By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) With two weeks to go in the regular season, it’s time to start sorting out the Big Ten’s bowl picture.
I think one thing most bowl projectors are ignoring is the impact the sexual abuse scandal will have on Penn State’s bowl possibilities. With the program in shambles, fans are not as likely to travel and with the school’s reputation taking a major hit, it’s possible some bowls won’t want to host the Nittany Lions. Keep in mind that in the bowl pecking order, teams are not selected based on records alone.
And then there’s always the chance Penn State turns down a bowl altogether, which, while unfair to the players, might be a good idea. Money won’t really be an issue because Penn State will still get the same bowl share as all other Big Ten teams. In fact, it may even save PSU money because it won’t have to worry about fulfilling its required ticket allotment.
Many are projecting two BCS berths coming out of the Big Ten, but I think that’s a long shot right now. Unless Boise State and Houston both lose again, one of them will get an automatic berth for being in the Top 12 of the BCS standings. That only leaves one at-large berth, which I think will go to Stanford, despite their lackluster fan base.
For the purposes of projecting the bowls right now we’ll assume Penn State accepts a bowl invite:
Rose Bowl – Wisconsin (7-2, 11-2) vs. Oregon
The Badgers are back in the driver’s seat in the Leaders Division and if they get a rematch against the Spartans on a neutral field, you have to like their chances.
Capital One Bowl – Michigan (6-2, 10-2) vs. Arkansas
Two big home games (Nebraska, Ohio State) to finish the season and with some help, the Wolverines could earn a BCS at-large berth. That scenario isn’t very likely though. Despite losing to Michigan State in the regular season, I think the Capital One Bowl takes the Wolverines over the Spartans because MSU was in Orlando last year.
Outback Bowl – Michigan State (7-2, 10-3) vs. South Carolina
Regular season finale at Northwestern could be tricky, but a return to Florida is looking likely right now. BCS at-large berth unlikely with Big Ten Championship Game loss.
Insight Bowl – Nebraska (5-3, 9-3) vs. Texas A&M
If the Cornhuskers win out, they too have an outside shot at a BCS at-large berth because the Fiesta Bowl might drool over an Oklahoma-Nebraska matchup. Their Rose Bowl chances are also higher than Michigan’s because they have the tiebreaker over Michigan State should the Spartans lose again. Won’t matter if they lose at Michigan though, which I think they will.
Gator Bowl – Ohio State (4-4, 7-5) vs. Auburn
With another loss, the Buckeyes would finish behind Penn State, but I can’t envision a bowl passing up Ohio State in favor a team going through what the Lions are going through right now. Penn State plays at Ohio State Saturday.
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas – Penn State (5-3, 8-4) vs Missouri
I’m very tempted to say that Penn State will fall even further, especially considering some advertisers have pulled television ads during PSU games. But, I have a feeling some of the negativity placed on the football team will dissipate in the coming weeks and shift more towards the criminals involved. Plus, the controversy may bring some added attention to the bowl Penn State is in which would an incentive for the Texas Bowl to take them.
TicketCity Bowl – Purdue (5-3, 7-5) vs Temple
This is a tough decision between Purdue and Iowa. I have Purdue here based on beating Iowa this coming weekend, but the Hawkeyes definitely travel better. Still, Boilermaker fans will be hungry for their first bowl berth since 2007.
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl – Iowa (3-5, 6-6) vs Northern Illinois
These teams would play two in a row against each other because they open next season together at Soldier Field.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl – Northwestern (3-5, 6-6) vs California
The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl is the Big Ten’s last bowl tie-in, so the Wildcats could be out of luck. It looks like there’s a decent chance the ACC won’t be able to send a team to San Francisco though so Northwestern could end up there.
The way I see it right now, there will be nine bowls available for the Big Ten. Unfortunately, there will be 10 bowl eligible teams and Illinois could be the odd team out. After starting 6-0, Illinois could finish the season on a six-game losing streak, which would make it hard for any bowl to take them over Northwestern.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.