The Gophers were never smelling roses, but they thought they might be smelling buffalo wings. At this point, however, it looks like their bowl fate will take them to Texas.
Representatives from the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and Meineke Car Care Bowl were in attendance at Saturday's game at TCF Bank Stadium to witness Michigan State's thorough 26-10 victory.
That win made the Spartans bowl-eligible and should give them the inside track on going to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. -- formerly the Insight Bowl and the fifth-best bowl with a Big Ten tie-in this year -- when official invites are announced in the coming days.
Of the three Big Ten teams to finish 6-6 overall -- Minnesota, Michigan State and Purdue -- the Spartans were the most competitive and have the greatest pedigree. That would leave the Gophers and Purdue vying for the No. 6 and No. 7 Big Ten bowls -- the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston on Dec. 28 and the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Jan. 1 in Dallas.
Purdue ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak, gaining bowl eligibility with a victory Saturday over Indiana. The Boilermakers have more momentum and more Big Ten wins than the Gophers (three vs. two), but Minnesota clobbered Purdue 44-28 in a head-to-head meeting. The Meineke will have its pick of the two, while the other will go to the Heart of Dallas.
"I don't even try to think about that," Gophers lineman D.L. Wilhite said of a bowl destination. "As long as we're going, I'm glad to say that. We're up for any competition. Most of the guys are just happy to get the opportunity to not end the season on this note."
Michigan's loss Saturday to Ohio State makes it a virtual certainty the Big Ten will only have one team in a BCS game. Nebraska, Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern should go to some combination of these bowls: Rose, Capital One, Outback and Gator. The Big Ten would have wound up with nine bowl-eligible teams, but neither Ohio State and Penn State are eligible because of NCAA probation.
All bowl-bound teams will get 15 extra practices leading up to their games, a fact cited by many Gophers players and coaches as a bigger deal than which bowl ends up being their destination.
"It doesn't matter at this point," freshman quarterback Philip Nelson said of the Gophers' bowl destination. "We want to get in and get 15 practices. We need that at this point. We can benefit from that right now and into the future."