Michigan Football: Potential Bowl Games and Matchups
After a 7-5 regular season and 3-5 Big Ten Conference mark, the Michigan Wolverines await their postseason bowl game destination. Michigan’s fate likely won’t be decided until the completion of this weekend’s Big Ten Championship game between Michigan State and Ohio State, but the Wolverines will almost certainly be matched-up against a big-time SEC or Big 12 opponent. Check out the slides for a complete list of Michigan’s possible bowl destinations and opponents:
Texas Bowl: Houston, Texas: December 27
Likely opponents: Texas Tech, Kansas State
The Texas Bowl traditionally features lower-end bowl-eligible teams from the Big Ten and the Big 12, so Michigan vs. Texas Tech, who finished 7-5 overall and 4-5 in the Big 12, is a very likely matchup here. The Wolverines could also meet Kansas State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) in what would be an especially intriguing matchup considering the Wolverines were selected ahead of the Wildcats to play in the 2012 Sugar Bowl. Though Michigan went on to beat Virginia Tech, 23-20, plenty of players, coaches, and fans from Manhattan, Kansas would argue the Wildcats were snubbed in favor of the Wolverines from a well-deserved BCS berth. Though the probability of Michigan playing in Houston is nothing more than a solid “medium,” the Texas Bowl is still one of the three most likely bowl destinations for the Wolverines.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Tempe, Arizona – December 28th
Possible Opponents: Texas (8-3, 7-1 Big 12), Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2 Big 12), Kansas State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12)
Texas and Oklahoma are the more likely opponents for the Wolverines in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, their second most probable bowl game destination behind the Gator Bowl. Having Michigan and either the Longhorns or Sooners would undoubtedly provide one of the most anticipated non-BCS games played before January 1st, and the Wolverines would likely come in as underdogs against either team. Played in Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium, a game between Michigan and either Texas or Oklahoma would fill most, if not all, of the venue’s 71,706 seats. Not bad for a bowl game played on December 28.
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Dallas, Texas – January 1
Likely Opponents: Syracuse (6-6, 4-4 ACC), Boston College (7-5, 4-4 ACC)
One of the less-likely destinations for the Wolverines, the Heart of Dallas Bowl (formerly known as the TicketCity Bowl) can include a wide variety of teams from the Big Ten to the ACC, and even Conference USA. Potential opponents include the ACC’s Syracuse and Boston College or Conference USA’s Marshall, Rice and East Carolina. Since it’s unlikely that Michigan would be paired against a Conference USA foe, the Wolverines chances at falling to the Heart of Dallas Bowl are slim. Look for this game to feature an ACC vs. Conference USA matchup instead of Big Ten vs. ACC.
Gator Bowl: Jacksonville, Florida – January 1
Likely Opponents: Georgia (8-4, 5-3 SEC), Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC), Ole Miss (7-5, 3-5 SEC)
Jacksonville’s EverBank Field is an appropriate destination considering former Wolverines Chad Henne and Denard Robinson take the field every other week here as members of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Robinson was Michigan’s quarterback in the 2011 Gator Bowl—a 52-14 drubbing at the hands of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Wolverines’ last appearance in the Gator Bowl three years ago was also after a 7-5 season, and ironically Rich Rodriguez’s last game as Michigan’s head coach. Though Brady Hoke’s job is safe regardless of the Wolverines’ bowl game performance, Jacksonville is the most probable destination for the Wolverines again this bowl season.
Outback Bowl: Tampa, Florida – January 1
Possible Opponents: Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC), LSU (9-3, 5-3 SEC), South Carolina (10-2, 6-2 SEC)
Losers to South Carolina in last year’s Outback Bowl, Michigan will have a hard time earning a spot in the 2014 Outback Bowl after finishing 3-5 in the Big Ten this season. Assuming both Ohio State and Michigan State earn BCS Bowl berths, Wisconsin and Iowa would be more attractive selections for the Outback Bowl thanks to 6-2 and 5-3 conference marks, respectively. If Michigan somehow gets a bid, they’ll likely face South Carolina again or Les Miles’ LSU Tigers.
The Wolverines will be invited to the Gator Bowl for the second time in four seasons, where they’ll face the Georgia Bulldogs. The teams’ large and well-travelled fan bases makes Jacksonville’s EverBank Field an attractive venue for an early-afternoon New Year’s Day showdown. The Wolverines’ national popularity make them a more attractive pick than either Nebraska or Minnesota for a January 1 game, and, though perhaps undeserving, the Wolverines will get the final nod for the Gator Bowl.