The whole thing smacks of capitalism and opportunism and probably about 12 other “-isms,” but I don’t care. I love it.
If you are reading this, you are probably already well-versed in the dark magic and unholy math that goes into bowl selection, but for those who may not be (hi mom), a few things in preamble.
There are eight Big Ten bowl-eligible teams. Here they are in order of finish:
East: Ohio State (10–2 overall, 8–1 Big Ten); Penn State (10–2, 7–2); Michigan State (9–3, 7–2); Michigan (8–4, 5–4)
West: Wisconsin (12–0, 9–0); Northwestern (9–3, 7–2); Iowa (7–5, 4–5); Purdue (6–6, 4–5)
Other things to remember:
- Selection for the College Football Playoff and the New Year’s Six bowls is done by the College Football Playoff selection committee.
- Participation in all other bowls is done by contract with the conference and there is a set order of team selection (more on that below).
- Aside from the CFP, Big Ten teams will not go to the same bowls in back-to-back years and there is a bias against placing a team in bowls they have been to recently.
- Bowls are not obligated to select teams in order of finish.
- Teams that travel well have an edge on teams that do not, even if the poor travelers have better records.
- Above all, bowls want to make large stacks of $$$. They are cash-machines disguised as sporting exhibitions.
Order of selection for 2017:
- College Football Playoff: Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl host the semifinals.
- Orange Bowl: Highest-rated of Big Ten/SEC/Notre Dame vs. ACC. The Big Ten champion cannot play in Orange Bowl.
- Fiesta Bowl/Cotton Bowl/Peach Bowl: Selection Committee, no restrictions.
- Citrus Bowl: First choice of remaining teams if no Big Ten team is in the Orange Bowl.
- Outback Bowl: Second choice.
- Holiday Bowl: Third choice.
- Music City Bowl OR TaxSlayer Bowl: Fourth choice ... usually. The Big Ten was at the Music City Bowl last year, so it would make sense for this to be the TaxSlayer’s year. But Notre Dame looms, and I project the Irish as the choice. Therefore, neither bowl takes a Big Ten team.
- New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Fifth choice
- Foster Farms Bowl: Sixth choice
There are other bowls with Big Ten tie-ins, but not enough bowl-eligible Big Ten teams (stares at Indiana) after the CFP and the NY6 get their share.
OK, let’s do this.
Rose Bowl (College Football Playoff semifinal): No. 3 Wisconsin vs. No. 2 Oklahoma
In this final weekend of chaos, I predict Clemson over Miami to win the ACC; Oklahoma over TCU to take the Big 12; Georgia over Auburn to claim the SEC; USC over Stanford to win the Pac-12; and Wisconsin over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.
I project the following final CFP standings: 1. Clemson; 2. Oklahoma; 3. Wisconsin; 4. Georgia. That sends Clemson and Georgia to the Sugar Bowl and Wisconsin to Camp Randall West to face Oklahoma.
Side-benefit to this scenario: the Orange Bowl would host Alabama vs. Miami in what 78 percent of the country will consider the third semifinal.
Fiesta Bowl (New Year’s Six): Penn State vs. USC
Ohio State has been to the Fiesta for the past two years, so in my projections, the committee does not place the Buckeyes out west for the third straight year. The Nittany Lions sit ninth in the CFP standings released Tuesday with the Trojans right behind them (assuming USC doesn’t drop the Pac-12 title game against Stanford). With Ohio State’s loss to Wisconsin, Penn State is the choice.
Cotton Bowl (New Year’s Six): Ohio State vs. TCU
The Cotton Bowl is in Dallas and I suspect they would love to have the Fort Worth-based Horned Frogs stay close to home. Ohio State is a travel monster, has not played in the game since the 1986 season, and would be a 10-win Big Ten runner-up. $$$.
Citrus Bowl: Michigan State vs. LSU
The Citrus is one of two Big Ten-SEC clashes on New Year’s Day. Sparty gets the nod over Northwestern due to the program’s cachet and the fact that they haven’t played in Orlando since the 2010 season.
Outback Bowl: Northwestern vs. South Carolina
Northwestern went to Tampa just two years ago, so it’s possible the Wildcats get flipped with Michigan State for variety’s sake, or with Michigan (because $$$), but this seems right.
Holiday Bowl: Michigan vs. Stanford
Harbaugh Bowl. With a loss to USC (and with the Trojans in the Fiesta), the projected Pac-12 runner-up drops past Washington, slotting in for San Diego. A dream game for the good people at San Diego County Credit Union.
Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa vs. Florida State
The Seminoles rescheduled Louisiana-Monroe for Saturday to give themselves a chance to be bowl-eligible (lolz). I think someone higher up the ACC pecking order probably goes to New York, but this match-up was more fun than Iowa-Boston College or Iowa-Virginia, which seem the more likely bets.
Foster Farms Bowl: Purdue vs. Washington State
There will be lots of offense in this one.
So there you have it. What did I screw up, B5Q commentariat?