In the fourth power conference installment of the 2009 NCAA Bowl Projection Series, I’ll look at the other conference likely to get a second BCS berth: the Big Ten.
While they will miss out on the BCS Championship Game for a second consecutive year, the Big Ten will most likely send two teams to the Big Dance once again.
Conference champion Ohio State is locked into the Rose Bowl, but there is an intriguing internal battle between 10-2 Iowa and 10-2 Penn State for that second berth.
The Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions this season, but traditions and past ratings are a nod in the favor of JoePa’s bunch.
The intriguing thing about the whole situation is that because the Big Ten has seven usual tie-ins and only seven eligible teams, either Penn State or Iowa also going to the BCS will open up a spot in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl...with the bizarre beneficiary due to be the much-maligned Sun Belt Conference.
These are the "Magnificent Seven" going bowling from the Big Ten:
Ohio State (10-2)
Penn State (10-2)
Michigan State (6-6)
These are the Big Ten's usual automatic bids:
No. 1: BCS (Rose Bowl or BCS Championship Game)
No. 2: Capital One Bowl
No. 3: Outback Bowl
No. 4: Champs Sports Bowl
No. 5: Alamo Bowl
No. 6: Insight Bowl
No. 7: Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
There are a couple of hitches to this list.
All bowls select in the above order, but the Capital One, Alamo, and Little Caesars Bowls are required to take the team with the best available record or one within one win of it.
This year, the Little Caesars Bowl won’t have to worry about that; they will either get a team by default or, if a second team goes to the BCS, have to fill that slot with an outsider.
Projected Bowl Bids
No. 1: Rose Bowl—Ohio State
No. 2: Fiesta Bowl—Penn State
No. 3: Capital One Bowl—Iowa
No. 4: Outback Bowl—Wisconsin
No. 5: Champs Sports Bowl—Northwestern
No. 6: Alamo Bowl—Michigan State
No. 7: Insight Bowl—Minnesota
Ohio State is locked into the Rose, as they have zero chance of playing for a national championship.
The Fiesta has a choice between Penn State and Iowa, but they will choose the Nittany Lions. Even though the Hawkeyes won the head-to-head battle, they have injury issues, and Penn State will travel very well to the Valley of the Sun.
That leaves the Capital One to choose between 10-2 Iowa and Wisconsin (who I project will be 9-3 after beating Hawaii this weekend). They’ll take the Hawkeyes to face (most likely) LSU.
The Outback, which has already locked in Auburn, will then take the Badgers, who last played there two seasons ago. It’s the Badgers solely because Northwestern has never played in the game.
The Champs Sports Bowl, bound by the “best record” restriction, will then take the Wildcats by default. That sounds worse than intended, but they’re getting an 8-4 team with two big conference wins that will match up well against a middle-of-the-pack ACC foe.
That leaves the Spartans and Gophers, and the Alamo Bowl will take the one they’ve had before. That’s Michigan State, who even in a down year is a draw and will likely face Texas Tech.
By default, then, the Insight Bowl gets Minnesota for the second straight year (and third time in four). After losing to Kansas last season, the Gophers will likely match up against Missouri.
Because of the second BCS berth, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl has to look elsewhere.