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The Rose Bowl game technically gets the last pick among the BCS bowls following the 2013 as the host of the National Championship Game, but with the conference matchup already set in stone, it's not really important where this bowl falls in the selection order.
Big Ten fans are hoping the conference is on the verge of awakening from its long, embarrassing slumber against the other conferences in the postseason, and our projected 2013 Big Ten champs might be just the team to restore a little honor to the league.
The Michigan State Spartans have already won their bowl game this season, so why not pick them as a potential conference redeemer?
At first glance, picking a team that finished 2012 with a 7-6 record and 3-5 conference mark to capture the Big Ten title might be a stretch. But consider the following: Michigan State lost all five of its conference games by four or fewer points and the youthful Spartans can return 18 starters for 2013, including 10 on offense.
It's almost unheard of to lose five games by a combined 13 points, but MSU did it in 2012. We're willing to bet that the added experience—particularly on offense—will be enough to earn two touchdowns' worth of points next season.
Two touchdowns. That's all that stood between 3-5 Michigan State and an 11-1 (8-0) record in 2012.
The road won't be easy for Sparty, and we're not guaranteeing a 12-0 season. But we do project MSU as Big Ten champions, earning that long-awaited trip back to Pasadena.
The Pac-12 champion also earns a trip to the Rose Bowl Game, unless of course that team heads to the National Championship Game—also in Pasadena in 2014. We're placing the Pac-12 winner in the title game, so we'll need a stand-in. That team always comes from the contractual conference tie-ins as long as one is available and eligible. And we just don't see how there won't be two Pac-12 teams in the BCS next season.
The Pac-12 replacement spot in the Rose Bowl Game will be filled by UCLA.
The Bruins captured the Pac-12 South Division title in 2012, and we believe they can do the same in 2013. The difference this time around is that the Bruins will likely close out the season with fewer than four losses prior to bowl season.
Head coach Jim Mora has the program on the right track, and the experience of eight returning offensive starters should be more than enough to take care of some of those ugly losses (like the October 6 loss at Cal).
We're still not sure the Bruins are up to the task of conquering the entire Pac-12, but it's clear UCLA has lost its fear of the Trojans. And an invitation to play in the Rose Bowl game on their home field is a nice “consolation” prize for the Bruins.
Projection: Michigan State vs. UCLA