Big Ten Bowl Outlook

Despite many reports to the contrary, Wisconsin is NOT Motor City bound this December. Here is a look at the bowl picture, taking a look at a couple of different scenarios, should Wisconsin defeat Minnesota this Saturday.

As the Badgers head towards a game that is as must-win as must-win gets, the snide comments about the Motor City Bowl are echoing louder and louder each day. From radio, to television and newspapers around the state, it's been consistently reported for weeks that Wisconsin is striving to qualify for a bowl so they can "head to the Motor City."

But a little research would reveal that is not the case. The reality is, if Wisconsin wins its game against Minnesota Saturday, it will be headed to either the Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, Dec. 28), Sun Bowl (Dec. 31, El Paso) or Music City Bowl (Nashville, Dec. 30), and the odds are stacked heavier towards Texas than Nashville.

The odds of Wisconsin going to the Motor City Bowl are so slim, they're not even worth considering. Here's why:

The Big Ten is locked into seven bowl games – Rose, Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Sun, Music City and Motor City. The conference champion theoretically will go to the Rose Bowl, and everyone else falls into place behind the champion (unless a bowl decides to jump a team and pick a lower finisher, which they have every right to do).

As we enter the final weekend of the Big Ten season, here is a look at the standings, with teams already bowl eligible in bold type:

1)Iowa 11-1 (8-0 Big Ten)
2)Ohio State 12-0 (7-0 Big Ten)
3)Michigan 9-2 (6-1 Big Ten)
4)Minnesota 7-4 (3-4 Big Ten)
5)Penn State 8-3 (4-3 Big Ten)
6)Purdue 5-6 (3-4 Big Ten)
7)Illinois 4-7 (3-4 Big Ten)
8)Michigan State 4-7 (2-5 Big Ten)
9)Wisconsin 6-6 (1-6 Big Ten)
10)Indiana 3-8 (1-6 Big Ten)
11)Northwestern 3-8 (1-6 Big Ten)

Here are the seven bowl games the Big Ten receives automatic bids to, in order that the bowls select teams (the only selection that's automatic is the Rose Bowl, which must contain the Big Ten champion): 1) Rose Bowl
2) Capital One Bowl (formerly the Citrus Bowl)
3) Outback Bowl
4) Alamo Bowl
5) Sun Bowl
6) Music City Bowl
7) Motor City Bowl

Here are the implications for this weekend's games:

- Iowa has finished its season, and has earned at least a share of the Big Ten championship. The Hawkeyes will represent the conference in the Rose Bowl.

- Ohio State must beat Michigan to earn a share of the Big Ten championship, and compete for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl. If the Buckeyes lose a close game, it's likely they could still squeeze into the BCS mix, but would not play in the title game.

- A Michigan victory would lock up the Wolverines' bid to the Capital One Bowl, but they could still play in that game with a loss.

- Penn State looks to be headed to the Outback Bowl, but a Michigan loss and Nittany Lion victory might open the door to the Capital One Bowl.

- Minnesota would wrap up an Alamo Bowl bid with a victory at Wisconsin. A loss would probably put the Gophers in the Sun Bowl or Music City Bowl.

- Purdue can clinch a bowl game with a victory against Indiana.

- Wisconsin can clinch a bowl bid with a victory against Minnesota.

- Illinois, Michigan State, Indiana and Northwestern are all out of the bowl race.

It looks like the top of the Big Ten is set as follows:

Iowa-Rose Bowl
Ohio State-Fiesta Bowl or BCS bid
Michigan-Capital One Bowl
Penn State-Outback Bowl

Where does that leave Wisconsin? If the Badgers defeat Minnesota, they will likely earn a bid to the Alamo Bowl. Don't forget, bowls are not necessarily awarded based on where teams finish in the Big Ten. The Alamo Bowl representatives have the fourth selection from the Big Ten, and they have wanted to bring Wisconsin to San Antonio for many years.

If Wisconsin beats Minnesota head-to-head, there would be almost no chance the Alamo Bowl selects the Gophers, coming off four straight losses, instead of the Badgers, who would assuredly send thousands more fans to San Antonio than would Minnesota.

Purdue could also be selected with a victory over Indiana, but it's also unlikely the Alamo Bowl would choose a 6-6 Purdue team over 7-6 Wisconsin, given the fact the Alamo Bowl has desperately wanted the Badgers for more than five years.

While the Badgers are likely headed to the Alamo Bowl with a victory, there are a few wrenches that could be thrown into the mix. For example, if Michigan blows out Ohio State, the Buckeyes will be out of the BCS picture. Under that scenario, Ohio State would play in the Capital One Bowl, and everybody else would move down a notch. In that case, Wisconsin would play in either the Sun Bowl or Music City Bowl.

The only way any Big Ten team will play in the Motor City Bowl is if: Ohio State gets pummeled by Michigan, Purdue defeats Indiana and Wisconsin defeats Minnesota. If those three results occur, the Gophers would likely play in the Motor City. But if Wisconsin wins, contrary to almost every single report in the state media (the lone exception being an accurate report in this morning's Wisconsin State Journal), the Badgers are not "Motor City Bound."

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