Three weeks before the regular season and 23 days to college football playoff selection Sunday, the bowl image comes into focus, though it’s still blurry around the edges and changes every Saturday. So don’t book your flights just yet.
For the Big Ten, the three Beasts of the East – No. 4 Ohio State, No. 6 Michigan, and No. 7 Michigan State – remain on the hunt for the playoffs this year, and everyone should have a great chance at a New Year’s six bowl they don’t do the last four. To the west, four teams – the Gophers, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Purdue – are tied for division leadership, and one will show up to try to spoil in the conference championship game.
All three East contenders plus Penn State have earned Bowl eligibility, as have the quartet in first place in the West. Maryland (5-4) is one win away while Rutgers (4-5) and Illinois (4-6) need two wins. There’s one less bowl option for the Big Ten this year as the Redbox Bowl in Santa Clara, California is canceled for the 2021 season.
Here are my predictions for the College Football Playoffs, New Year’s Six, and Big Ten:
College football playoff
Orange Bowl (December 31, Miami Gardens, Florida): Georgia vs. Oregon
Cotton Bowl (December 31, Arlington, Texas): Ohio State vs. Alabama
Comment: The Buckeyes pick is based on sweeping Purdue, Michigan State, and Michigan and winning the Big Ten Championship Game. … Georgia looks like a castle, even if it loses in the SEC title game. … Oregon is in line for a place if it doesn’t lose, even though Oklahoma has a chance. … A win or possibly even a narrow loss to Georgia in the SEC title game will earn Alabama. Sorry, Cincinnati.
New Years Six
Peach (December 30th, Atlanta): Cincinnati vs. Wake Forest
Rose (January 1, Pasadena, California): Michigan State vs. Utah
Sugar (Jan 1st, New Orleans): Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M
Fiesta (January 1st, Glendale, Arizona): Michigan vs. Our Lady
Comment: This projects Michigan and Michigan State to lose to Ohio State (and beat Penn State) respectively. With the Buckeyes in the playoffs, the Rose Bowl makes the choice. The Spartan head-to-head victory should count for something.
Other Big Ten Bowl games
Citrus Fruits (January 1st, Orlando): Wisconsin vs. Ole Miss
Comment: The Badgers play best among the four West Leaders, so this is where they are likely to end up. This assumes Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State are in New Year’s Six. So if only two of these teams get in, the rest of the Big Ten will be tossed into a bowl.
Outback (January 1st, Tampa, Florida): Purdue versus Kentucky
Comment: If the Boilermakers finish 2-1 in their last three, previous wins over Iowa and MSU will help nod Outback.
Las Vegas (December 30th): Gophers vs. Arizona State
Comment: If the Gophers finish 2-1, Las Vegas and Music City will be in the game, while their visit to the Outback 2019 will make that destination less likely. A 3-0 finish and the trip to the Big Ten title game bring the Citrus Bowl into play. Finish 1-2 or 0-3, and the pinstripe or Guaranteed Rate bowls are the more likely options.
Music City (December 30th, Nashville): Iowa vs. Arkansas
Comment: Hawkeyes could land 3-0 in Citrus or Outback.
Pinstripe (December 29th, New York): Penn State vs. Virginia Tech
Comment: Beat Michigan and Michigan State, Florida Bowls for the Nittany Lions are within reach.
Guaranteed Price (December 28th, Phoenix): Maryland versus Texas
Comment: Terps will likely have to defeat Rutgers in the finals to become bowl capable.
Quick Lane Bowl (December 27, Detroit): Unfilled by Big Ten