The Big Ten will be all but wrapped up after this weekend, with the Big Ten Championship waiting for either Penn State or Wisconsin to play against quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Michigan State Spartans. But we can't forget about the other Big Ten teams either.
While the Michigan Wolverines are not playing for the Big Ten Championship, they have a chance for an at-large BCS Bowl due to their win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Should the Wolverines beat Ohio State, they would be sitting at 10-2 with a BCS Bowl opportunity waiting for them.
But that's not all. Northwestern has also become bowl-eligible along with Iowa, while Purdue will be fighting to become bowl-eligible at 5-6, but they may find themselves short of an attractive bowl, especially with the likes of teams like Penn State or Wisconsin should one of them lose to the other.
Nebraska will also be an intriguing bowl matchup, and will draw attention from an attractive bowl that should draw plenty of Cornhusker faithful.
As always, the Big Ten sends quality teams bowling year in and year out. This season will be no different.
Heading into this week, the bowl projections have played out so that there will be some interesting placements for all of these teams that have or may have secured their bowl eligibility.
Unfortunately for Penn State fans, the projections go in favor of the Wisconsin Badgers, who are the favorite to win both that game and the Big Ten Championship. Sorry Spartans fans, you guys aren't favored to get in either.
Wisconsin has exceeded expectations this season, and with a dynamic quarterback in Russell Wilson under center and running back Montee Ball in the backfield, Wisconsin is a challenge for any defense to stand against.
As long as the Wolverines have quarterback Denard Robinson, the sky's the limit. And they still have him for one more year. And that's a good thing for first-year head coach Brady Hoke.
Should the Wolverines prove victorious against the Ohio State Buckeyes, they will finish the season at 10-2 and be in position for an at-large BCS Bowl bid should the BCS fall in the right places for them. If Michigan indeeds lands a spot in a BCS Bowl, defenses will have a harder time stopping Robinson than they would Wilson, and the can only hope to keep him in the pocket to reduce his production.
The projections don't favor the Spartans achieving more than the Capital One Bowl, though it is still a very favorable bowl nonetheless next to a BCS Bowl.
Despite the Spartans' ups and downs this season, they have controlled their own destiny and won the games they have needed to to clinch a spot in the Big Ten Championship game. And while they have an opportunity to receive an at-large BCS Bowl bid, the world is against them, and they will face an uphill climb against either Wisconsin or Penn State.
The Cornhuskers are among the top competitors in the Big Ten year in and year out, and they have a superb running game. But it was not enough to get them in the Big Ten Championship game or put them in position for an at-large BCS Bowl bid.
However, assuming they finish the season strong, they will be in position for a visit to the Outback to hopefully knock an SEC team off of their pedestal and represent the Big Ten during "bowl season."
Should Penn State lose against Wisconsin, they are likely headed to the Insight Bowl, and will have that last chance to play before they head into what is likely to be a spiraling offseason, the first offseason without Joe Paterno as head coach in 46 years.
Penn State's defense is among the best in the Big Ten, and regardless whether they head for the Insight Bowl to face a Big 12 team or not, they will still bring an aggressive, well-coached defense into the mix.
Surprisingly, despite their very inconsistent play over the course of the season and the loss of Jim Tressel two months before the season began, the Buckeyes are bowl-eligible and have a shot at the Gator Bowl against an SEC team.
The Buckeyes lost a lot of fire on both sides of the ball this season but have kept playing through it all. After the bowl game, a true head coach must be appointed to get the program back on its feet and make them relevant in the Big Ten again.
The Hawkeyes are bowl-eligible once again, and are projected to head towards the Car Care Bowl in Texas to face off against a Big 12 team. The Hawkeyes are a little low on the food chain in the Big Ten, and aren't the team they were a few seasons ago, but they're still a scrappy team to deal with, and the chance to play one more time will be motivation enough to bring home a trophy for the Iowa football program.
Northwestern became bowl-eligible this season and is awaiting the opportunity for postseason play and the chance to bring home a trophy for the program .
Northwestern, despite their upset win over Nebraska earlier this year, has not been poised as a threat in the Big Ten, and this bowl game will be a great opportunity for them to hopefully get better and become more of a competitor in the conference.
The Boilermakers have not had too many good things to shout about for quite some time, especially in the Big Ten. But they will have their opportunity to do some postseason shouting should they win on Saturday.
Purdue needs just one more win to become bowl-eligible and have the opportunity to play in a bowl game. Should they become bowl-eligible, they would be placed in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl to play a lesser MAC team.
While it's not the most respectable of bowls, it provides them with a chance to play in the postseason (along with a likely victory) and give the team something to build on in a crowded and competitive Big Ten Conference.
While the Illinois Fighting Illini are indeed bowl-eligible, they are unsure of exactly where they will end up before the announcements come up.
For now, it's a wait-and-see approach for head coach Ron Zook and his team. Zook has been on the hot seat for a couple of seasons, and it's not guaranteed he'll be sticking around much longer, and winning their bowl game can give him the time he needs to get the program back on track.