The Big Ten bowl picture cleared up a bit after the final weekend of the regular season.
Wisconsin or Michigan State will ring in the new year in California before playing in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO. The Badgers earned a rematch with Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten championship game this Saturday in Indianapolis. We're projecting a Wisconsin victory at Lucas Oil Stadium and a return trip to Pasadena.
Michigan, meanwhile, likely secured a BCS at-large berth by beating archrival Ohio State for the first time since 2003 and finishing the regular season at 10-2. It would be hard to see all the BCS bowls passing up the Wolverines, who haven't been to a BCS bowl in five years.
We're also basing these predictions on what we're hearing within the bowl circles. The Florida bowls want 9-3 Nebraska, and there's no way the Huskers fall below the Outback Bowl. The question is whether Nebraska heads to Capital One or Outback. Since Michigan State has been a regular guest in the Capital One Bowl, we have Nebraska going there. We also hear Ohio State, despite its 6-6 mark and its uncertain coaching situation, appeals to the folks in Jacksonville.
Penn State's loss in Madison drops the Nittany Lions several spots in the bowl pecking order. Some bowls will be reluctant to invite Penn State because of the negative publicity surrounding the program. We think the Lions will find a postseason home in Houston.
Although bowls sometimes shy away from inviting the same team in consecutive seasons, we project two teams, Iowa and Northwestern, to return to their postseason destinations from last season.
Purdue became the 10th Big Ten team to become bowl-eligible after reclaiming the Old Oaken Bucket. The Boilers will go bowling for the first time since 2007. We believe they're more attractive than Illinois, which completed its second-half collapse with a putrid performance at Minnesota.
Projection time ...
Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, Jan. 2: Wisconsin vs. BCS team
Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan. 3: Michigan vs. BCS team
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 2: Nebraska vs. SEC team
Outback Bowl, Jan. 2: Michigan State vs. SEC team
Insight Bowl, Dec. 30: Iowa vs. Big 12 team
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Jan. 2: Ohio State vs. SEC team
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Dec. 31: Penn State vs. Big 12 team
TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 2: Northwestern vs. Big 12 team
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 27: Purdue vs. MAC team
At-large: Illinois vs. TBA