Big Ten Rankings & Bowl Projections

Another week of Big Ten action is in the books and its time to take a look at the league standings and project where everyone will be going bowling this year. Plus, new for this week, we project each team's possible bowl opponent with just two more weeks to go in the regular season...are the Hawkeyes headed back to Tampa?

Time to take our weekly look at Iowa's bowl prospects…

To compare to last week's update, CLICK HERE

First, a look at this week's Big Ten Standings, sorted by best overall record:

W L W L
PSU 9 1 - 5 1
MSU 9 2 - 5 1
OSU 8 2 - 5 1
MINN 7 3 - 3 3
NW 7 3 - 3 3
IOWA 6 4 - 3 3
ILL 5 5 - 3 3
WISC 5 5 - 2 5
MICH 3 7 - 2 4
IND 4 6 - 1 5
PUR 3 7 - 1 5

Here are my Big Ten Power Rankings for this week:

#1 Penn State: Though the Nittany Lions lost this week, they don't fall in my rankings. Why? Because they lost to a pretty darn good Iowa team on the road on a last second field goal. I said this before that game and will say it again; these were the two best teams with respect to line of scrimmage play as there are in the Big Ten, and two of the best in the nation when you combine the strengths of both units. Penn State returns home for the rest of the year, with games against Indiana and Michigan State. Penn State will win both of these games by double digits and will earn a BCS bid: PROJECTED RECORD: 11-1

#2 Ohio State: They pasted an injury riddled Northwestern team in Evanston yesterday, and QB Terrell Pryor continues to climb the ladder. Their defense is still one of the best in the nation, and that unit will need to step up this coming week for a game at Illinois, who is now backed into a corner and faces the possibility of missing a bowl game. They close at home against an overmatched Michigan team, and barring Oregon State winning out (which we will discuss below), they will play in a BCS bowl game.. PROJECTED RECORD: 10-2

#3 Michigan State: It's unfortunate that Iowa lost at Michigan State 16-13, otherwise the Hawks would be in the hunt for a third place finish this year. I think Iowa is a better team than MSU, and were it not for two redzone turnovers in East Lansing….oh well. But, MSU has won, and they are at 9-2 with a bye week then a trip to Happy Valley. Michigan State's defense will not contain Penn State, and their offense will find the sledding very tough against PSU's front seven. PROJECTED RECORD: 9-3

#4 Iowa: I can write this with a straight face now, as the win against Penn State, even though Iowa continued to make significant mistakes that should have cost them the game, validates the quality of this football team. Purdue comes to town next week and I just cannot see Iowa losing that game, and that takes them to the Metrodome with seven wins, assured of a non-Detroit bowl fate, with a chance to get an eighth win and go to the Outback Bowl. PROJECTED RECORD: 8-4

#5 Wisconsin: The Badgers smoked Indiana (who doesn't?) on the road Saturday, and they host Minnesota and Cal Poly to close out the year. This is a season of ‘what ifs' for the Badgers, as well. But I think they are about what their final record will indicate. PROJECTED RECORD: 7-5

#6 Minnesota: This is the ‘bleh' point of this article; Minnesota failed to crack the 200 yard mark in total offense, they gained fewer than 10 first downs and scored fewer than 10 points against a Michigan defense that came into the game fresh off a 48 point debacle at Purdue, and allowing 390+ yards per game. A road game at Wisconsin and a home game against Iowa, the final Golden Gopher game to be played in the Metrodome look pretty daunting right now, especially with receiver Eric Decker's gimpy ankle. PROJECTED RECORD: 7-5

#7 Illinois: Big Ten teams need to get Western Michigan off the schedule. Why in the world would Illinois agree to play WMU in Detroit late in the season? This game looked like trouble when we were eyeing it back in August, and it was. Juice Williams giveth, and Juice Williams taketh away. Illinois is now 5-5, soon to be 5-6 after a home loss this coming weekend against Ohio State. That means a return trip to a bowl is on the line in the season finale at Northwestern. PROJECTED RECORD: 6-6

#8 Northwestern: They were undermanned and overmatched against Ohio State on Saturday, and they are just not healthy enough right now to do much. They travel to Michigan on Saturday, then host Illinois. If they lose to Michigan, I think they will lose to Illinois. But here is the thing; with seven wins, they will still have the edge on Illinois if they lose to the Illini, as a Big Ten bowl partner must take a seven win team if one is available. So by rule, Northwestern will play in Arizona at the Insight, while Illinois will play another MAC team, likely Ball State or WMU. PROJECTED RECORD: 7-5.

ELIMINATED FROM BOWL CONTENTION:

#9 Michigan
#10 Purdue
#11 Indiana

BOWL SLOTTING

As I mentioned above, I believe the Big Ten will get two teams into the BCS. Two will come from the Big 12 and two will come from the SEC. One bid will go to a non-BCS conference, with the Big East and ACC getting one bid. I also believe that the PAC-10 will be a one-bid league as well.

The only possible wrench in this scenario, assuming Penn State and Ohio State win out, is if Oregon State wins out. That is not going to happen, as they play Cal, at Arizona and Oregon to end the season. But if they did win out, they would earn the PAC 10's automating BCS bid by virtue of beating USC earlier this year, and I think USC would also get a BCS bid. Again, I don't see that happening, so we will go forward with the two teams from the Big Ten going to the BCS, as both Penn State and Ohio State are in this week's BCS Top 10 and they will not lose another game.

Here are my current Big Ten Bowl projections:

ROSE BOWL: Penn State
FIESTA BOWL: Ohio State
CAPITAL ONE BOWL: Michigan State vs Georgia
OUTBACK BOWL: Iowa vs South Carolina (or LSU)
ALAMO BOWL: Wisconsin vs Mizzou)
CHAMPS BOWL: Minnesota vs Miami (FL)
INSIGHT BOWL: Northwestern vs Nebraska
MOTOR CITY BOWL: Illinois vs Ball State or WMU

As for the Outback Bowl, I really think they go with South Carolina, who hasn't been to a January Bowl games since 2001, when they were in the Outback. They would travel well to this game, and we know Iowa would bring 20,000+.

Believe me when I tell you this; outside of Hawkeye Nation, the folks that are rooting just as hard for the black and gold are the good people from the Tampa Chamber of Commerce.


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