The Gophers continued their dominant start to the season with a 62-10 victory over Western Illinois. Despite appearing at or near the top of every team’s attack and defense category, it looks like some national experts are still waiting to see more from the team.
247 Sports – Pinstripe Bowl (New York, NY) vs. Pittsburgh
ESPN (Kyle Bonagora) – ReliaQuest Bowl (Tampa, Florida) vs Mississippi State
ESPN (Mark Schlabach) Citrus Bowl (Orlando, Florida) vs. Tennessee
CBS Sports Music City Bowl (Nashville, Tennessee) vs Florida
USA Today Guaranteed rate pot (Phoenix, Arizona) vs. Iowa
college football news Music City Bowl vs South Carolina
work network Pinstripe Bowl vs. North Carolina
CFP Semifinals – Fiesta Bowl (Phoenix, Arizona) – Ohio vs Alabama
Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California) – Michigan vs Utah
Citrus Bowl (Orlando, Florida) – Minnesota vs Minnesota Texas A&M
ReliaQuest Bowl (Tampa, Florida) – Michigan vs Tennessee
Music City Bowl (Nashville, Tennessee) – Pennsylvania vs. Florida
Duke Mayo Bowl (Charlotte, North Carolina) Purdue vs Pittsburgh
Bowl Pencil Case (New York, NY) – Wisconsin vs North Carolina
Guaranteed Modified Pot (Phoenix, Arizona) – Maryland vs. Iowa
Quick Lane Powell (Detroit, Michigan) – Yes Opposite Central Michigan
Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, Texas) – Illinois * opposite East Carolina
* – The armed forces are not affiliated with the Big Ten, and Illinois is placed there as a filling team
orange bowl opening
As a reminder from last week’s article, this year for the six New Year’s games, the Big Ten has a chance to send a team to Miami for the Orange Bowl in addition to its traditional Rose Bowl location. The Orange Bowl, in years when it wasn’t a national semi-final game, combines the ACC champion with the top-ranked team from the Big Ten, SEC, or Notre Dame (after the playoffs, the Rose and Sugar Bowls select them).
After the first week, Notre Dame got into the orange bowl. They didn’t have a very tough schedule after that week’s one game with Ohio State, with a road trip to USC, a neutral site match with BYU, and a home game against Clemson as their highlight. If they could get past that with one more loss, combined with a decent display against the Buckeyes, they looked like a lock for the Orange Bowl.
But the second week put that assumption on its head. Notre Dame lost her home to Marshall in an embarrassing fashion. While it wouldn’t be impossible for them to recover and return to play in the Orange Bowl, it could require them to remain unbeaten for the rest of the season, a prospect that is hard to imagine given Saturday’s result.
With Notre Dame expected to be out of the picture, it becomes more likely that the Big Ten will put a team in the Orange Bowl. The prevailing wisdom of all speculation is that the Securities and Exchange Commission will send two teams to the playoffs (Alabama and Georgia). This means that the third-seeded SEC team will be relegated to the Sugar Bowl. Assuming the Big Ten sends one team to the playoffs, the Rose Bowl will get the second ranked Big Ten team, then the Orange Bowl team will go down to Big Ten #3 or SEC team #4.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has a lot of teams in play for the higher echelons of the rating. Behind Alabama and Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, Ole Miss and Texas A&M are ranked. Behind the Big Ten’s biggest duo in Ohio and Michigan, only Michigan State and Pennsylvania State are ranked. However, this is far from the final ranking. In the Big Ten, someone from the Big Ten West is likely to rise and have a good chance of ranking strong by the end of the season. Meanwhile, the SEC’s middle tier will likely outdo itself, and it’s hard to expect the SEC’s fourth best to rank so high. It should end up being a close race.
Right now, I’m dropping the SEC team to the Orange Bowl, as I think that’s the most likely individual outcome when I look at all the different possibilities. However, if you add all the different results together, the overall probability points to the Big Ten at this spot. If you’re a fan of the Big Ten and are hoping to see a familiar team in the Orange Bowl, as the season approaches, you should be attracting mayhem at the SEC, and there are no third and fourth teams to rise above the rest.
What to watch this weekend
There are two major games dominating the Big Ten this week, with influences in both on the Gophers. Pennsylvania travels to the heart of the SEC nation to take on Auburn (2:30 CST on CBS). Penn State is favored in this game by 3 points, but I’m not willing to put our full confidence in the Nittany Lions with Sean Clifford in QB. He got it done when it mattered in the first week against Bordeaux, but this match could easily have been missed. This match is similarly a tough but winnable road game, but it’s hard for me to get rid of my doubts about who’s calling the Penn State signal.
This game will be a major point in determining how Pennsylvania is viewed for the strength of the Gophers table, and Gopher fans should draw the Nittany Lions to win here to help boost that game’s profile. However, the outcome in Auburn will also have some implications for where Pennsylvania places in the Big Ten pot hierarchy, and Minnesota and Pennsylvania could compete for the same pot locations.
Eleventh-seeded Michigan State finds itself in a similar match in a prime-time showdown against Washington (6:30 CST on ABC) in Seattle. Here, the Husky are the 3.5-point favorites to defend their land. Both teams have unanswered questions about how good they are that must finally be answered this weekend. As for Minnesota’s interests, the story is the same as in Pennsylvania. Michigan State’s win will help cement the Gophers/Spartans showdown in the coming weeks, but Michigan State also stands as a potential contender for pot placement and a loss could help pave the way for the Maroons and Golds.