With eight games in the books and four to go in the regular season, it's time to look at the bowl picture and where Iowa might end up. Here's a hint: it's better than last year!
But first, the projected standings.
10-3 7-1 Michigan State*
9-3 5-3 Michigan
8-4 5-3 Nebraska
6-6 3-5 Iowa
7-5 3-5 Minnesota
5-7 1-7 Northwestern
13-0 8-0 Ohio State*
10-2 7-1 Wisconsin
6-6 4-4 Indiana
7-5 4-4 Penn State**
4-8 1-7 Illinois
1-11 0-8 Purdue
*Records listed post-Big Ten Championship; Ohio State wins, obviously.
**Ineligible for bowls because Mark Emmert.
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Stanford
Oregon's going to the BCS Championship until further notice; the Ducks are virtually tied with FSU in the BCS now with the edge in human polls, and Oregon's schedule sets up much better to hold the No. 2 spot by the end of the year. Stanford should remain high enough in the polls to be the Rose Bowl's best option.
Orange Bowl: Wisconsin vs. FSU
Wisconsin travels as well as virtually anybody in the Big Ten, and the seven-game winning streak it'll take into the postseason will be more than enough to get it into the top 14 of the BCS standings and thus into the good graces of the bowl committees. And really for the Orange Bowl, it's either WIsconsin or one of those fraud-ass non-BCS teams. Easy choice.
Capital One Bowl: Michigan State vs. Texas A&M
As the Big Ten runner-up and the only other 10-win team in the conference, Michigan State is the obvious choice for the Capital One Bowl. And seriously, wouldn't you want to see Johnny Manziel facing MSU's world-eating defense?
Outback Bowl: Nebraska vs. Missouri
Michigan will have the edge on both wins and head-to-head in this one, but the Outback Bowl reps will want to avoid a return trip from the Wolverines, so Nebraska gets the nod. Waiting will be the Huskers' old rival Missouri, who's due for a comedown after a magical start to the season but still mightily dangerous.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan vs. Texas Tech
The B-Dubs Bowl gets the pick before the Gator Bowl this year, and Michigan will be tabbed roughly two tenths of a second after the Outback invites Nebraska. The Texas Tech offense is dangerous but prone to disruption from stout defensive fronts, which Michigan has. Then again, the Wolverines' pass defense is juuuust dodgy enough to make this one fun, especially since Michigan's probably topping 30 against the Red Raiders' in-name-only efforts on defense.
Gator Bowl: Iowa vs. Georgia
Believe it or not, Georgia gets the SEC's seventh bowl bid, and if that seems low, here, pick a team above it that'll go that low instead: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Missouri, South Carolina, or Texas A&M. Yeeeeep. At any rate, after Michigan and Nebraska, Iowa's the best candidate of the bunch, which is an awfully low bar to clear—even if Northwestern makes it to six wins, which is certainly plausible.
Texas Bowl: Indiana vs. Kansas State
Minnesota would be the call here, but the Gophers were just here last year to face Texas Tech, so Indiana jumps up to bring some #CHAOSTEAM magic against Bill Snyder, who just doesn't have the time or patience for you kids and your hashy tags.
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Minnesota v. Rice
Rice in a bowl! Now I've heard it all! Anyway this isn't a proper fate for the Gophers, but it's where they'll have to end up. And just because Rice is in a conference with an impossibly generic name, it is still a pretty legit team this year, having just lain waste to UTEP, 45-7, and sitting pretty at 6-2 (4-0). We'd still take Minnesota in this one, especially since you're giving Jerry Kill six weeks to plan his attack.
And then these guys: Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, Penn State
Penn State's not in this conversation, obviously, while Purdue's one loss away from mathematical elimination from the playoff race. Illinois looks close to the race at 3-4, but even if you give the Illini wins over Purdue and Northwestern, another win's going to have to come out of @PSU, @Indiana and Ohio State. Nope.
Then there's Northwestern, who was on the cusp of the Top 10 and really ought not be judged too harshly on how bad it was with Trevor Siemian running the show—especially since Kain Colter is working his way back into the offense.
But really, Northwestern just lost its two most winnable B1G games, and now Northwestern has to find two wins in the last four dates: @Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State and @Illinois. That's not out of the question, but it's just as plausible that Northwestern goes 0-8 as it does 2-6 or better. We're projecting 1-7.