College football's bowl season is right around the corner, but there is still much to be figured out in terms of national rankings and postseason placement.
The same applies to the Rose Bowl, as the New Year's Day game in Pasadena, California, will pit the best remaining Big Ten team not in the College Football Playoff against the top team in the Pac-12 in the Granddaddy of Them All.
The Rose Bowl participants will be revealed on Sunday, but for now, here are my predictions on who will be taking part, along with the television schedule and more:
|2016 Rose Bowl: Date, Predicted Teams, TV Schedule|
|Date||Time (ET)||Predicted Team Matchup||TV|
|Friday, Jan. 1||5 p.m.||Iowa vs. Stanford||ESPN|
A few games still need to be decided in order to get here, but it looks like Iowa and Stanford have the most likely routes to the Rose Bowl.
Iowa will play Michigan State in the Big Ten championship, with the winner likely going to the College Football Playoff. The Hawkeyes, who have had a somewhat softer schedule compared to Michigan State, could be overwhelmed by the big stage and MSU's collection of future NFL talent ranging from quarterback Connor Cook to offensive lineman Jack Conklin to defensive end Shilique Calhoun.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz knows that his team is up against it, speaking with USA Today's Nicole Auerbach:
We're different in a lot of ways; they play a different front defensively than we do. But they've played outstanding defense ever since Mark got there. ... They're a real physical team defensively, real tough to run and throw against. I think that's kind of been a cornerstone of their program. They're a physical team offensively. They run the ball very, very well. They throw the ball well, especially right now with Connor Cook at quarterback.
Considering it's their first real test of the season, I don't see the Hawkeyes getting past Michigan State.
Unlike the Big Ten, the Pac-12 won't have a participant in the College Football Playoff, as Stanford is the conference's only team with fewer than three losses.
Stanford will take on a USC team that had to defeat UCLA to make the Pac-12 championship and has been on both ends of the spectrum in terms of success. After losing three of four games in a dire stretch that saw head coach Steve Sarkisian fired, interim head coach Clay Helton has stepped in and led the Trojans to postseason contention. ESPN recently revealed how much he's meant to the team:
Stanford has owned the rivalry of late, going 5-2 in its last seven meetings with USC. The Cardinal also have one of the most electrifying players in the nation in Christian McCaffrey, who should be a Heisman Trophy finalist this month. It will be hard for USC to stop him:
Should the Hawkeyes lose, they would still be the top Big Ten team with a 12-1 record, making them prime candidates for the Rose Bowl. Stanford would meet them there, setting up a matchup between two traditionally solid college football sides.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.