LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 5: Northwestern Wildcats' coach Pat Fitzgerald is squishing the head of Nebraska Bo Pelini at Memorial Stadium November 5, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
This was supposed to be a breather week in the Big Ten. There weren't any great matchups. We were supposed to be waiting for the stretch run that starts next weekend with Penn State-Nebraska. But here's the thing about having teams that are good, but not great: they can lose games that they shouldn't. Nebraska did that. Michigan did that. Ohio State and Michigan State came really close to doing that. As it stands, the winner of Michigan State-Iowa will now control its destiny in the Legends Division. Nebraska and Michigan each need to win out and hope for a Sparty loss along the way (and Michigan will now need an Iowa loss too). The Leaders Division didn't see any real shake up, but will the mess in the Penn State athletic department have any impact on the preparation for these next three games?
Currently, I see three B1G teams that could get an at large BCS bid.
10-2 Wisconsin. The Badgers win out, but Penn State clinches the division after beating Nebraska and Ohio State.
10-2 Nebraska-Michigan winner. The winner of this game wins out, but Sparty wins the division.
11-2 Penn State. The Lions sweep the regular season, but fall in the B1G Championship Game.
Everybody else will need to win the league to get to a big time bowl, because a three-loss team isn't going to cut it this season. As for the actual projections, let's remember that there are rules:
The best teams don't always go to the best games. In the end, butts in the seat and eyes to the television are the biggest factors.
The order of BCS selection is 1) Replacement for #1 Team; 2) Replacement for #2 Team; 3) Fiesta Bowl; 4) Sugar Bowl; 5) Orange Bowl.
Until a team is officially bowl banned, we assume that they can and will go. So, no USC. Ohio State, Oregon, North Carolina, Miami...you're in consideration until otherwise notified.
If a Big Ten or Pac-10 team qualifies for the BCS Championship Game, the Rose Bowl will NOT be required to take a non-automatic qualifier. This was only required of the Rose Bowl the first time (2010 season) it occurred over the current four-year contract.
The Insight Bowl picks its Big Ten team ahead of the Gator Bowl this year. It will rotate the other way next year.
Got it? Good. Let's get on to the projections.
Can an NFL quarterback beat THAT defense? Can he do it in THAT defense's backyard? And yes, I have Oklahoma State losing to Oklahoma in their finale.
I have Penn State winning two of their next three and the B1G Championship game. Oregon finishes 10-2, and gets an at large bid to replace Stanford.
And here is how Oklahoma State gets screwed. Assuming that they lose to Oklahoma, they finish 11-1. Sugar Bowl take an SEC team to replace LSU. Rose Bowl takes a Pac-12 team to replace Stanford. Fiesta has the next pick, and will choose between Boise, the Big East Champ, and a 10-2 B1G team. I think they go B1G. There are no remaining at large spots, and the Cowboys fall to the Cotton Bowl.
Alabama's not dead yet. If Arkansas win out, which would include a win in Baton Rouge, Bama, LSU, and the Hogs would finish in a three way tie that would be decided by the BCS standings. Timing of loss might put Bama in the SEC Championship Game (much like Texas over OU and Tech in 2009). But, do we think Arkansas can beat this LSU team?
A tip of the hat to the Bearcats, which now have a 2 game lead (counting tiebreakers) over the rest of the Big East.
9-3 Nebraska gets chosen over a return trip from 10-3 Sparty. The third team from the SEC West is looking like a lock here.
This would be a matchup of 10-3 division winners and conference title game losers.
I am penciling in the winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game here. K-State gets the nod as the fourth team from the Big 12 (behind OU, OSU, and Texas).
It may be sexy because it says Florida, but this could well be a 6-6 Florida team that only beat Vandy, Tennessee, Kentucky, and three non-con garbage teams.
Did I overreact last week? Maybe. But, the same problems were there as Iowa tried to hang on to the win. They get chosen over the return trip from Illinois. And yes, I have them winning game number seven in West Lafayette. Expect the Big 12 to send the second best of Baylor, aTm, and Mizzou.
If Illinois loses to Michigan and Wisconsin, is this the end of Zook? I think Conference USA sends the loser of Tulsa-Houston.
As Bama Hawk Girl said last night, if Northwestern wants to make beating Nebraska every year their new thing, I am perfectly OK with that. Wins over Rice and Minnesota make the Purple bowl eligible. NIU wins the MAC and gets an exciting matchup with the Battle for Batavia.
If you can't get to six wins, you'll spend bowl season on the couch with the Queso Bowl.
Purdue has a route. The need to beat either Ohio State or Iowa in West Lafayette and Indiana in Bloomington. If they get to six wins, I expect that the Pizza Bowl picks them ahead of Northwestern. If the B1G has an extra team available, they will find a bowl this year. The likelihood that the Big 12 and SEC both fill all of their bowl slots is between slim and none.
Minnesota joined Indiana as teams who can't get to a bowl, but are playing better.
In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.