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Bowl thoughts.

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I have lots to say about the Bucket game, of course, but not much time before tonight to say it. A wonderful win, of course, and probably the best atmosphere and best game I have seen at Memorial Stadium. On the radio postgame, someone that Don Fischer was interviewing (I think it was Harold Mauro) suggested that other than the 1967 Bucket win that clinched the Rose Bowl and the 1987 win over Michigan, this might have been IU's biggest win in the stadium (which opened in 1960). Although I hope IU's program will someday improve to the point where a win over a 7-5 team, even Purdue, doesn't qualify for such an honor, given all that IU's program has been through in the last 14 years, and particularly in the last year, it probably fits. But more on that later.
I'm not going to run through the conference-by-conference list for a couple of days, at least. If the Big Ten bowls allocate their bids in the next couple of days, it may be moot. The only fly in the ointment is Illinois. At 9-3, Illinois has enough wins to be BCS eligible. The Illini were ranked #19 in last week's BCS standings, but there is some slim chance that the Illini could move into the top 14 and an even slimmer chance that they could earn an at-large bid. In the past, the BCS has "released" teams who are or might become eligible so that other bowls could issue invitations, but I don't know if that has happened or will happen this year. At the beginning of the week, here is what I said we needed:
  • Win the Bucket;
  • Root for Michigan to upset OSU, which despite a two-game losing streak still would have a chance at a BCS at-large, especially with so many TV-unfriendly teams (Connecticut, Kansas, Missouri, etc.) in the mix;
  • Root for WMU (3-7) to pull an upset at Iowa. Unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
  • Root for Illinois to beat Northwestern, keeping the Wildcats at six wins.
  • Root for Penn State to beat MSU for the same reason.

Well, we got three of the five. The Hoosiers did what they had to do. WMU won at Kinnick (devaluing one of our two sorta quality wins, but whatever). Illinois kept NU out of the party. Penn State blew it at MSU and Michigan didn't come close against OSU.

Setting aside the Illinois issue, it seems overwhelmingly likely that Ohio State, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Penn State will take the Rose/BCS, the Capital One, the Outback, the Alamo, and the Champs Sports. That leaves two bids (the Insight and the Motor City) for three seven-win teams (IU, Purdue, and Michigan State, all 7-5 and 2-5 in the conference). All of today's chatter, including in the Chicago Tribune, suggests that the Insight Bowl will take IU, the Motor City Bowl will take Michigan State, and Purdue will be on the open market. That would be great. What makes me nervous is that MSU is a historically strong program with a big fan base that hasn't been to a bowl game in four years. Who's to say that the Insight wouldn't prefer MSU? Do bowls ever make side deals? I'm sure the Motor City really would covet MSU, which would guarantee a sellout and local interest, particularly if Central Michigan wins the MAC. I'm just glad we're talking about it.