Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Big Ten Bowl Eligibility Watch: Penn St. could be bowl eligible this weekend.

There are currently nine Big Ten teams with at least three wins going into Week 6 of the college football season. Penn State could become the first bowl eligible team in the B1G this season with a win over Northwestern this weekend.

Five wins (Magic number: 1)

Big Ten East

Penn State (5-0, conference 2-0)

Penn State faces a lackluster Northwestern in Week 6, which provides the Nittany Lions the best chance to become bowl eligible in October. Week 7 is the team's bye week, followed by a one-two punch from Michigan on Oct. 21, and Ohio State on Oct. 28.

Bowl projection: 

2018 Peach Bowl (Jan 1, 2018, Atlanta, Ga.)

Bowl opponent: 


Palm has Ohio State representing the B1G in the College Football Playoff. This implies a lack of faith  in the either the Nittany Lions ability to get past the Buckeyes in Week 9.

The Peach Bowl would mark the first time that Penn State and  Georgia faced each other since the 1983 Sugar Bowl, when the Nittany Lions beat the Bulldogs 27-23 and ended up the season ranked no. 1 in both the AP and Coaches Polls.

Big Ten West


Four wins (Magic number: 2)

Big Ten East

Ohio State (4-1, conference 2-0)

Ohio State can look forward to one (and arguably two) potential trap games before it hosts undefeated Penn State on Oct. 28. Before that, the Buckeyes host Maryland on Oct. 7, then go on the road on Oct. 14 to face a seemingly lackluster. Nebraska team that has still managed to go 2-0 in conference play. The team's bye week comes Oct. 21.

The chances for two wins during this run would seem to be pretty good. Maryland has surprised many people with its 3-1 record this season, while Nebraska has been seen as struggling at 3-2. Beating the Terrapins and Cornhuskers would be enough to obtain the required six wins for bowl eligibility. A win over Penn St. would put the Buckeyes in the drivers seat to represent the B1G in the CFP semis.

Projected bowl:

2018 Sugar Bowl (CFP semifinal #1 vs. #4) (Jan. 1, 2018, New Orleans, La.)

Projected opponent:


The Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl games are the two host bowls for the CFP semifinals this season. There is the distinct possibility that this could result in a Rose Bowl without either a Big Ten or Pac-12 team in it. Please pray you your deity or deities of choice that this happens.

Michigan (4-0, conference 1-0)

Michigan finds itself in third place in the Big Ten East due to only playing one conference game this season. This changes in October as the Wolverines host in-state rival Michigan State on Oct. 7, then travel to Indiana on Oct. 14. A potentially huge showdown with Penn St. in Happy Valley comes on Oct. 21, followed by a return home to face Rutgers on Oct. 28.

Michigan St. has improved in the wake of an absolutely disastrous 2016 season. So has Indiana, which means going 2-0 before heading into the Penn St. game could be a steep hill to climb. The only gimme in October is Rutgers.

Projected bowl:

2017 Holliday Bowl (Dec. 28, San Diego, Ca.)

Projected opponent:


Can any Michigan season that doesn't result in a) A CFP semifinal appearance, b) A New Years Six bowl, or c) a bowl game played in Florida between Dec. 30-Jan. 1, 2018 truly be considered a successful season at this point in the Jim Harbaugh coaching era? Yes, Harbaugh has only been at Michigan three seasons, but this has come with very high expectations. Are they high enough to eventually lead Harbaugh back to the NFL?

Big Ten West

Wisconsin (4-0, conference 1-0)

The sneaky Badgers are at it again, waiting for the right time and place to arise from a mediocre B1G West division and take the Big Ten title out of the hands of either Penn St., Ohio St., or Michigan.

Oh, but the B1G West provides quite a few roadblocks for Wisconsin. The primary one being is road game at current B1G West division leader Nebraska, which would gladly give its critics reason to reevaluate branding the Cornhuskers' 2017 season so far as being "disappointing."

Beyond Week 6 sees Wisconsin return home for two games. The Badgers play host to Purdue on Oct. 14, and then Maryland on Oct. 21. A road trip to Illinois rounds up the month on Oct. 28.

Projected bowl:

2017 Orange Bowl (Dec. 30, 2017, Miami, Fl.)

Projected opponent:


The Rose Bowl being a CFP semifinal means Wisconsin will pretty much have to win the Big Ten conference title and finish the regular season ranked either at no. 2 or no. 3 in the CFP rankings.  Wisconsin vs. Louisville looks like it would be a nice matchup, though.

Three wins (Magic number: 3)

Now the fun begins as we begin hitting the teams currently with three wins whose postseason hopes are completely not written in stone.

Big Ten East

Maryland (3-1, conference 1-0) 

Maryland is the surprise B1G conference team of the year so far. The Terrapins scored an upset over Texas that probably still has CFB pundits in shock, beat FCS school Townsend, lost to Central Florida, then inked in a surprise win over Minnesota this past weekend.

