As we head toward the last weekend of the regular season, we have a little more clarity on the bowls than we normally do. Nothing has been made official, but it seems like much has been decided.
- First, there are definite tiers in the B1G pecking order. Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, and Nebraska are the first tier. Penn State, Ohio State, and Iowa are the second tier. Purdue, Illinois and Northwestern are the third tier. I would be stunned to see a team jump over a team from a higher tier.
- Obviously, the winner in Indianapolis will go to Pasadena and face Oregon or UCL...Oregon. They're facing Oregon. While not fair, expect to see the loser fall to the 4th selection in the league. Revitalized Michigan and Newbie Nebraska will both be chosen before the Badgers or Spartans. Most likely, that will be the loser to the Outback Bowl. It could be the Insight Bowl.
- Michigan is a lock for a BCS Bowl, if it climbs those two spots from 16 to 14 in the BCS rankings. I think it happens, but with little margin to spare. If it is an all SEC final, Michigan will be the first selection and go to the Sugar Bowl (facing Houston, or Kansas State if Houston loses the C-USA championship). If it is LSU-Oklahoma State, Michigan will be selected by the Fiesta Bowl and will face Stanford. If Michigan doesn't climb those two spots, they'll be taken by the Capital One Bowl and will face Arkansas or South Carolina.
- Nebraska will likely head to the Capital One Bowl. This is about team fatigue. Wisconsin has been to Oranado frequently this decade. Michigan State was there last year and twice in the last three years. Nebraska is new, shiny, and full of fans who will flock to Orlando. I believe that the Huskers will be pushed down to the Outback if Michigan doesn't get the BCS berth, but that may not be a given.
Nebraska has played in an Orlando Bowl before. The 1991 Citrus Bowl. It didn't go well.
- 9-3 Penn State should be selected for the Insight Bowl. Early in the week, there were a lot of tidbits from writers talking about the bowl selecting Iowa for a return trip instead of the Lions and their 500 pound gorilla. Now today, Penn State announced that it will donate $1.5 million of its bowl proceeds to charities that assist victims of sexual assault. First, that's wonderful. Second, it's not an accident that was announced today. I suspect that Penn State was hearing that the Insight wasn't crazy about having this scandal added to the Junker mess with which they are already indirectly associated. The charitable announcement was a way of letting the Insight Bowl know that it can announce a positive with the selection of the Lions. I bet it works and that Penn State faces the Baylor-Texas winner.
- The Gator Bowl selects next, and has screamed from the mountaintop that it wants to host Urban-Bowl 2012. It looks like the Chick-Fil-A Bowl has settled on Auburn and that they will choose a different ACC team (Florida State the most likely) to avoid four Auburn-Clemson games in a 24 month stretch. That should make OSU-Florida a reality, and it will give the Buckeyes their best shot at recording their first ever victory over an SEC team in a bowl game. Should the Chick-Fil-A opt for Florida-Clemson, would the Gator choose Ohio State over Iowa to face Auburn? I'm not as sure about that.
- The Care Care Bowl of Texas is playing backstop. It will take whichever of the second tier teams is still available. Most likely, this will be Iowa. Pencil them in for Houston and a date with Texas A&M.
- The Ticket City Bowl will have its choice of the third tier. With Illinois currently a mess and Northwestern having inaugurated the bowl last year, I'm guessing that they select Purdue. If Houston wins on Saturday, this will be the last selection of C-USA's bowl teams - likely Marshall. If they lose, SMU or Tulsa should be available here. That said, C-USA has been known to jiggle their bowl assignments, so a western team could well fall here.
- Detroit and the Pizza Bowl. Northwestern or Illinois. I'm suspecting it's the 'Cats, just because of how Zooked the Illinois program is right now. Look for the bowl to do one of two things: 1) pair the B1G representative with Northern Illinois in a game that might draw some local interest or 2) pair the B1G with Toledo, the best team that didn't just play in Detroit in the MAC Championship Game. I'm guessing the latter.
- I've got Illinois as the free agent, but whichever school it is, they'll end up somewhere. New Orleans Bowl, Fight Hunger Bowl, Hawaii Bowl and New Mexico Bowl will all have openings. Illinois (or Purdue...or Northwestern) will have someplace to play. And should Michigan not make a BCS Bowl, there is still plenty of room for two of these teams to find homes.