After weeks of stories and suggestions, the Big Ten's future bowl arrangements are starting to take shape. There are some significant shake-ups for the league, dropping a longstanding affiliation with the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl (RIP, Pizza Pizza Bowl) and more recent affiliation with the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (aka, Insight Bowl). Maybe Jim Delany just doesn't want to be affiliated with fast food of dubious quality anymore.
So who are we adding?
New Big Ten bowl lineup to include at least four new bowls: Holiday, Kraft Fight Hunger, Music City and Pinstripe.— Rittenberg/Bennett (@ESPN_BigTen) June 23, 2013
We also know which teams will be representing the Pac-12 (well, not the exact teams -- we don't have crystal balls here) in two of those bowls.
The B1G was expected to lock up deals with the Holiday and Fight Hunger. The other news is Holiday will have 3rd pick out of P12, KFH No. 4— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) June 23, 2013
That's a lot of info, frankly. Let's break it down into a more easily-digestible format.
Here's a refresher on the bowl affiliations that the Big Ten has:
NOTE: Again, this is the Big Ten's current bowl line-up, which encompasses the 2013 season as well; the agreements with the new bowls being added don't kick in until the 2014 season. So don't start fantasizing about the Holiday Bowl just yet...
Here's a preliminary breakdown of the Big Ten's upcoming bowl affiliations:
I would stress the "preliminary" aspect of this breakdown. We're still waiting on several details about these bowl affiliations. But as a quick review of each bowl and what we know...
ROSE BOWL: Unless the Rose Bowl is hosting a national semifinal game, it will pit the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions against one another. It will do this until hell freezes over or Jim Delany's heart grows three sizes one day and he decides to give presents to all the little
Whos in Whoville FCS teams. If the Big Ten or Pac-12 champion is one of the four teams in the national semifinals, I believe they'll be replaced by their respective conference runner-up.
ORANGE BOWL: Remember, the Orange Bowl has changed up their affiliation going forward in 2014. Why are they doing this? Mostly because they got really tired of hosting the likes of Cincinnati, Wake Forest, and Northern Illinois almost every damn year. Under the new approach, one of their slots will be filled by the ACC champion each year (you'll not be rid of Wake Forest that easily, Orange Bowl!) and the other will be filled by the highest-ranked team (in the BCS rankings, or whatever they're called in the future) team from the Big Ten or SEC or Notre Dame, assuming said teams is not already obligated to appear in the national semifinals, Rose Bowl (B1G), or Sugar Bowl (SEC). Of course, there's also a caveat there: Big Ten and SEC teams are guaranteed to appear at least three times over the 12-year span of this contractual agreement and Notre Dame can appear no more than two times over that same 12-year span. So that rankings rule presumably isn't quite an ironclad determining factor. Like I said: it's complicated.
CAPITAL ONE BOWL: Here is where we start delving into the realm of speculation a bit more. To the best of my knowledge, the Big Ten has not confirmed a renewal of its agreement with the Capital One Bowl, or that it would continue to have the #2 pick among available Big Ten teams. But in his article announcing the new agreements with the Holiday and Kraft Fight Hunger Bowls, ESPN's Adam Rittenberg noted that the league was expected to continue its relationships with the Capital One, Outback, Gator, and Heart of Dallas Bowls. So for now we're going to assume that the status quo remains in place for the Big Ten and the Capital One Bowl (and the SEC and the Capital One Bowl, for that matter).
OUTBACK BOWL: See above, more or less.
GATOR BOWL: See above, although in an earlier report about the Big Ten making an affiliation with the Pinstripe Bowl, ESPN's Brett McMurphy briefly stated that the Pinstripe, Kraft Fight Hunger, and Gator/Music City Bowls would have the fifth through seventh picks in the Big Ten's bowl pecking order. As for who the Big Ten might play in that bowl... again, in the absence of other information, we're going to go with the status quo, which is the sixth choice from the SEC.
KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER BOWL: See above. This one looks like Big Ten #5/6/7 vs. Pac 12 #4, based on the available information.
PINSTRIPE BOWL: See above. McMurphy's article about the Big Ten and the Pinstripe Bowl also noted that the Pinstripe would be in a pool with Belk, Sun, and Gator/Music City Bowls and that those teams would have the third through sixth picks in the ACC's bowl pecking order.
MUSIC CITY BOWL: See above. It also appears that the ACC and Big Ten may be sharing the Gator and Music City Bowl spots in some capacity. Further information about that situation should be forthcoming, so we can update these sections accordingly when we get that information.
HEART OF DALLAS BOWL: Rittenberg noted that the Big Ten was looking to keep this affiliation, although beyond that we don't know a whole lot -- based on the prestige of the bowl and the info we know about the other bowls, though, it would be a bit of a surprise if they got anything better than the eighth pick in the Big Ten's bowl pecking order. The Big Ten's HoD Bowl opponent is currently from the Big 12 and there hasn't been any indication yet that that might change.
HOLIDAY BOWL: We know that the Big Ten is resurrecting its affiliation with the Holiday Bowl and we know that the Holiday Bowl will have the third pick among Pac-12 teams... but we don't yet know where they'll fit in the Big Ten pecking order. Given the history of the Holiday Bowl, it would be very surprising to me if the Holiday Bowl didn't have a spot in the Big Ten selection order until eighth or so -- not to mention the relative absurdity of pitting the Pac-12's #3 team (more or less) against the Big Ten's #8 or 9 team (more or less) -- but right now it's not clear where their spot in the selection order might be.
[EDIT: It occurs to me that when I made the table above I was counting the Orange Bowl as having second choice among Big Ten teams, but that's not strictly true. The Orange Bowl deal is basically an outlier in this process. It's more likely that the Capital One Bowl retains their second slot in the B1G bowl pecking order and the Outback Bowl keeps the third slot. That would also allow the Holiday Bowl to slide in at the fourth slot, which would make a lot of sense.]
DETROIT LIONS BOWL: As reported by ESPN's Brian Bennett last month, the Detroit Lions are looking to host their own bowl game, but no name for the bowl has officially been announced yet. (I like The Robocop Bowl.) The game is expected to be another B1G v. ACC affair and would effectively replace the Pizza Pizza Bowl. Like the Pizza Pizza Bowl, though, you would expect that this bowl will sit at the bottom of the Big Ten's pecking order. I mean, it's still in Detroit.
In all, the Big Ten is losing three bowls (B-Dubs, Meineke Car Care, Pizza Pizza) and gaining four or five bowls (Holiday, Kraft Fight Hunger, Pinstripe, Music City, and Lions Bowl), plus that quirky relationship with the Orange Bowl. Currently, he Big Ten has eight guaranteed spots for 12 teams; going forward, it appears that the league will have nine or ten guaranteed spots (depending on the details of the Gator and Music City Bowl arrangements) for 14 teams. The Big Ten rarely filled all eight spots under their current arrangement (the Pizza Pizza Bowl went without B1G representation quite often), but that was mainly because the Big Ten was very adept at getting a second team into the BCS bowls as an at-large selection (turns out bowls like teams with large, passionate fanbases -- who would have thought?!).
Will the Big Ten be as good at getting a team into the national semifinals? Recent results are fuzzy in that regard, although if Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke are truly returning Ohio State and Michigan to their glory days, then the Big Ten stands a good chance of having regular semifinal participants. The Big Ten will probably send its fair share of teams to the Orange Bowl under the new arrangement (again, the league is guaranteed at least three berths there over a 12-year span), but Big Ten teams are unlikely to be appearing there as often as they were in non-Rose Bowl BCS bowls in years past. That should make it more likely that the Big Ten actually uses all of these bowl arrangements in the future, although we'll have to wait and see. We'll also have to wait and see what impact the league's decision to eschew scheduling FCS opponents (a guaranteed win for pretty much all non-Minnesota teams in the league) has on the ability of B1G teams to get to the magic six-win mark for bowl eligibility. (Although that could become a moot point if the NCAA continues to be willing to fill bowl games with teams sporting losing records.)
