If Indiana’s able to knock off Purdue this weekend, they’ll head to a bowl game for back-to-back seasons for the first time since the early 90s. But where? That’s a different question.
Depending on which bowl projections you’re looking at from which outlet, you’ll find Indiana ranging anywhere from Nashville to Santa Clara to Detroit when it comes to a bowl game. Much of that stems from (and this isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s hard to be a national writer keenly aware of all the bowl permutations) a lack of familiarity with how the Big Ten’s new bowl process works. This weekend’s games will go along way in deciding Indiana’s fate. Here’s what you should root for.
Root for Indiana to beat Purdue.
Okay, obviously. Duh.
Root for the favorites to win. (Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin).
Pending chaos elsewhere, if this happens it might all but lock up the Big Ten sending FOUR teams to the NY6/CFP Bowls. Ohio State will head to the Playoff. Michigan will get tapped for the Orange Bowl. The Penn State/Wisconsin winner will likely join Ohio State in the playoff, especially if it’s Wisconsin. The other will head to the Cotton Bowl as a true NY6 at-large. Hooray, conference strength!
Immediately, that moves the Big Ten’s first bowl tier (the Outback and Holiday Bowls) to start picking at the 5th and 6th most compelling available team.
Root for Iowa to beat Nebraska.
If Iowa knocks off Nebraska, they’ll likely do three things. First, they’ll vault into the Top 25. They’ll have an 8-4 record, and be guaranteed to finish above Minnesota in conference play. Why the hell is that important for Indiana’s bowl hopes?
It means it’ll likely jump Iowa into that first tier of bowl games, and send them to either Tampa or San Diego. Nebraska will get the other slot. 8-4 Minnesota will fall to the next rung of bowl games. That’s important for Indiana for a single reason: a bowl like the Music City isn’t likely to pick the Hoosiers over the Hawkeyes. Iowa fans are known commodities for how well the travel to bowl games — and they’ve got a compelling win over Michigan. With how the scenarios shake out, it’s much better for Indiana to be in the same bowl tier as Minnesota than Iowa.
In that next tier after Iowa and Nebraska would take the Holiday/Outback, sits the Music City, Pinstripe, and Foster Farms Bowls. Important to remember here: Indiana can’t go back to the Pinstripe Bowl this year. So that leaves, Minnesota at 8-4 -- and then Indiana, Northwestern, and Maryland all possibly at 6-6 here.
The Music City gets first deference here, but it’s important to remember that the Big Ten effectively works to pair teams up to create the best matchups. The best opponent the Big Ten will face in this tier will be out west, in the Foster Farms, where they might even see a ranked Pac-12 team like Washington State, or god forbid, USC. Minnesota’s better record might dictate a better matchup in the eyes of some. Minneapolis has 8 or 9 direct flights a day to San Francisco. Indianapolis has one. These things sounds stupid, but it’s all about making money and matchups and selling tickets at this point. Send Northwestern to the Pinstripe Bowl (a strong possibility) & Maryland to Detroit? You’ve got a nice little set-up for Indiana fans to make a 4 hour drive to play Kentucky in Nashville.
3. Root for Illinois and Rutgers
Much of this mess is cleaned up with Northwestern and Maryland losses -- and would all but guarantee Indiana the Foster Farms or Music City. Fun!