The bowl pecking order has taken shape in the Big Ten, except for a very interesting situation at the top. During the next two weeks, while the Big Ten is mostly outside the national spotlight, we'll ask these two questions:
1. Will the Big Ten get an at-large BCS bowl berth for the fifth consecutive season?
2. If it does, will that berth go to Iowa or Penn State?
Both teams finished the regular season at 10-2, and both will be eligible for an at-large selection when the final BCS standings come out on Dec. 6. Wisconsin fell out of the mix with Saturday's loss to surging Northwestern.
Iowa beat Penn State 21-10 in Happy Valley back on Sept. 26. The Hawkeyes played a tougher schedule, own wins against Wisconsin and Arizona, and should get starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi back on the field for a bowl game. Plus, Iowa was much more competitive against league champ Ohio State. Penn State owns more convincing victories against Michigan State, Michigan and Northwestern (Iowa lost to NU on Nov. 7). The Lions also have a national fan following, positive history with both the Fiesta and Orange Bowls and the Joe Paterno factor.
So which team gets the nod? It might not matter if Oklahoma State beats struggling Oklahoma, but it provides a fun debate. I still think the Big Ten ends up with two teams in the big bowls. The rest of the lineup appears set, as Michigan is now eliminated with its seventh loss.
Bowl-eligible teams: Iowa (10-2), Ohio State (10-2), Penn State (10-2), Wisconsin (8-3), Northwestern (8-4), Michigan State (6-6), Minnesota (6-6)
Eliminated: Michigan (5-7) Purdue (5-7), Indiana (4-8), Illinois (3-7)
Here's how I see things shaking out:
Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi: Ohio State vs. BCS team
Tostitos Fiesta: Iowa vs. BCS team
Capital One: Penn State vs. SEC team
Outback: Wisconsin vs. SEC team
Champs Sports: Northwestern vs. ACC team
Valero Alamo: Michigan State vs. Big 12 team
Insight: Minnesota vs. Big 12 team