B1G bowl projections, Week 13: Axe enormous now
The Big Ten East Division is settled. Ohio State clinched its third consecutive division title on Saturday by defeating Penn State 28-17. The No. 2-ranked Buckeyes will be waiting Dec. 7 in Indianapolis.
But which team will they be waiting for?
The West Division will be settled this weekend in Minneapolis when No. 12 Wisconsin visits No. 10 Minnesota; the winner will wrap up the division title and claim Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
The Badgers and Golden Gophers have met 128 times, the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and were both charter members of the Big Ten when the conference formed in 1896.
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In 2014 the teams met with the West Division title on the line and Wisconsin won 34-24.
The stakes are the same this year. They could be even higher for the conference. If Ohio State beats Michigan this week and wins the B1G title, the Buckeyes will be heading for the College Football Playoff and the B1G title game loser would head to Pasadena as the league’s Rose Bowl representative.
But if the Minnesota-Wisconsin winner pulls off an upset over OSU in the Big Ten title game, the league could be frozen out of the CFP for the third successive season. In that scenario, Wisconsin or Minnesota would still play in the Rose Bowl but as B1G champions.
That’s a sharp edge even for a rivalry named after an axe.
Otherwise there is no movement in our projections this week. Nebraska kept its bowl hopes alive by routing Maryland 54-7 on Saturday. At 5-6, the Cornhuskers will have to beat Iowa at home on Friday to clinch bowl eligibility. There is a possibility that Nebraska could earn a bowl berth at 5-7 via the Academic Progress Rate score. A 5-7 Nebraska team in 2015 went to the Foster Farms Bowl (and beat UCLA) thanks to its APR score.
But there are already 73 bowl-eligible teams for 78 spots and we are projecting that there will be enough teams at 6-6 or better that the NCAA won’t have to invite any 5-7 teams in 2019.
In any event, we project that of the two 5-6 teams in the B1G, Michigan State (which faces Maryland) will become bowl eligible while Nebraska will not.
Now, on to our B1G bowl projections, in the conference’s approximate bowl selection order: