First, a look at this week's Big Ten Standings, sorted by best overall record:
Here are my Big Ten Power Rankings for this week:
#1 Penn State: Penn State shook off their post-Iowa hangover in the second half and eventually pulled away from Indiana on Saturday. Next up is a home game against Michigan State, all that stands between the Nittany Lions and the Rose Bowl. I think PSU pounds MSU but 17 or more. PROJECTED RECORD: 11-1
#2 Ohio State: A 30-20 revenge win at Illinois was sweet for the Buckeyes, as the Illini knocked off Ohio State last year in Columbus. A home game against Michigan this week is their season finale, and they will be in the barn in solid position for a second BCS bid for the Big Ten. PROJECTED RECORD: 10-2
#3 Michigan State: The Spartans had a bye week this week, and based off what I have seen this year in the league, that spells bad news for MSU. That, and they are a mostly one dimensional team. That dimension is on the ground with Javon Ringer, and Penn State has one of the best run stopping units in the nation. It will be a long day for Sparty. PROJECTED RECORD: 9-3
#4 Iowa: Iowa secured its seventh win of the season on a cold, windy and wet day in Kinnick Stadium. The bad news is this was Iowa's last home game. The good news is that this week's game is in the climate controlled environment we like to call Kinnick North. PROJECTED RECORD: 8-4
#5 Wisconsin: A very nice come from behind win for the Badgers against Minnesota now has them in prime position to get a seventh win and avoid a trip to Detroit for the Motor City Bowl. Cal-Poly of the FCS is no slouch; they are one of the best teams in that division. But Wisconsin will prevail. PROJECTED RECORD: 7-5
#6 Northwestern: Nice win for the Cats in the Big House, even though this is the worst Michigan football team of all time. That moved them to eight wins, with a real shot at number nine this coming weekend at home against Illinois. But Tyrell Sutton will not be on the field for them, and Mike Kafka suffered a concussion this weekend. That, and Illinois will be playing for bowl eligibility. PROJECTED RECORD: 8-4
#7 Minnesota: The Golden Gophers come into their final ever game at the Metrodome having lost three in a row, and two of those losses were in the dome against Northwestern and Michigan. WR Eric Decker should play this week, but don't expect him to play at the level we saw him at early this year; high ankle sprain's are tough to return from. The Gophers lose, and finish 7-5, just how I predicted they would back in August. PROJECTED RECORD: 7-5
#8 Illinois: This is a tough spot. They are 5-6 and need to beat Northwestern at home just to get bowl eligible, one year removed from the Rose Bowl. Plus, the bowl game they are playing for is the Motor City Bowl. Now having a bowl game at stake is usually solid motivation, but the Illini were just in Detroit two weeks ago, where they lost to Western Michigan in front of a family and friends crowd of 12,000 or so. The coaching staff desperately wants the bowl game for the extra practices, but will the players get up enough for that? I think they will beat NW, and punch their tickets back to Detroit, and finish 6-6, which is exactly what I predicted this summer. I will remind my Illini friends of this, since they laughed in my face when I told them my pick. PROJECTED RECORD: 6-6
ELIMINATED FROM BOWL CONTENTION:
I still 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.
As was the case last week, the only possible wrench in this scenario, assuming Penn State and Ohio State win, is if Oregon State wins out. They beat Cal at home on Saturday, and have to play at Arizona this week and then in the season finale, the ‘Civil War' battle against Oregon. I think they will lose one of those games. But if they did win out, they would earn the PAC 10's automatic BCS bid by virtue of beating USC earlier this year, and I think USC would also get a BCS bid. That would create a Rose Bowl rematch of dud proportions: Penn State vs Oregon State.
For the first part of our projections, we will assume the following:
-An Iowa win over Minnesota
-PSU and Ohio State winning their final games next week
-Illinois beating Northwestern
-Wisconsin beating Cal Poly
-Oregon State losing one of its final games, meaning the Big Ten has two BCS teams.
Based on those hypotheticals, 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
ALAMO BOWL: Wisconsin vs Mizzou
CHAMPS BOWL: Minnesota vs Maryland
INSIGHT BOWL: Northwestern vs Kansas
MOTOR CITY BOWL: Illinois vs MAC Champion.
NOTE: The only reason in this scenario that the Northwestern-Illinois game matters is whether or not Illinois plays in the Motor City Bowl, and if NW can lock out Minnesota from the Alamo. If Iowa and Northwestern win this weekend, Iowa would be 8-4 with Northwestern 9-3. I see the Outback taking Iowa, and the Alamo would have to take Northwestern, because the Cats would have a two games in the standings advantage over Minnesota. In the event Iowa and NW both win, I do not see the Outback selecting Northwestern over Iowa, period.
Here are my projections should everything I listed above happen to take place with the exception of Oregon State losing. Let's assume Oregon State wins out, and the Big Ten has just one team in the BCS.
ROSE BOWL: Penn State
CAPITAL ONE BOWL: Ohio State vs Georgia
OUTBACK BOWL: Michigan State vs South Carolina****
ALAMO BOWL: Iowa vs Mizzou****
CHAMPS BOWL: Wisconsin vs Maryland
INSIGHT BOWL: Northwestern vs Kansas
MOTOR CITY BOWL: Minnesota vs MAC Champion.
Now, let me share some things that I have heard in the last 48 hours. A friend of mine had the opportunity to speak with bowl reps from the Cap One, Outback and Alamo over the weekend:
Outback: He came away with the impression that Iowa would still be in the mix for the Outback even if they lose to Minnesota, providing that Northwestern loses to Illinois. That would mean that both Northwestern and Minnesota would be 8-4 overall and 4-4 in league play. Iowa would be 7-5 overall, and 4-4 in league, with easily the best win among that bunch and a 4-2 finish to its season. He believes Iowa would still have a decent shot at the Outback in that scenario. If Iowa wins, he came away from his conversation with the Outback folks believing as I do, that it's a near lock for Iowa to the Outback, providing two Big Ten teams get BCS bids. CBSsportsline.com also has Iowa paired against South Carolina in their 11/15 bowl projections.
Cap One: That rep was much less revealing, but he did say the Cap One places a lot more credence on overall record for their bowl game. I just don't see MSU getting passed over by any 8-4 Big Ten teams, although technically it's a possibility.
Alamo: They very much hope to get the chance to select Iowa, but they don't think they are going to get the chance. So again, that's yet another bit of confirmation to my strongly held opinion that if Iowa wins next week, it's the Outback...and if they lose, the Alamo is still not optimistic they would get the Hawks, because they think the Outback could take a 7-5 Iowa over an 8-4 Minnesota and Northwestern.
In the event that Iowa would lose this weekend and Northwestern would win, the Outback Bowl would be out of reach, whether or not the Big Ten gets one or two teams into the BCS. And if Iowa would lose, and Northwestern would win, and just one team from the Big Ten goes to the BCS, Ohio State would go to the Cap One, MSU to the Outback, and the Alamo would have to select Northwestern, due to their having nine wins and the next nearest team would have just seven wins. In that scenario, I think the Champs Bowl would select Iowa.
So as I see things now, Iowa will wind up in either the Outback, Alamo or Champs. I do not see a logical scenario where Iowa would ‘fall' in the pecking order to the Insight. If Iowa wins against Minnesota, they will play in either the Outback or the Alamo bowls.
One final note of interest to Iowa fans that are considering attending Iowa's bowl game; with the uncertainty surrounding whether or not the Big Ten will receive one or two BCS bowl bids, I don't think we will be certain of Iowa's bowl destination until Sunday, December 7th. That is the day that the BCS bowl slots are announced.
This has been the case in recent years, such as the last time Iowa went to the Outback Bowl, following the 2005 season. Up until that official selection, things were looking very much like a trip to the Alamo Bowl that year, so much so that the Alamo Bowl officials had drawn up press releases that included Iowa as their Big Ten selection.
This will make travel arrangements all the more challenging for fans that want to 'go it on their own', because they will not be able to book flight, hotels or tickets until early December.
That being said, HawkeyeNation.com will make things easy for you.
We will WILL be putting together it's 6th Iowa Hawkeye Bowl Charter Trip.
Here is a sample of the ‘Rock Star' treatment you can expect from HawkeyeNation.com and our longtime and trusted travel partner, Premiere Sports Travel:
-Chartered air travel to the bowl destination
-Transportation from the airport to the hotel
-Your luggage delivered to your room
-Transportation to and from Iowa's bowl game
-Tickets to the game surrounded by thousands of Hawkeye fans
-Transportation to the airport
-Lanyard and Souvenir
Soon, you will have the opportunity to reserve your seat on our bowl charter. We will allow you to do this prior to the official bowl announcement. No matter where Iowa goes bowling, your seat will be reserved, as space is always limited for our trips and we have always sold out.
To be added to our information list, ensuring you will be among the first to know about our bowl package once it is available, CLICK HERE. All you need to do is enter your email address. Rest assured your email address will not be shared with any third parties. It will only be used to communicate with you regarding our bowl trip. Also, this does not require any monetary deposit.