Bowling or Bawling?
Five B1G teams sit on the verge of bowl eligibility. According to Jerry Palm, four of them will make it to the postseason.
I, however, am not as convinced that we see quite that many B1G teams wind up in the postseason. Keep in mind that there’s a possibility that a few 5-7 teams crack the field, considering there’s 41 bowl games this year.
So will these borderline B1G teams be bowling or bawling come December?
Illinois (5-4): Bowling
Remaining schedule: vs. Ohio State, at Minnesota, vs. Northwestern
How ironic would it be if Illinois got into the postseason field in the exact same way that it did last year? Getting a win against Northwestern on Soldier Field to clinch bowl eligibility would be monumental for a program that’s had far too much negative press this season. I’ll prematurely predict that Illinois, with all that it’ll likely have to play for, will get arguably its first quality win of the season. Would that be enough for Bill Cubit to shed the interim tag?
Indiana (4-5): Bowling
Remaining schedule: vs. Michigan, at Maryland, at Purdue
My original prediction was that Indiana would get three November wins to clinch bowl eligibility. Crazy as it sounds, IU should’ve actually only needed one November win. But that Rutgers collapse hurt. Now, IU has to do something twice that it hasn’t done once in three years — win a B1G road game. Having said that, I think IU should be able to do that as long as Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard finish out the season. That’s still a big question mark. Amazing is the fact that IU could potentially lose six straight games to start B1G play and still make a bowl. I don’t know if that’s ever been done.
Minnesota (4-5): Bowling
Remaining schedule: at Iowa, vs. Illinois, vs. Wisconsin
Call me crazy, but I think it’s very realistic that we see the Gophers make significant strides in a four-game losing streak, which is what they would reach if they fell to Iowa on Saturday. Under Tracy Claeys, this team has played inspired in losses to Michigan and Ohio State. I think that with Briean Boddy-Calhoun back, this defense plays well enough down the stretch to squeeze out wins against Illinois and Wisconsin. With Iowa potentially already having clinched the West title, it wouldn’t be crazy to see a Minnesota team with more to play for than Wisconsin avenge last year’s loss.
Nebraska (4-6): Bawling
Remaining schedule: at Rutgers, vs. Iowa
Every game for Nebraska is a playoff game right now. Amazingly, Nebraska would potentially have to take down two unbeaten teams just to make it to the Pinstripe Bowl. There will undoubtedly be plenty of hype heading into that regular-season finale, especially if Iowa is trying to lock up a perfect regular season. The manufactured rivals might actually become real rivals if that’s what’s at stake. Still, I’d pick Iowa to dominate the line of scrimmage and pull out a win in Lincoln. There is, however, a chance that a couple five-win Power-Five teams could earn bowl eligibility this year. Nebraska — with its quality wins and die-hard fan base — would be a prime candidate.
Rutgers (3-6): Bawling
Remaining schedule: vs. Nebraska, at Army, vs. Maryland
The Scarlet Knights could theoretically get Leonte Carroo back and win three very winnable games to clinch bowl eligibility. But I’m not going to bet on that happening. Carroo already tried to come back early once from his ankle injury and it sidelined him for two games. Even if Carroo does come back and return to his touchdown-catching self, the defense still has major issues, most noticeably with tackling ball-carriers. Against a Nebraska offense that can dice up secondaries, that’ll be a big problem. Cue the “Fire Kyle Flood” chants in New Jersey.