Commentary: Bowl Possibilities Summary
by Jonathan Hodges
For Northwestern to guarantee itself a bowl bid this weekend (e.g. one of the
available Big Ten slots since no "at-large" bid is guaranteed even if
Northwestern ends up with a winning record), the following events must occur:
- Northwestern beats Illinois.
AND 3 of the 4 following
- Penn State beats Michigan State.
- Purdue beats Indiana.
Western Michigan beats Iowa.
- Michigan beats Ohio State, OSU remains in the
top 14 of the BCS standings, and OSU is selected for an at-large BCS berth
(which would be helped out with a Hawaii loss, whose toughest remaining game is
against Boise State).
This is due to the fact that 6 Big Ten teams have
already secured at least a winning record (5 of them have 8 wins or more, Purdue
has 7). Meanwhile, Iowa, Michigan State, Indiana, and NU all have 6-5 records
going into the final game of their seasons, with none playing each other. The
bowl selection rules are pretty open, but there are certain restrictions which
are as follows:
1) The automatic BCS qualifier is given its spot in a
BCS bowl followed by any at-large BCS team selected (9 wins minimum, within top
14 of the BCS; note only two teams total are allowed to be selected for BCS
games per conference which could help the Big Ten's cause to get a second team
2) The bowls with contractual spots per conference are given out in the
selection order, although the bowls are not required to select teams in the
order of the conference standings. Teams with a winning record MUST be selected
before teams with a 6-6 record (although it doesn't necessarily matter where the
teams with a winning record go as long as they are guaranteed a spot - this is
how last year 6-6 Iowa ended up at the Alamo Bowl which had a higher pick than
the Insight Bowl, which ended up with 7-5 Minnesota).
3) Only if a
contractual bowl spot for that conference remains after all teams with winning
records within that conference are selected may teams with a 6-6 record from
that conference be selected. Any open spot only becomes an "at-large" spot if
there are not enough teams with 6-6 records or better within that conference to
fill the slot (although some bowls have secondary agreements to bring in a team
from a difference conference in case of too few bowl eligible teams from the
primary conference, e.g. the Motor City Bowl has a backup agreement with the Big
East to bring in a bowl eligible team if the Big Ten does not have enough
4) If no bowl eligible teams remain from the contractual
conference(s) remain, then the bowl may select any available team with a winning
5) Finally, if no teams with winning records remain and a bowl spot
is still open, any 6-6 team may be selected.
Note that last year, which
also had a 12 game schedule, every 7-5 team went to a bowl (e.g. 7-5 NIU to the
Poinsettia Bowl), although there were 6-6 teams from BCS conferences left at
home during bowl season. So, basically, to even get in the bowl discussion NU
must win its last game - especially considering that basically every other Big
Ten bowl eligible team is more attractive to bowls than NU (the only team that a
bowl would conceivable pass over for NU is Minnesota, who has been out of the
bowl discussion for some time).
While Northwestern needs help to
guarantee itself a spot, there will almost definitely be available "at-large"
spots, for which NU (as a Big Ten team) would be an attractive team given that
the 'Cats win their last game and get to 7-5.
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