Big Ten Bowl Predictions
The trials and tribulations of the regular season have finally ended as teams now await their postseason fates. With an all-time high of 40 bowl games this year and 80 participating teams, the NCAA will likely have to lift their previous requirement of six wins to become bowl eligible. The Big Ten currently has 10 bowl spots to fill but only eight teams wins six or more wins, so we can expect both Nebraska and Minnesota to make appearances with five wins on the year.
Predicted Bowl Teams: Iowa (12-0), Michigan State (11-1), Ohio State (11-1), Northwestern (10-2), Michigan (9-3), Wisconsin (9-3), Penn State (7-5), Indiana (6-6), Nebraska (5-7), Minnesota (5-7).
College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Orange Bowl: Michigan State
Michigan State has a chance to sneak into the College Football Playoff as the fourth seed with a win over Iowa in what is essentially a play-in game for that final spot. Although Iowa is undefeated on the year, Michigan State is the better team and will end up winning the Big Ten Championship. Michigan State will likely see top-ranked Clemson in the semifinal, who still has North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game.
Rose Bowl Game: Ohio State
The Buckeyes’ loss to Michigan State ultimately doomed their chances of defending their national title, but since the Big Ten champion will be in the top four, that opens the door for the second best team to play in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State will likely finish ahead of the Big Ten Championship loser in the final poll, thus guaranteeing them a berth in Pasadena. Stanford will play USC for the Pac-12 Championship this weekend, and with two losses they can realistically hope for the Rose Bowl.
Sugar Bowl: Iowa
Opponent: Notre Dame
The Hawkeyes will still have a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl due to their unblemished regular season even if they lose to Michigan State. Since the Rose Bowl will be filled by Ohio State, that leaves Iowa with the Sugar, Fiesta, and Peach Bowls; with the Sugar Bowl being the most likely to choose a Big Ten team. Notre Dame’s loss to Stanford ended their College Football Playoff hopes but they will still be rewarded with a respectable bowl game.
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Michigan
Opponent: Ole Miss
Here we have a matchup of two very good teams who were simply the victims of very tough schedules, with each team spending several weeks in the top 25 but ultimately coming up short in games they needed to win. Michigan had a shot at the Rose Bowl, but they squandered their chance when they were thrashed by Ohio State in the Big House. Outside of the Alabama win, Ole Miss has had a very quiet year but they will look to finish strong.
Outback Bowl: Northwestern
The Wildcats have quietly put together an outstanding season under Pat Fitzgerald, tallying 10 wins, including a season opening shutdown of Stanford. They lack the quality wins needed for a New Year’s Six appearance, but they’ll still play against a very good team in Florida, who has a chance to prove me wrong in the SEC Championship Game against heavily favored Alabama. The winner between Florida and Northwestern (if they meet) will surely have a satisfying ending to a surprising year.
Holiday Bowl: Wisconsin
Wisconsin, much like Michigan, did not perform well enough in the big games, but still put together a respectable nine wins. It’s been a very quiet year up in Madison with the Badgers underperforming, but they will have a chance to make a statement against a quality Utah team who jumped as high as No. 3 in the polls earlier this season before falling slightly from grace.
Music City Bowl: Penn State
The Lions come off an underwhelming season, but not nearly as dramatic as the Auburn letdown, starting at No. 6 in the preseason polls before falling completely off the face of the Earth. Both teams will have one more chance to end their season on a high note against a well-respected team on the other side of the field.
Pinstripe Bowl: Indiana
Opponent: Virginia Tech
The last true “bowl eligible” team in the Big Ten will head to the Big Apple for a showdown with Virginia Tech, playing with extra motivation in veteran coach Frank Beamer’s final game with the Hokies. Indiana struggled for large parts of this season, but they look to cap off a strong finish with a third straight victory.
Foster Farms Bowl: Nebraska
The Huskers, despite having only five wins, will still find themselves in a bowl game due in large part to the NCAA biting off far more than they can chew with 80 postseason spots to fill. The Huskers are also helped by a win over Michigan State in Lincoln, as well as giving Iowa a tough game last week. Cal quarterback Jared Goff hoped to make a final statement to the NFL scouts in his final game as a Golden Bear.
Quick Lane Bowl: Minnesota
Opponent: NC State
Minnesota gets the final Big Ten spot over Illinois due to their head to head victory over the Illini. Other than that, the Gophers don’t have much to be proud of, going 5-7 on the season after a very strong campaign a year ago. They’ll face a strong offense in N.C. State in what will be a chance for both teams to cap off lackluster season with victories.
Tom Shively is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.