Now the hard part comes. October begins for Maryland with a road trip to Ohio St. on Oct.7. Two back-to-back cross-division  follow, as the Terrapins host Northwestern on Oct. 14, then travel to Wisconsin follows  on Oct.21. The Month ends hosting Indiana on the Oct. 20.

Most reasonable scenario for three wins for Maryland this month involves beating Northwestern and Indiana, then pulling off another "how did that happen?" upset over either Ohio St. or Wisconsin.

Projected bowl:

2017 Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 27, New York City)

Projected opponent: 

Notre Dame

Okay, the Pinstripe Bowl doesn't sound glamorous at first, but facing Notre Dame in a bowl game within the setting of Yankee Stadium does have some merits to it.

Michigan State (3-1, conference 1-0)

Let's not speak of the abomination that was Michigan State's 2016 season ever again. A 3-1 record going into the all-important in-state rivalry game against Michigan this weekend gives enough hope that 2017 will not be another grease fire.

Beyond the Michigan game, Sparty hosts travels to Minnesota on Oct. 14, hosts Indiana on Oct. 21, then ends the month on the road against Northwestern on Oct. 28.

Now back to reality. The safe bet is for Michigan St. to go 2-2 over the next four weeks. That would bring it to five wins. November starts with Sparty hosting Penn St. on Nov. 4, followed by a road trip vs. Ohio State on Nov. 11. The best hopes for that necessary sixth win will be against Maryland on Nov. 18, or Rutgers on Nov. 25.

Projected bowl:

2017 Fosters Farms Bowl (Dec. 27, Santa Clara, Ca.)

Projected opponent: 


The irony of a Michigan St. vs. Oregon meeting here is too much to even begin to comprehend here.

Big Ten West

Nebraska (3-2, 2-0 conference)

Even though its atop the B1G West in conference play, 2017 hasn't been pretty for Nebraska. Back-to-back losses to Oregon and Northern Illinois in September, plus the departure of Shawn Eichorst from his role as Nebraska athletic director, have led to Nebraska head coach Mike Riley straight to the Hot Seat.

Things won't get any cooler for Riley over the next two games. Nebraska hosts Wisconsin on Oct. 7, then welcomes Ohio State to town on Oct. 14. The Cornhuskers have a bye on Oct. 21 before facing Purdue on the road on Oct. 28.

Projected bowl (Kyle Bonagura, ESPN):

2017 Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dec. 26, Dallas, Tx.)

Projected opponent:

North Texas

I had to go to three different websites before to find someone projecting Nebraska to go to a bowl in the postseason. Jerry Palm didn't project Nebraska going to a bowl in his post-Week 5 projections.  Neither did SB*Nation's Jason KirkBonagura's partner at ESPN, David M. Hale, didn't project Nebraska going to a bowl in his Week 5 projections.

This is bad for Nebraska. I don't want to say Mile Riley is toast, but it's not looking good.

Minnesota (3-1, 0-1 conference)

Minnesota is coming off its first loss of the season to Maryland. Despite that things seem to be going well for the Gophers' first season under new head coach P.J. Fleck. It has three wins, and seems to be in good shape to return to postseason play in 2017.

The Gophers should in theory make some good progress in getting to the six-win goal line in October. It faces Purdue on the road on Oct. 7, then hosts Michigan St. on Oct. 14. The Gophers remain at home to host Illinois (a team the Fleck-coached Western Michigan defeated 34-10  in 2016) on Oct. 21, then travel to Iowa on Oct. 28

Projected bowl: 

2016 Heart of Dallas Bowl

Projected opponent:

Texas-San Antonio

Should Minnesota going the Heart of Dallas Bowl in Fleck's first be considered a disappointment? The Gophers went to the 2016 Holliday Bowl last season, and the school still fired Tracy Claeys.  Meanwhile, Fleck took an undefeated MAC team to the 2017 Cotton Bowl.

Certainly, there was more to Claeys' firing than his record, and the Western Michigan team Fleck coached last season has to be considered special even with its Cotton Bowl loss to Wisconsin. Somehow, it just feels like Fleck and Minnesota both are taking a step back in this scenario.

Iowa (3-2, conference 0-2)

Iowa being dead last in the B1G West division despite having a 3-2  is one of the most Iowa things possible. The Hawkeyes can begin to rectify this on Oct. 7 when they host Illinois. Oct. 14 is a bye week, followed by a road trip to Northwestern on Oct. 21. The month ends at home against Minnesota on Oct. 28.

Could Iowa become bowl eligible via a three-game sweep by the end of the month? It's hard to say when two of the three wins in question would have to come from Northwestern and Minnesota. Losing three in a row to three of Iowa's division rivals would be an even bigger Iowa thing for Iowa to do.

Projected bowl:

2017 Quick Lane Bowl (Dec. 26, Detroit, Mi.)

Projected opponent:


Consider this: under Palm's projection, Iowa goes from a team that won its first three games to a nondescript bowl against an independent school not named Notre Dame that itself is having a disappointing season.

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