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Big Ten bowl picture: Week 12

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten has six bowl-eligible teams, and both Wisconsin and Illinois can reach the milestone this week. Despite Penn State's loss to Iowa, the Big Ten is still in fairly good position to get two teams in BCS bowls.

The postseason picture should take shape even more after Saturday's games. Here's a closer look:

Big Ten bowl tie-ins: 7 (Rose/BCS, Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports, Insight, Motor City)

BOWL ELIGIBLE

No. 8 Penn State (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) -- The loss to Iowa likely took Penn State out of the national championship mix, but the Lions remain in good shape for a BCS bowl. If Penn State wins its final two games against Indiana and Michigan State, it wins the Big Ten's BCS tiebreaker and heads to the Rose Bowl. A loss could put the Lions in the Capital One Bowl.

No. 11 Ohio State (8-2, 5-1) -- If the Buckeyes win out and Penn State stumbles, they win the Big Ten's BCS tiebreaker and head to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1997. Even if Penn State wins out, Ohio State would remain in good shape for a BCS at-large bid, provided that Oregon State doesn't win the Pac-10's automatic berth. If USC goes to the Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes likely would go to another BCS bowl ahead of a second non-BCS team.

No. 15 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) -- The Spartans will be playing on New Year's Day. The big question is where. They need to upset Penn State on the road Nov. 22 and have Ohio State lose one of its last two to win the Big Ten's BCS tiebreaker. If Michigan State beats Penn State and Ohio State wins out, the Spartans could grab a BCS at-large berth. Otherwise, they would end up in the Capital One Bowl.

Northwestern (7-3, 3-3) -- A split of the last two games likely would ensure Northwestern a berth in the Alamo, Champs Sports or Insight bowls. If the Wildcats sweep the final two, they could end up in the Outback. But because of poor attendance and a smaller fan base, Northwestern could get leapfrogged in the bowl pecking order, particularly if it loses its final two games.
Minnesota (7-3, 3-3) -- Back-to-back losses likely have taken the Gophers out of the mix for a New Year's Day bowl, though a win Saturday at Wisconsin could change things. Minnesota can improve its postseason position by beating two rivals (Wisconsin and Iowa) that are also in the running. The Gophers look like a good bet for Champs Sports or Insight.

Iowa (6-4, 3-3) -- Not only did the Hawkeyes get bowl eligible by upsetting Penn State, but they vaulted into the mix for a New Year's Day bowl. Iowa has one of the best traveling fan bases in the Big Ten, and it could sneak into the Outback Bowl by winning its final two regular-season games (Purdue, Minnesota). A split could get the Hawkeyes into the Alamo Bowl.

ON THE CUSP

Wisconsin (5-5, 2-5) -- With Cal-Poly on the slate next week, the Badgers should be able to get bowl eligible. But a 2-6 conference record just doesn't look good, and Wisconsin would benefit from beating rival Minnesota on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). Wins in the final two games puts the Badgers in the mix for the Champs Sports or Insight bowls. A split could bump Wisconsin to the Motor City.

SINK OR SWIM

Illinois (5-5, 3-3) -- After missing an opportunity to get bowl eligible last week against Western Michigan, Illinois finds itself in a tough spot. Ohio State comes to Champaign this weekend, and the Illini wrap up with a trip to Northwestern. This is an attractive team for bowl representatives, but Illinois needs to find a way to win one of its last two. Otherwise, it will be Rose Bowl to no bowl for Ron Zook's squad.

FUHGEDDABOUDIT

Michigan (3-7, 2-4) -- The Wolverines' first complete performance of the season came a little too late, though the win at Minnesota could signal a strong finish. Michigan will miss the postseason for the first time since 1974.

Purdue (3-7, 1-5) -- Last week's loss to Michigan State ensured that Purdue will not go to a bowl for just the second time in coach Joe Tiller's tenure. The Boilers need wins in their final two games (Iowa, Indiana) to avoid the lowest wins total in Tiller's 12 seasons as head coach.

Indiana (3-7, 1-5) -- A season that began with plenty of hope for a second straight bowl appearance has turned into a big disappointment. Injuries have ravaged the Hoosiers, but a defense that couldn't build off last year's bowl run didn't help matters. Last week's loss to Wisconsin eliminated Indiana from postseason contention.