Part of the fun of bowl season is speculating where teams might end up, and after a one-year hiatus, we get to do that with the Gophers, who earned bowl eligibility by beating Wisconsin 37-15 last week. On Sunday, we will know the Gophers’ destination along with everyone else’s, but until then projections must do.
The Big Ten has nine bowl-eligible teams, and placing them first requires that the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowls be addressed. Here’s what those matchups could look like, projecting Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Washington and Central Florida to win their conference title games this weekend:
Orange Bowl, Dec. 29, Miami (national semifinal): No. 4 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 Alabama.
Cotton Bowl, Dec. 29, Arlington, Texas (national semifinal): No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Clemson.
Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, Pasadena, Calif.: Ohio State vs. Washington.
Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1, New Orleans: Georgia vs. Texas.
Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 1, Glendale, Ariz.: Louisiana State vs. Central Florida.
Peach Bowl, Dec. 29, Atlanta: Michigan vs. Florida.
Penn State, which is No. 12 in the latest CFP rankings, misses out on a New Year’s Six bowl to No. 10 LSU. Georgia and Texas, the SEC and Big 12 runners-up in this scenario, would contractually land in the Sugar Bowl.
Here’s how the rest of the Big Ten bowls could shake out, with only Ohio State and Michigan in the New Year’s Six bowls:
Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1, Orlando: Penn State vs. Kentucky.
The Nittany Lions (9-3) have the inside track to Orlando, where they haven’t played since the 2009 season. They get the nod over Northwestern.
Outback, Jan. 1, Tampa, Fla.: Northwestern vs. Texas A&M.
Though the Wildcats (projected at 8-5) played in the Outback in 2015, their status as the West Division winner could hold weight. Other possibilities are Iowa (8-4), Michigan State (7-5) and Wisconsin (7-5).
Holiday Bowl, Dec. 31, San Diego: Iowa vs. Oregon.
Iowa AD Gary Barta told reporters earlier that the Hawkeyes’ top two bowl options are the Holiday and Outback. The Hawkeyes played in Tampa in 2013 and ’16, so a trip to San Diego would make sense.
Music City Bowl, Dec. 28, Nashville: Purdue vs. Vanderbilt.
The Boilermakers won’t have coaching-search distractions now that Jeff Brohm has turned down Louisville, and reports Thursday pointed toward the Music City Bowl having strong interest in them.
Redbox Bowl, Dec. 31, Santa Clara, Calif.: Michigan State vs. Stanford.
Michigan State, the Gophers (6-6) and Wisconsin appear to be the most likely to play in the 49ers stadium. Ryan Oppelt, the bowl’s director, said the Gophers’ victory over Wisconsin “makes them very attractive.” Saturday’s Cal-Stanford winner is the likely Pac-12 representative.
Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 27, New York: Wisconsin vs. Syracuse.
The Pinstripe Bowl had an official scouting last week’s Gophers-Badgers game. If bowl officials went by head-to-head results, they would pick the Gophers. That isn’t always the case, so don’t be surprised if Wisconsin gets the nod.
Quick Lane Bowl, Dec. 26, Detroit: Gophers vs. Virginia Tech.
Brad Michaels, executive director of the Quick Lane Bowl, said he would love to have the Gophers and doesn’t consider the fact that Minnesota played in the Quick Lane in 2015 as a negative.
Randy Johnson covers college football for the Star Tribune. Twitter: @RJStrib. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org