2010 Bowl Projections: Where Might Penn State End Up?


I didn't want to go anywhere near this topic a few weeks ago, but now that Penn State has six wins and there are just two games left on the schedule, we can start to speculate where Penn State may end up bowling this winter. First, let's take a look at the Big Ten bowl tie-ins for the 2010 season. They are listed below in the order of selection.

Pick     Bowl Game Location Opponent
1 Rose Bow Pasadena, CA PAC 10 Champ
2 Capital One Bowl Orlando, FL SEC #2
3 Outback Bowl Tampa, FL SEC #3/4
4 Gator Bowl Jacksonville, FL      SEC #6
5 Insight Bowl Tempe, AZ Big XII #4
6 Texas Bowl Houston, TX Big XII #6
7 TicketCity Bowl Dallas, TX C-USA or Big XII #8
8 Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl         Detroit, MI MAC


So now that we know that, let's play out a few scenarios and speculate on how things might play out.

Scenario 1: Penn State defeats Indiana and loses to Michigan State. Ohio State defeats Iowa and Michigan. Illinois defeats Northwestern (without Dan Persa) and Fresno State. Michigan loses to Wisconsin and Ohio State. Northwestern loses to Illinois and Wisconsin.

BSD's Totally Arbitrary Big Ten Standings

Team    Overall Record      Big Ten Record  
Michigan State 11-1 7-1
Wisconsin  11-1 7-1
Ohio State 11-1 7-1
Iowa 8-4 5-3
Illinois 7-5 4-4
Penn State 7-5 4-4
Michigan 7-5 3-5
Northwestern 7-5 3-5
Purdue 4-8 2-6
Indiana 5-7 1-7
Minnesota 2-10 1-7

Under this scenario, Penn State would finish tied with Illinois who I assume will defeat Northwestern, who has to play with Dan Persa, and they will take care of business against Fresno State. Of course, Illinois holds a tie breaker with Penn State and would technically finish higher in the standings, but bowl selections don't rely completely on the standings. It's highly conceivable a bowl could pick down and skip Illinois to take Penn State and their loyal fans who are well known to travel well for bowl games.

The other wild card here is what the BCS decides to do with their at-large bids. If they offer an at-large invitation to a second Big Ten team, everyone gets bumped up a slot. There are four at-large bids available. You have to figure either Boise State or TCU are a lock to take one of them. The SEC always gets a second team in which will probably be LSU this year. You can pretty much bank on the ACC and Big East not getting an at-large invite. That leaves two spots to go to a second team from the Big Ten, Pac-10, Big XII, or TCU.

As it looks right now, I believe Michigan State is the team in the driver's seat. If they win out they go to the Rose Bowl based on the fact they beat Wisconsin who beat Ohio State. The Buckeyes don't play Michigan State this year. So under that scenario (which also assumes OSU defeats Iowa and Michigan) I think a BCS bowl would jump on an Ohio State team that doesn't qualify for the Rose Bowl. That would bump everyone up a spot.

This would put Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl for like the 8th time in the past ten years. Iowa would go to the Outback Bowl, and I believe the Gator Bowl would skip over Illinois to draw the Nittany Lion Fans to Jacksonville.

Scenario 1 Projection: Penn State plays in the Gator Bowl against SEC #6. Possible opponents include Florida, Mississippi State, Arkansas, or South Carolina.

Scenario 2: Penn State wins out.

BSD's Totally Arbitrary Big Ten Standings

Team    Overall Record      Big Ten Record  
Wisconsin 11-1 7-1
Ohio State 11-1 7-1
Michigan State 10-2 6-2
Iowa 8-4 5-3
Penn State 8-4 5-3
Illinois 7-5 4-4
Michigan 7-5 3-5
Northwestern 7-5 3-5
Purdue 4-8 2-6
Indiana 5-7 1-7
Minnesota 2-10 1-7

In this scenario pretty much nothing changes. Wisconsin goes to the Rose Bowl and Ohio State is a lock for a BCS bid. The only difference now is that Penn State is officially ahead of Illinois in the standings and an even more solid pick for the Gator Bowl. But what becomes interesting here is the possibility that the Outback Bowl may decide to skip Iowa in order to take Penn State. One could make the argument that we saw this scenario already played out last year for the BCS, and ultimately the Orange Bowl took Iowa over the Nittany Lions. But Penn State had just been to the Orange Bowl in 2005, and Iowa travels just as well. So that made sense for the Orange Bowl.

I'm not so sure it's such a no-brainer for the Outback Bowl. Penn State hasn't been there since 2007, and Iowa played there in 2008. Plus, if word gets out that this might be Joe Paterno's last game the ratings are going to be huge which might be too much to pass up.

This scenario also depends on Iowa losing to Ohio State. If Iowa beats the Buckeyes, I think the Nittany Lions are locked into the Gator Bowl.

Scenario 2 Prediction: Penn State goes to the Gator Bowl with an outside chance of the Outback Bowl if Iowa loses to Ohio State and JoePa announces he's retiring.

Scenario 3: ARMAGEDDIANA. Let's suppose Penn State loses to Indiana and Michigan State.

BSD's Totally Arbitrary Big Ten Standings

Team    Overall Record      Big Ten Record  
Michigan State   11-1 7-1
Wisconsin 11-1 7-1
Ohio State 11-1 7-1
Iowa 8-4 5-3
Illinois 7-5 4-4
Michigan 7-5 3-5
Northwestern 7-5 3-5
Penn State 6-6 3-5
Purdue 4-8 2-6
Indiana 5-7 1-7
Minnesota 2-10 1-7

Hoo-boy. Now things get dicey. Penn State would be 8th in the selection order, so assuming once again that the Big Ten got a BCS at-large bid this lines the Nittany Lions up with the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas. But I suspect the Texas Bowl would jump over Northwestern who lost to Penn State, doesn't travel well, and doesn't have Dan Persa in order to grab the Nittany Lions. Personally, I wouldn't mind this one bit since I live in Houston. Tailgate party in the grotto!

Scenario 3 Projection: Penn State plays in the Texas Bowl against the Big XII #6 team. Possible opponents include Baylor, Kansas State, Texas Tech, and Texas. If Penn State plays Texas this game would get higher television ratings than probably three of the five BCS games.

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