Even in a shortened, conference-only season, No. 12 Indiana (4-1) can smell six wins, which is typically the required mark for bowl eligibility, but the NCAA waived those requirements this year. In a season in which three teams – Northwestern, Ohio State and Indiana – have combined for 13 of the conference’s 31 wins through Week 12, a team that goes 6-2 or better prior to the Big Ten’s Champions Week should be set up really well to get a strong bowl invite.
Entering Saturday of Week 13, here are Crimson Quarry’s Big Ten bowl projections.
College Football Playoff Semifinal (Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl): No. 3 Ohio State (4-0)
Ohio State may not be Ohio State of 2014 or 2019 or 2015, but suspect secondary and all, the Buckeyes are still the class of the Big Ten. Short of Northwestern reproducing another defensive performance like it had against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes should have a clean path to their fourth College Football Playoff appearance.
The Rose Bowl is part of the CFP Semifinal rotation this season, which means the loser of the Big Ten Championship Game will not automatically be sent to Pasadena.
It should be noted that Ohio State announced on Friday that it has seen an uptick in positive cases, including head coach Ryan Day testing positive, and the team plans to fly to Champaign on Saturday to play Illinois later in the day. If the Buckeyes have two more games canceled, they’ll be unable to qualify for the Big Ten Championship.
Fiesta Bowl: No. 11 Northwestern (5-0)
The Wildcats need just one more win to clinch the Big Ten West, and they’ve already beaten every potential challenger in their division – Wisconsin, Iowa and Purdue. The Badgers, by the way, are ineligible for the Big Ten Championship after having their Week 13 game against Minnesota canceled.
Northwestern still gets to play Minnesota and Illinois, plus Michigan State, which are a combined 5-9 this season.
It shouldn’t be a surprise if Northwestern enters the Big Ten Championship Game with an 8-0 record and takes a top-10 ranking into the bowl season.
Citrus Bowl: No. 12 Indiana (4-1)
Indiana’s most realistic best-case scenario is probably getting an invite to the third-best bowl for which the Big Ten has ties. If the Hoosiers win out and Northwestern loses prior to the Big Ten Championship, then again in the conference title game, perhaps Indiana can leapfrog Northwestern for the Big Ten’s second-best bowl berth.
Maybe there’s even a case to be made that if Northwestern gets housed by Ohio State in Indianapolis, while IU wins out, maybe the Hoosiers would be valued as the Big Ten’s second-best offering after Ohio State.
But IU’s trip to Madison is, at least on paper, tougher than any game that Northwestern has left on its regular-season schedule.
Outback Bowl: No. 18 Wisconsin (2-1)
Wisconsin, having lost three games due to positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing, may not have as impressive of a record as it otherwise would have, but as of now, the Badgers are the second-best team in the Big Ten West, based on the CFP rankings. Even if they drop a game to IU but beat Minnesota and Iowa, they could still finish second if Purdue loses another game.
Starting this season, the Big Ten was supposed to send a team to the Las Vegas Bowl, whose 2020 outlook remains somewhat uncertain. Next season, the Big Ten will have a tie-in to the Belk Bowl. Those arrangements will alternate over the course of a six-year period.
Music City Bowl: Iowa (4-2)
Purdue played in the Music City Bowl just two years ago, and even though the Boilermakers beat Iowa head-to-head, they’ve also played one fewer game due to positive tests at Wisconsin, so the Hawkeyes could finish higher in the Big Ten West standings.
It would be Iowa’s first time playing in the Music City Bowl.
Guaranteed Rate Bowl: Purdue (2-2)
While Purdue is just .500 through Week 12, it’s one of seven Big Ten teams that has two or fewer losses, so the Boilermakers may not be world-beaters but they’re probably better than a lot of the teams that the Big Ten has to offer.
Redbox Bowl: Maryland (2-1)
The Terrapins had two games canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing, but they still have a winning record, and one of the games that was canceled was against Ohio State, which certainly helps Maryland’s final record.
In a Big Ten full of “meh,” the Terps might be meh-plus.
Las Vegas Bowl
The Las Vegas Bowl will announce at a later date whether it will be played this season.
Quick Lane Bowl
The Quick Lane Bowl has been canceled for this season.
The Pinstripe Bowl announced on Friday that it will not be played this year.