247 sports – Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, TX) vs. SMU
ESPN (Kyle Bonagura) – Duke’s Mayo Bowl (Charlotte, NC) vs. Pittsburgh
ESPN (Mark Schlabach) – Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit, MI) vs. Ohio
CBS sports – Quck Lane Bowl vs. Eastern Michigan
United States today – Pinstripe Bowl (New York, NY) vs. Syracuse
College Football News – Duke’s Mayo Bowl vs. NC State
action network – Duke’s Mayo Bowl vs. Pittsburgh
the athlete – Quck Lane Bowl vs. Eastern Michigan
CFP Semifinals – Fiesta Bowl (Phoenix, AZ) – Ohio State vs. TCU
Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California) – Michigan versus Oregon
Citrus Peel (Orlando, FL) – Penn State vs. Ole Miss
Relia Quest Bowl (Tampa, FL) – Iowa vs. South Carolina
Music City Bowl (Nashville, Tennessee) – Illinois vs Florida
Duke’s Mayo Bowl (Charlotte, NC) – Maryland versus Duke
Pinstripe Shell (New York, NY) – Purdue against Pittsburgh
Guaranteed Rate Bowl (Phoenix, AZ) – Wisconsin against Baylor
Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit, MI) – Minnesota against Ohio
The Quick Lane Bowl enters the picture
Aside from the disappointing 13-10 loss to arch-rivals Iowa, Saturday’s results were as unfavorable for the Gophers as can be. Ohio State and Michigan both looked a bit weak in their games, a fact that won’t support arguments that the loser of this Saturday’s marquee showdown between the two should stay in the playoffs. Tennessee was smoked out by a mid-tier South Carolina team, greatly reducing the possibility of the SEC getting a second team in the playoffs. And further down the rankings, Michigan State was upset with Indiana, putting them in danger of missing out on bowl eligibility.
Individually, neither of these results would have been particularly damaging to the Gophers Bowl prospects, but taken together they present a very real possibility that Minnesota could be headed to Detroit for a trip to the Quick Lane Bowl. It was a possibility that seemed so unlikely that I chose not to even include the Quick Lane Bowl in the list of possible destinations in last week’s article when hampering Minnesota’s various options. And yet it’s now emerging as one of three likely options for Minnesota, and it might be helpful to recap how we got here.
Michigan State’s loss to Indiana
This was perhaps the most surprising result, as Michigan State seemed to have corrected course after a rocky stretch earlier in the season. The Spartans had beaten Wisconsin and Illinois and simply had to defeat the 3-7 Hoosiers to secure a bowl berth. Instead, after a double loss in overtime, Michigan State needs to pick up a win on the road at #11 Penn State to claim their sixth win, no small feat.
I believed that Michigan State was more or less a ban to make the Quick Lane Bowl since it would be a “local” play for them that should spur many visitors for the Big Ten’s Bottom Bowl. Even in the result of Penn State not making a New Year’s Six game, I expected the Spartans to end up in Detroit and, worst-case scenario, Minnesota would go into another conference’s unfilled bowl (probably an SEC bowl spot).
Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina and its impact on Penn State
One factor outside of the Gophers’ control that can improve their placement is what happens around the New Year’s Sixes game. At this point, it’s clear that both Ohio State and Michigan will make NY6 games, whether it’s in the playoffs or the Rose Bowl. However, Penn State is right on the edge. If both Michigan and Ohio State make the playoffs, Penn State would be drawn into the Rose Bowl slot regardless of what happens in the final playoff rankings (this assumes Michigan/Ohio State wins the Big Ten Championship – if the Big Ten West Representative wins, they will go to the Rose Bowl, but this unlikely scenario would play out the same as if Penn State were in the Rose Bowl).
Ahead of this weekend, however, that wasn’t Penn State’s only way to crack the NY6 lineup. With Tennessee sitting at No. 5, they seemed like the likely alternative should the Big Ten send just one team to the playoffs, provided either TCU lost and was knocked out of the race or the Pac-12 did what the Pac -12 does and eliminated himself from the competition by his teams beating each other up. A second SEC team in the playoffs would cause a trickle-down effect – most likely you would see LSU and Alabama still rank ahead of the Nittany Lions. These two teams would fill the Sugar and Orange Bowl slots, leaving Penn State in a prime position to take over the Cotton Bowl slot in general. The Pac-12 would not be guaranteed to be in play for this slot, nor would a TCU team losing in the Big 12 championship game.
That second path for Penn State to win the Cotton Bowl bid appears likely to have concluded. The latest playoff rankings have Tennessee ahead of Penn State. With just one matchup against a weak Michigan State team, the Nittany Lions don’t have an opportunity to pass anyone by victory. Tennessee and Alabama both finish the season against teams who have lost records, meaning another loss is unlikely for either team. Oregon’s loss to Oregon State would also help and is a bit more likely, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to open the door for Penn State. There are some side results that also give Penn State an NY6 game, but at this point it’s most likely Rose Bowl or Bust, an outcome that only occurs when Michigan and Ohio State are both playoff-tied.
Let’s go back to the Big Ten Bowl image with the set design. I outlined above how Penn State could crack the NY6 lineup, but I know they will miss that mark. That would result in the Nittany Lions going to the Citrus Bowl. Behind them, the up-and-coming Iowa Hawkeyes, who are in the driver’s seat to represent the West in the Big Ten championship game, appear poised to be the pick for the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa.
Next in the pecking order would be Illinois and Purdue. Since Purdue isn’t eligible for the Music City Bowl (due to their performance in Nashville last year), the Illini would get the nod there. The Boilermakers need a home then and would probably look at either the Pinstripe Bowl or the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. I would expect in this case that the Big Ten would prefer to send Purdue to the Pinstripe Bowl, which has special contract language with the Big Ten that prioritizes getting as many different teams from the conference into that bowl as possible bring (at least it did). in the initial 8-year contract). Purdue has never performed in New York, while other viable candidates have Wisconsin and Maryland (Minnesota is the other “new” option in the game for the Pinstripe Bowl).
The final three Big Ten teams likely to be eligible for the Bowl are Maryland, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The bowls to be filled are the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, the Guaranteed Rate Bowl and the Quick Lane Bowl. Minnesota won’t go to the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, having performed there last season, and Wisconsin is headed for the Duke’s Mayo Bowl after going there in 2020, when the Big Ten last sent a team there.
I’ve long believed that the Big Ten would prefer to send Maryland to the Duke’s Mayo Bowl because it gives the conference an opportunity to pair the Terrapins with an old foe from the ACC – a matchup that fanbases are excited about might and that the bowl might consider preferable. That’s by no means guaranteed, but if it comes to that, Minnesota will default to the Quick Lane Bowl since they can’t fill the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
If I’m correct that the Big Ten will prefer to send Maryland to the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, and if Penn State lands in the Citrus Bowl, there can be little that can stop Minnesota from getting the dreaded Bowl at this point -Trip to Detroit to land. A win over Wisconsin could help, as could Purdue’s loss to Indiana. Those two results could help Minnesota sneak up and snag Purdue’s Pinstripe Bowl bid. Likewise, a home loss in Maryland to Rutgers at the end of the season didn’t hurt; an 8-4 Minnesota might be enough to override the preference of getting an ACC opponent with 6-6 Maryland.
I’ll be back after the games this weekend for an updated look at the bowl projections and where things stand for Minnesota. If you’re looking for rooted interests, I’d tell you to hope for a close (maybe overtime?) Michigan win over Ohio State, chaos in the SEC, a Notre Dame win over USC and Indiana and Rutgers , to cause trouble Purdue and Maryland respectively.