The Big Ten is also trading a bowl lineup with a heavy Florida-Texas focus for one with a more national footprint -- three bowls apiece in Florida and California (with the potential for four in Florida, given the Orange Bowl deal), and a bowl apiece in Texas, Tennessee, Michigan, and New York. Nashville and New York also make for really fun travel destinations (although New York in December is not likely to fit the "fun in the sun" criteria of a good bowl trip if that matters to you).
The current lineup also sees the Big Ten continue to have five bowl games on January 1, assuming current schedules remain true in 2014 and beyond. When the Big Ten initially made those arrangements, the goal was for the league to be set up to dominate New Year's Day, college football's showcase day. Of course, the reality has been that the league has ended up getting dominated on New Year's Day more often than not, leading to some pretty ugly P.R. black eyes in the process. I don't think many people would complain if 1-2 of those bowls decided to move away from January 1, making the day a bit less of a referendum on Big Ten football. (I also half-expect a few bowls to move away from that day anyway, given the impending arrival of the national semifinal games on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, which figure to gobble up a lot of the CFB attention on those days.)
It's also worth nothing that all my discussion above about the Big Ten bowl pecking order may be a bit irrelevant.
Delany said the Big Ten will not be locked into sending a team from a specific slot in the standings to the Pinstripe Bowl -- or to any of its bowls outside the College Football Playoff system.
"All of us in college football are making an effort to sort of change from a system of pure selection to a system of working with the bowl and the conference to place a team that makes sense," he said. "That means for us we're going to try to get over an 8-year period, a minimum of six and a maximum of eight different teams here."
The overriding principle guiding all of the new bowl arrangements is flexibility. Conferences -- and teams -- don't want to be locked into arrangements that see teams going to the same bowl year after year after year. (Unless that bowl is the Rose or one of the national semifinals, that is -- everyone involved would be happy for a little taste of deja vu in those cases.) The days of Iowa going to back-to-back Insight Bowls or Nebraska going to back-to-back Capital One Bowls are likely dead and buried. This means a line-up of bowl affiliations that is far more amorphous than we've seen in the past -- that's bad news for the cottage industry of bowl projectors (good luck keeping track of all the conditions in play now), but good news for fans and players who want a bit more variety in their postseason experiences.
EDIT: After Delany's press conference earlier today, we know a bit more about the impending bowl picture. Here's an updated breakdown:
Bowls likely will be played in an upper tier, a middle tier and a bottom tier, and the Big Ten will work with bowl officials to place teams in games. The goal: to freshen up the bowl landscape.
"We're working with the bowls to create what I would describe as a process for selection and approval by each bowl, subject to a series of parameters," Delany said Monday. "We're going to really want to have different teams in different bowls. I think early on in the cycle, you'll see something that resembles a selection process, but as the bowls unfold, you'll see a real focus on getting diversity and freshness."
One key point noted by Scott Dochterman in the Gazette:
The tiered system forces the bowls to select five different Big Ten schools over a six-year period. It also keeps bowls from jumping conference teams based only on reputation and fan base.
ESPN also clarified the Orange Bowl situation a bit:
The Rose Bowl remains in its own tier for the Big Ten, and the league also will appear in the Orange Bowl at least three times between 2014-26. In those seasons, an ACC team would take the Big Ten's spot in the Capital One Bowl, sources have told colleagues Brett McMurphy and Heather Dinich.
Finally, the Big Ten may not be done adding bowl affiliations yet. Per ESPN, they could add another East Coast-based bowl (likely the Military Bowl in Washington D.C.) as a lower tier option.
Clear as mud? Fantastic!