The Gophers could be California-bound for their bowl game, when the selections are announced Sunday morning.
Entering Saturday, the Holiday Bowl (Dec. 27 in San Diego) and Foster Farms Bowl (Dec. 28 in Santa Clara) loomed as two of Minnesota’s most likely destinations. Both games are Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchups, so potential opponents include Washington State, Stanford and Utah.
Two other possibilities for the 8-4 Gophers are the Music City Bowl (Dec. 30 in Nashville vs. SEC) and Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 28 in New York vs. ACC).
Saturday’s conference title games had potential to shift the bowl landscape. Entering the weekend, the Big Ten was a good bet to land four teams — Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State — in New Year’s Six bowls.
Iowa and Nebraska were neck and neck for the next rung on the Big Ten ladder, with one likely headed to the Outback Bowl and the other either to the Music City or Holiday. Nebraska (9-3) had the better overall record, but Iowa (8-4) defeated the Cornhuskers in the regular-season finale.
The Big Ten also is determined not to send teams back to places where they’ve been recently. Iowa hasn’t been to the Holiday Bowl since 1991, but the Hawkeyes might prefer the Music City Bowl. Iowa went to the Rose Bowl last year, Nashville is only a nine-hour drive from Iowa City, and quarterback C.J. Beathard hails from Tennessee.
Nebraska has never played in the Music City Bowl and went to California for bowl games the past two years (Holiday in 2014, Foster Farms in 2015).
Several projections last week had Minnesota heading back to the Music City Bowl, where the Gophers landed in 2002, 2004 and 2005. But depending how things play out for Nebraska and Iowa, the Gophers could be on their way to California for a bowl game for the first time since the 1962 Rose Bowl.