With the Maryland Terrapins and Rutgers Scarlet Knights losing games to the MAC and PAC-12, they've shown enough instability to be removed from our projected bowl eligible teams this week. Between the two of them, Rutgers has the best chance of returning to the postseason as they have games against the Indiana Hoosiers, Kansas Jayhawks, and Army Black Knights which all look to be wins for the Scarlet Knights. That leaves a decisive game this weekend against Penn State, and a head-to-head matchup against Maryland to potentially determine the fate of their season.
Otherwise, here are our Week 3 bowl game projections for the Big Ten:
Cotton Bowl (Dec 31st) Arlington, TX ~ Ohio State Buckeyes vs Alabama Crimson Tide
Ohio State is still the best team in the country by a landslide. The emergence of Braxton Miller as another legitimate offensive threat has added yet another playmaker to Urban Meyer's arsenal, along with potential Heisman Trophy candidates Cardale Jones and Ezekiel Elliott. With these three players leading the way for the Buckeyes, there's a good chance they will be contending for a second consecutive College Football Playoff Championship.
Rose Bowl (Jan 1st) Pasadena, CA ~ Michigan State Spartans vs USC Trojans
Michigan State played well against the Oregon Ducks on Saturday, and showed their defense can win football games. But even though they were able to steal a few first place votes in the AP polls this week, they need to improve offensively in order to make the playoff bracket. Connor Cook played well, but there seems to be something missing offensively that vaults them over teams from other conferences. Once they hit their stride, there's a chance Sparty can find themselves in a playoff game. As for the USC Trojans, they look like the team to beat in the PAC12 with two dominating wins to start the season. With the Trojans and Ducks playing in separate divisions, there's a good chance they will see each other in the PAC-12 Championship Game, with the winner facing Michigan State in Pasadena.
Citrus Bowl (Jan 1st) Orlando, FL ~ Wisconsin Badgers vs Ole Miss Rebels
Even though the Badgers don't have any games that stand out as "automatic losses," there is a good chance they will be snubbed from a selection committee bowl game (Sugar, Rose, Fiesta, Peach) this season due to a weak schedule. However, that doesn't mean you should sleep on Joel Stave and the Badgers. They look to be the favorites to win the Big Ten West, and could give the Buckeyes some trouble in Indianapolis come December.
Outback Bowl (Jan 1st) Tampa, FL ~ Nebraska Cornhuskers vs LSU Tigers
Nebraska makes their way back to the Top 5 in the Big Ten with a convincing win over the South Alabama Jaguars. Terrell Newby nearly ran for 200 yards and found the endzone twice last week, and he seems to be the go-to playmaker out of the backfield for the Huskers. As for Tommy Armstrong Jr, his ability to throw the football continues to improve week after week. Nebraska certainly made a case for themselves in the Big Ten West, and could be the only team to match up with Wisconsin.
Holiday Bowl (Dec 30th) San Diego, CA ~ Iowa Hawkeyes vs UCLA Bruins
C.J. Beathard stepped up once again for the Hawks, as they defeated their in-state rival Iowa St. Cyclones last week on the road. The emergence of Jordan Canzeri out of the backfield really adds a much needed dynamic to the Iowa rushing attack and offensive scheme. As long as their defense can play like they have the past 2 weeks, Iowa is a PERECT sleeper pick to take the West Division.
TaxSlayer Bowl (Jan 2nd) Jacksonville, FL -OR-
Music City Bowl (Dec 30th) Nashville, TN ~ Michigan Wolverines vs Auburn Tigers
Coach Harbaugh earned his first victory as Michigan's coach, and did it in dominating fashion last Saturday. De'Veon Smith was the go-to threat for the Wolverines, carrying the ball 23 times for 126 yards and 3 touchdowns last weekend. He seems to be the main man as Jake Rudock looked shaky yet again throwing for 180 yards and an interception. Look for the Michigan run game to propel them forward until Rudock figures out the Michigan offense.
Foster Farms Bowl (Dec 26th) Santa Clara, CA ~ Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Utah Utes
It took overtime for the Gophers to win their first game of the season, and Mitch Leidner is starting to become more of a liability than an asset. Even though he found the endzone twice, his completion rate was a precarious 51.1%. With limited help from the run game, the Gophers need to find a few answers before they make a run at the top of the West Division.
Pinstripe Bowl (Dec 26th) New York, NY ~ Northwestern Wildcats vs Syracuse Orange
Yes I understand they're ranked, and yes I understand they have a win over a ranked opponent. The reason Northwestern is still this low in our rankings is because Clayton Thorson has yet to prove he can run with the big dogs. His performances against the Stanford Cardinal and Eastern Illinois are really nothing to write home about, but this week's matchup with the Duke Blue Devils on the road will be his first true opportunity to prove us he's legit. Once Saturday's game ends, we will know for sure if Fitzy and the Cats are for real.
Quick Lane Bowl (Dec 28th) Detroit, MI ~ Illinois Fighting Illini vs N.C. State Wolfpack
Even though Jerry Palm snubbed the Illini in his bowl projections, we think Illinois has a great chance to be bowl bound again this season. The Illini have proven they have improved from last season, keeping both opponents out of the endzone this season with the offense outscoring teams 96-3 through two games. But like Fitzy and the Cats, Illinois will have to prove themselves this week against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Both teams have a great chance to win this one, and it will be interesting to see how Wes Lunt and the offense will fare against a Power 5 defense on the road.
Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dec 26th) Dallas, TX ~ Penn State Nittany Lions vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
The Lions returned to relevance last week with a convincing victory over the Buffalo Bulls at home. Even though Christian Hackenberg failed to throw for over 150 yards, the offense was rejuvenated by the performance of running back Saquon Barkley. It was nice to see the offensive line prevent Hackenberg from being sacked, but there was an expectation for the Lions to blow out Buffalo and improve throwing the ball. Only time will tell if they can establish offensive consistency through the air, otherwise it may be a long season in Happy Valley.