

Not Bowl Eligible: Illinois, Purdue, Michigan State, Rutgers


Tom Shively is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email