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Big Ten bowl projections, Week 12

The Badgers are one week closer to the Big Ten title game, while the best of the East sneak out wins.

Ohio State v Michigan State Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

1. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1)

In their final tuneup before facing the Wolverines, Ohio State was able to sneak by Michigan State and avoid a loss in a potential trap game. With one game left to go in the Big Ten regular season, the Buckeyes possess a defense that can hold its own with anyone in the country and, on offense, some seriously talented players in the running game. Yet, J.T. Barrett and the passing attack have struggled more often than not in the downfield passing game since Big Ten play started. They’ll need to be more dynamic on offense if they expect to prevail over Jim Harbaugh and his hyper-athletic Wolverines. The Buckeyes need a bit of help in Week 13 to make it to the Big Ten championship game; not only will they need a victory over Michigan, they also need Penn State to lose to Michigan State.

Up Next: vs. No. 3 Michigan

Previous Ranking: No. 1

Bowl Projection: College Football Playoff

2. Michigan Wolverines (10-1)

It took the Wolverines well into the second half, but they were finally able to pull away from a stubborn Indiana squad. Michigan has set itself up for one heck of a finish to 2016, as Harbaugh has fulfilled the Wolverines’ comeback to prominence. Still, it appears likely that their leader throughout much of the season, Wilton Speight, will be out again on Saturday in the biggest game of the college football season. John O’Korn made his first start at QB in Week 12 and it sure wasn’t pretty (7-of-16, 59 yards, zero touchdowns). A win over Ohio State, and Michigan heads to the Big Ten Championship game, while a loss spoils hopes of a Big Ten and national title.

Next Week: at No. 2 Ohio State

Previous Ranking: No. 1

Bowl Projection: Orange Bowl

3. Wisconsin Badgers (9-2)

Paul Chryst and his Badgers put on an impressive performance in West Lafayette. Through 11 games, the Badgers have positioned themselves as the clear favorite in the Big Ten West, and a victory at home against rival Minnesota would send them straight to the Big Ten championship, with playoff hopes still very much intact. Wisconsin has built up momentum the last couple weeks as it blew out two inferior opponents (Illinois, Purdue) and is clicking on offense by utilizing a two-quarteback system, as odd as that sounds. The defense continues to shine on a week to week basis.

Note: Wisconsin can still make the Big Ten Championship game with a loss to Minnesota if Iowa beats Nebraska on Friday.

Up Next: vs. Minnesota

Previous Ranking: No. 3

Bowl Projection: Rose Bowl

4. Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2)

Penn State cruised past lowly Rutgers in Week 12, notching their ninth win of the season. The Nittany Lions host a resurgent Michigan State to finish their Big Ten schedule, but if they prevail and Ohio State beats Michigan, Penn State will find itself in the Big Ten championship game, while the selection committee will look for a side job elsewhere in 2017.

Up Next: vs. Michigan State

Previous Ranking: No. 4

Bowl Projection: Cotton Bowl

5. Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-2)

An injury to leader Tommy Armstrong is a concern for Nebraska, yet backup Ryker Fyfe started against Maryland in Week 12, leading the Huskers to convincing win. Although the Huskers notched their ninth win of the season, they need some help in order to head to Indy: a victory over Iowa on Friday and Wisconsin loss to Minnesota on Saturday.

Up Next: at Iowa

Previous Rank: No. 5

Bowl Projection: Outback Bowl

6. Iowa Hawkeyes (7-4)

The Hawkeyes disposed of a bad Illinois team in Week 12. Iowa is getting impressive output from its run game and defense to close out the season.

Up Next: vs. Nebraska

Previous Rank: No. 6

Bowl Projection: Holiday Bowl

7. Minnesota Gophers (8-3)

Minnesota notched its biggest win of 2016, cruising past Northwestern in somewhat surprising fashion.

Up Next: at No. 6 Wisconsin

Previous Rank: No. 8

Bowl Projection: New Era Pinstripe Bowl

8. Indiana Hoosiers (5-6)

For the second time in two weeks, Indiana lost a hard-fought game to a top-10 team, this time falling in Ann Arbor to the Wolverines.

Up Next: vs. Purdue

Previous Rank: No. 9

Bowl Projection: Quick Lane Bowl

9. Northwestern Wildcats (5-6)

The Wildcats dropped their Week 12 contest to Minnesota in disappointing fashion.

Up Next: at Illinois

Previous Rank: No. 7

Bowl Projection: Foster Farms Bowl

10. Michigan State Spartans (3-8)

Michigan State came within reach of a massive upset in Week 12, just missing out on an upset of Ohio State. The Spartans have one more shot at an upset in Week 13 at Penn State.

Up Next: at No. 7 Penn State

Previous Rank: No. 11

Bowl Projection: None

11. Maryland Terrapins (5-6)

The Terrapins are slumping hard as of late, this time getting handled by Nebraska.

Up Next: vs. Rutgers

Previous Rank: No. 10

Bowl Projection: None

12. Purdue Boilermakers (3-8)

The Boilermakers were knocked around at home against Wisconsin in Week 12.

Up Next: at Indiana

Previous Rank: No. 11

Bowl Projection: None

13. Illinois Fighting Illini (3-8)

There won’t be a lot of positives for Lovie Smith and his staff to look back on from Week 12, as Illinois lost to Iowa in convincing fashion.

Up Next: at Northwestern

Previous Rank: No. 13

Bowl Projection: None

14. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (2-9)

Rutgers only has one more week to win a conference game, as it once again lost in Week 12, this time to a good Penn State squad.

Up Next: at Maryland

Previous Rank: No. 14

Bowl Projection: None