The Big Ten champion used to punch its ticket to Pasadena as soon as it hoisted the trophy.
The BCS era changed things. Ohio State has traveled to Arizona and to New Orleans to play for a national championship despite winning the Big Ten in 2002, 2006 and 2007. When the Rose Bowl was designated as the national championship in 2001 and 2005, Illinois went to the Sugar Bowl and Penn State went to the Orange Bowl, respectively.
The destination pool for the Big Ten champion will be expanding even more when a four-team playoff arrives in 2014.
Colleague Brett McMurphy reports that the league commissioners have agreed that in years where the Rose Bowl is a national semifinal and the Big Ten champion doesn't qualify for the top four, it would head to one of the three "host" bowls. There had been some talk of the Big Ten or SEC champion automatically going to the Orange Bowl, a contract bowl, in years it cannot play in its traditional game (Rose: Big Ten, Sugar: SEC).
But sources tell McMurphy the champions will head to one of the host bowls. The leading candidates are Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A.
The conference commissioners and the presidential oversight committee on Monday settled on a rotation of six bowls (three contract, three host) for the new playoff.
I'll go out on a limb and proclaim Big Ten fans will love the idea of the Fiesta Bowl. What's not to love?
The Cotton Bowl or Chick-fil-A? Not sure that'll go over too well in the heartland. Dallas and Atlanta are nice cities, but next to Southern California in late December/early January, they don't really compare.
The good news for traditionalists is that the Rose Bowl likely will be a semifinal only two or three times in the rotation. So if the Big Ten champion doesn't crack the top four, it will head to Pasadena in most seasons.