Big Ten bowl picture: Week 13

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Here's a quick reminder of where Big Ten teams stand in the bowl mix heading into the final weekend of the regular season. If you want two Big Ten teams in BCS bowls, you might want to purchase an Arizona shirt or learn the lines to "Bear Down, Arizona."

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


No. 8 Penn State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) -- It's pretty simple for the Nittany Lions. Beat Michigan State and go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since Jan. 1, 1995. Lose to the Spartans, and it's probably the Capital One Bowl. Penn State acknowledged after the Iowa loss that its national title hopes were essentially gone, but Saturday provides a great opportunity to finish strong.

No. 10 Ohio State (9-2, 6-1) -- The Buckeyes will be scoreboard watching more than any other Big Ten team, provided they can handle archrival Michigan. A win against the Wolverines combined with a Penn State loss sends Ohio State to Pasadena for the first time since 1997. Even if Penn State wins, Ohio State has a chance for a BCS at-large berth but likely would need Oregon State to drop one of its last two games, clearing the way for USC to reach the Rose Bowl. Should Ohio State lose, it will fall to the Capital One or Outback bowl.

No. 15 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) -- Perhaps the most interesting bowl scenario calls for a Michigan State upset of Penn State and an Ohio State win against Michigan. The Buckeyes would go to the Rose Bowl because of the head-to-head edge, but Michigan State could be in the mix for a BCS at-large berth if Oregon State stumbles down the stretch. In this case, it might come down to Michigan State against a second non-BCS team (Boise State, BYU) for the final at-large spot. A Spartans loss in State College puts them in the Capital One or Outback bowl.

Northwestern (8-3, 4-3) -- The best-case scenario for Northwestern would be a win Saturday against Illinois, an Iowa loss to Minnesota and two Big Ten teams reaching BCS bowls. At 9-3, the Wildcats would get serious consideration for the Outback Bowl. If Iowa wins, the Hawkeyes likely will jump Northwestern on the bowl pecking order. Northwestern's most realistic options remain Alamo, Champs Sports or Insight.

Iowa (7-4, 4-3) -- The Hawkeyes should root against Oregon State just as hard as Ohio State. If two Big Ten teams reach BCS bowls and Iowa wins its regular-season finale at Minnesota, it would be in excellent shape for the Outback Bowl. It's amazing to think about, given where Iowa was only weeks ago. But the Hawkeyes travel well and will be in the mix for the Alamo Bowl and the Champs Sports Bowl no matter what happens Saturday.

Minnesota (7-4, 3-4) -- A win Saturday is imperative for the Gophers to improve their postseason options. Four consecutive losses to close the season doesn't look good to bowl representatives, and Minnesota doesn't travel as well as some of its primary competitors. If the Gophers beat Iowa, they'll be in the mix for the Alamo, Champs Sports and Insight. A loss could send Minnesota to the Motor City Bowl.

Wisconsin (6-5, 3-5) -- Athletic director Barry Alvarez has a bowl destination in mind, but Wisconsin would be well served to take care of Cal-Poly, a dangerous FCS opponent. Despite a poor Big Ten record, a 7-5 overall mark probably gets Wisconsin to the Insight Bowl. The Badgers travel well and boast a sizable alumni base. A loss Saturday probably puts Wisconsin in the Motor City Bowl.


Illinois (5-6, 3-4) -- The Illini need a win at Northwestern to avoid becoming the first Big Ten team to avoid the postseason a year after reaching the Rose Bowl since ... Illinois in 1984. Even if Illinois wins, it likely needs two Big Ten teams to reach BCS bowl games in order to make the postseason. Head-to-head losses against Wisconsin and Minnesota hurt, but if things go right, Illinois could make the Motor City Bowl or perhaps the Insight.


Michigan (3-8, 2-5) -- As defensive tackle Terrance Taylor told me this week, Saturday will serve as Michigan's bowl game. A huge upset of Ohio State would momentarily take the sting off a miserable season. Michigan won't be going bowling for the first time since 1974.

Purdue (3-8, 1-6) -- The Tiller Bowl takes place Saturday against Indiana (ESPN2, noon ET), as Joe Tiller coaches his final game at Purdue before heading into retirement. Purdue will miss the postseason for just the second time during Tiller's 12-year tenure.

Indiana (3-8, 1-6) -- Another bowl appearance was on the Hoosiers' radar entering the season, but a rash of injuries combined with inconsistent defensive play leave them at the bottom of the league. This will be a critical offseason for Indiana, which can't afford to lose any more momentum.