This has easily been the most challenging year to attempt to predict the Big Ten bowl matchups that I can remember. Not sure if it’s because we all got fooled again by Michigan, which was blown out last weekend in The Game by Ohio State. Not sure if it’s because Ohio State has been so up and down and yet, somehow, still finished the regular season 11-1. Not sure if it’s because Penn State is right in the place in the rankings where they could make the New Year’s Six field, or could miss it. Not sure if it’s because the Big Ten West is so bad. But it seems like every week, we’re looking at a different group of scenarios.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s our final look at where the Big Ten teams could wind up heading once the bowl announcements are made on Sunday.

Big Ten

Rose Bowl

Pac-12

Ohio State

Jan. 1, 2019
Pasadena, Calif.

Washington

Once you determine where you think Ohio State is going to wind up, the rest of it should mostly fall into place.

The thing with the Buckeyes is, there’s going to be some foot stomping in the Big Ten offices. It has been strangely difficult for the Big Ten to get its champion into the playoff, and in a year when the champion only has one loss, it would be especially difficult for the conference to accept.

But if everything goes as expected, it’s going to happen. Ohio State enters the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings as the No. 6 team, which obviously means they’ll have to jump over two teams in the committee’s view to make the playoff field. Only one of the five ranked ahead of the Buckeyes, No. 4 Georgia, is an underdog. No. 5 Oklahoma will face off with No. 14 Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game, and the Buckeyes’ only path to the playoff seems to be losses by the Bulldogs and Sooners.

But, we’ll talk more about that later.

At-large

Peach Bowl

At-large

Michigan

Dec. 29
Atlanta, Ga.

Florida

I got nothin’ on Michigan. Nothin’.

Big Ten

Citrus Bowl

SEC

Penn State

Jan. 1
Orlando, Fla.

Kentucky

The mere fact I’m predicting Penn State will go to the Citrus Bowl means I’m not seeing a likely path for it to get to a third consecutive New Year’s Six bowl.

Is it an impossibility? Of course not. We’ll discuss some of the scenarios in which they can get there soon. But the Nittany Lions look an awful lot like the first team out, at this point.

So, here’s the deal:

Penn State needs 1.) Oklahoma to not make the playoff, 2.) Oklahoma to win the Big 12 title and 3.) either Ohio State to get into the playoff field or the standings to look similar on Sunday to the way they do now.

Which seems like a paradox, doesn’t it? If Oklahoma wins, how can it not make the playoff, after all? Well, there are some scenarios where that makes a little bit more sense.

  • Ohio State would need to look a lot more impressive beating Northwestern than Oklahoma does beating Texas.

Not sure how that’s possible, honestly, considering Texas is a much stronger opponent than Northwestern. But perhaps the committee has been providing hints as to how it can be accomplished with both teams winning.

“The defense played better against Michigan,” CFP committee chairman Rob Mullens said after the rankings were announced Tuesday. “But that still is probably the shortcoming. Their offense has been able to carry them.”

Could the Buckeyes be able to author a dominant enough defensive effort on Saturday to make them look like a more complete team than Oklahoma, which has allowed at least 40 points in each of its last four games? Certainly.

Is it likely? Probably not. Northwestern has scored 30 in regulation just once in its last nine games. Not sure that’s going to be rewarded as a great defensive effort for Ohio State even if it truly is a great defensive effort.

  • Georgia would need to beat Alabama.

I know, I know. Hardy har har.

But this is probably the easiest way for Penn State to get into the New Year’s Six. If Georgia wins, it will obviously be in, but let’s face it, this tournament might as well be named the Alabama Invitational. There seems to be no chance the Crimson Tide could lose on Saturday and not make the playoff. They’ve been dominant all season, and their only loss — a loss which hasn’t kept them out of the playoff in years past, mind you — comes against a team ranked in the top 4? Alabama seems like a lock.

So, if you take the current top four, that leaves Oklahoma and not a Big 12 team (likely Texas) ranked outside the top 12 to get the Sugar Bowl bid, which leaves a spot open for the No. 12-ranked team and more than likely makes Penn State a New Year’s Six participant.

Some scenario in there is possible, for sure. Just, not likely. So, the Nittany Lions go to Orlando for a game that likely won’t move the needle much, but is still as good a bowl as you can get as a Big Ten team and not be in the New Year’s Six.

Big Ten

Outback Bowl

SEC

Michigan State

Jan. 1, 2019
Tampa, Fla.

Texas A&M

Big Ten

Holiday Bowl

Pac-12

Northwestern

Dec. 31
San Diego, Calif.

Utah

Big Ten

TaxSlayer Bowl

SEC

 

Wisconsin

Dec. 31
Jacksonville, Fla.

Missouri

Big Ten

Pinstripe Bowl

ACC

Purdue

Dec. 27
Bronx, N.Y.

Virginia

Big Ten

RedBox Bowl

Pac-12

Iowa

Dec. 31
Santa Clara, Calif.

Stanford

Big Ten

Quick Lane Bowl

ACC

Minnesota

Dec. 26
Detroit, Mich.

Wake Forest