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Big Ten bowl projections: Hoosiers to the Gator Bowl?

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Where might the 7-2 Hoosiers be headed for the postseason?

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Sitting at 7-2 after a bye week, the Hoosiers are not only guaranteed a bowl berth, but also might find themselves in a really good bowl if they keep winning games and a few things shake out their way. And now, the Hoosiers are ranked for the first time since 1994, coming in at 24th on the AP poll and 25th in the Coaches Poll. Tonight, the CFP committee may even put them in their top-25 as well.

I don’t want to get too far ahead with the games coming up, but I’m already starting to think about the postseason. What bowl games could Indiana reach? Let’s take a look at the bowl tie-ins for the conference and find out.

This year, the B1G is on the final year of a six-year contract with its bowl tie-ins. During this time, the conference has specifically tried to keep teams from going to a destination more than twice in this timespan. Here look, I even made a chart to help you out:

Big Ten Bowl Bids, 2014-19

Bowl Game 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Bowl Game 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
CFP OSU MSU OSU x x
Rose x Iowa PSU x OSU
NY6 MSU (Cotton) OSU (Fiesta) Michigan (Orange) Wisconsin (Cotton) OSU (Cotton) Wisconsin(Orange) PSU (Fiesta) Michigan (Peach)
Citrus Minnesota Michigan x x PSU
Outback Wisconsin NW Iowa Michigan Iowa
Holiday Nebraska Wisconsin Minnesota MSU NW
Music City/Gator Iowa (Gator) PSU (Gator) Nebraska (MC) NW (MC) Purdue (MC)
Pinstripe PSU Indiana NW Iowa Wisconsin
Redbox Maryland Nebraska Indiana Purdue MSU
Quick Lane Rutger Minnesota Maryland x Minnesota
First Responders Illinois x x x x

With that in mind, let’s sort the bowls out:

College Football Playoff

This is Rutger’s to lose.

In all seriousness, it’s hard to see Ohio State miss out on the Playoff this season. The Buckeyes have dominated all season, and despite ending with a tough triumvirate of games between Penn State, Michigan, and the B1G title game, they should give the conference its first playoff berth in three years. Ohio State will probably be ranked 2nd unless LSU loses again, so let’s put the Buckeyes up against Clemson in the playoff while LSU takes on Oklahoma.

Rose Bowl / NY6

With Minnesota beating Penn State, the Gophers have the inside track to the Big Ten West title. Even a loss to Wisconsin wouldn’t matter if the Gophers take care of business against Iowa and Northwestern, and even with a loss to the Buckeyes in the B1G title game, Minnesota looks to have the inside path to Pasadena, and would probably face either Oregon or Utah. Without many at-large spots in the rest of the New Years’ Six, other Big Ten teams might get pushed down in the pecking order. A Big Ten team could land in the Orange Bowl against whatever ACC team comes in second in the conference, or in the Cotton Bowl against a Group of 5 opponent.

Citrus Bowl

Since Penn State landed here last year, I’ll slot Wisconsin in Orlando against Florida. No word on whether Barry Alvarez will be the interim coach for this one.

Outback Bowl

Barring an Indiana upset, Penn State should get to 10 wins and could head to Tampa to face Auburn.

Holiday Bowl

Michigan, who would get to take on a Pac-12 team, falls to the Holiday Bowl with losses to PSU and Wisconsin. They could be taking on whoever is interim coaching USC before Urban Meyer jumps in for another redemption tour.

Gator Bowl

Here’s where I’ll put Indiana. The Hoosiers would face an SEC team in this matchup and there are some intriguing pairing (such as Kentucky or Tennessee) that could happen here. A Bourbon Barrel game revival in Jacksonville? Sign me up for that.

The Gator Bowl is scheduled to take a Big Ten team in three out of the six years in the conference’s contract. The other three years, that team will go to the Music City Bowl. Since three B1G teams have already been to the Music City in this timeframe, this spot should be the Gator Bowl for the Big Ten team.

Pinstripe Bowl

Iowa went there recently, so let’s reward bowl eligible Illinois with their first-ever trip to the game at Yankee Stadium. I’ll give them UNC as the opponent here for a 2005 NCAA title game rematch.

Redbox Bowl

It’s been a somewhat disappointing season for Iowa, but Hawkeyes fans travel well and if there’s any team that might have a chance at making Levi’s Stadium seem less barren, it’s them. A pass-happy Washington State team would be a funny opponent for defense-first Iowa.

Quick Lane Bowl

Not a very far trip for fans of Michigan State, who are 4-5 but still have Rutger and Maryland on their schedule. Let’s put a surprisingly resurgent Louisville here as the opponent.