The Big Ten could have a bowl-eligible team miss out on the postseason and has informed its schools of the possibility.
According to a memo sent by the league to its athletic directors Wednesday and obtained by ESPN.com, the Big Ten's new agreement with the Capital One Orange Bowl could create a scenario where there aren't enough contracted bowl spots for every eligible team.
Beginning this season, the Orange Bowl will pair an ACC team against the highest-ranked non-champion not in the College Football Playoff from the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame.
Michigan State, ranked No. 8 in Tuesday's College Football Playoff rankings, likely will head to the Orange Bowl if No. 1 Alabama wins the SEC championship game Saturday. The next highest-rated SEC team behind Alabama is No. 10 Mississippi State, but neither Michigan State nor Mississippi State plays before the final rankings and bowl pairings are set.
If a Big Ten team goes to the Orange Bowl, the league will not have a team in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. If only one other Big Ten team -- the league champion -- makes a Playoff semifinal or another New Year's Six bowl, the league would have eight eligible teams for seven contracted bowl spots.
There are 80 bowl-eligible teams for 76 spots, all of which are contracted to certain leagues or teams, preventing any at-large selections.
"The conference will not interfere or influence our contract bowls' selection rights, nor does it have any control over the CFP," Mark Rudner, the Big Ten's senior associate commissioner for television administration, wrote to the athletic directors in Wednesday's memo. "Unless a contract bowl selects a team that is over-exposed because of recent trips to the same bowl or same region, we will not interfere with the bowl's selection."
The memo encourages athletic directors to "advocate and communicate on behalf of your institution" with bowls and states that schools are contractually obligated to accept bowl invitations if offered.
If No. 13 Wisconsin beats No. 5 Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game, it's possible the Big Ten could have three teams -- Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State -- in New Year's Six games, ensuring all of its eligible teams will go to a bowl.
The Big Ten is adopting a new selection process this year designed to avoid repeat destinations for fan bases and to create fresher bowl matchups. The league has contracts with 12 bowls but shares spots in the Orange-Citrus, Gator-Music City and Heart of Dallas-Armed Forces bowls.
"Given this year's circumstances, and the new processes and procedures in place for the College Football Playoff, the Orange Bowl and our other contract bowl arrangements, the conference office felt it was necessary to reiterate the operational impact so that any hypothetical outcomes could be planned for and covered in advance," the memo reads.
Rudner told ESPN.com on Thursday that the league continues to monitor the landscape but declined further comment.