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Let’s Go Bowling

A preliminary look at where the Big Ten teams fit in the bowl hierarchy.

It’s time to take a look at potential bowl games for the Big Ten.
Photo by Jay LaPrete/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

With only four games remaining for most of the teams throughout the conference (Northwestern still has five to play), it’s time to take a stab at where teams could end up come late December and early January

Below are my predictions on where everything will shake out with commentary below the picks.

College Playoff: Ohio State (13-0) vs. At-Large (Clemson)

Rose Bowl: Penn State (11-1) vs. Pac 12 (Oregon)

Citrus Bowl: Wisconsin (10-3) vs. SEC/ACC (Florida)

Outback Bowl: Indiana (8-4) vs. SEC (Texas A&M)

Holiday Bowl: Michigan (9-3) vs. Pac 12 (USC)

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: Minnesota (9-3) vs. SEC (Missouri)

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Michigan State (8-4) vs. ACC (Virginia Tech)

Redbox Bowl: Iowa (9-3) vs. Pac 12 (Arizona State)

Quick Lane Bowl: Nebraska (6-6) vs. ACC (Florida State)

Armed Forces Bowl: Illinois (6-6) vs. Mountain West (Wyoming)

It will be very interesting to see how stringent the conference and the individual bowl games are to their contract language. For instance, many of the bowls want to have five different teams represent their bowl over a six year period that ends with the 2019 season.

This means, for instance, that the Outback Bowl wouldn’t take Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Northwestern. So while the Outback Bowl is higher in the pecking order than say the Holiday Bowl or the Redbox Bowl, will they really want an 8-4 Indiana over a 9-3 Michigan or a 9-3 Iowa?

My predictions are based on the conference and bowls staying strong on the contract language.

I didn’t put much time into the opponents of each bowl simply because I don’t really care that much on who the 6th best SEC team is going to be in December or whether they have already played in a certain bowl too many times. I put a quick guess in parenthesis just for conversation purposes.

I project Iowa to a 9-3 record and a second place finish in the Big Ten West division. Unfortunately, they don’t qualify for the Outback, TaxSlayer, and thankfully, the Pinstripe Bowl. This means they could get a Citrus, Holiday, or Redbox selection.

I don’t see the Citrus passing on the Big Ten West champions nor do I see the Holiday Bowl passing on a Michigan team that has tumbled down the list due to qualification issues as well.

Here are the qualifying issues I found:

  • Citrus: Penn State, Minnesota, Michigan
  • Outback: Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Northwestern
  • Holiday: Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin
  • TaxSlayer: Iowa, Penn State
  • Pinstripe: Indiana, Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin
  • Redbox: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska, Purdue

So while the above wouldn’t be my picks if each bowl could pick based on record and fans ability to travel, the picks are what they are. Let me know where you disagree on the Big Ten side of the ledger.

As noted above, a new six-year bowl cycle starts next season. The biggest change for Big Ten is that the Holiday Bowl is going away to be replaced by the Las Vegas/Belk Bowl — heaven forbid turning Hawkeye fans loose in Sin City.