Monday, November 2, 2009

MSU's Bowl Chances: Three Weeks Out

Michigan State is sitting at 4-5 with three games to go, the upcoming one being against 17-point-underdog Western Michigan. Following that are games away to Purdue (3-6 overall) and the final at home to #11 Penn State (8-1).

MSU needs to win two games to become bowl eligible and three to guarantee a bowl bid. Assuming that happens, what bowl is MSU likely to make? Well, let's start with the position MSU might have in the pecking order.

The top three, in some order, are almost certainly Iowa, Penn State and Ohio State. Wisconsin, at 6-2, is riding high and will likely claim the fourth spot. That leaves us on the next tier with Minnesota, Northwestern and Michigan, all at 5-4, while MSU and Indiana sit at 4-5. For argument's sake, since Indiana's remaining schedule is @ Wisconsin, @ Penn State and home to Purdue, I'm going to guess that IU won't win two games, thus making them ineligible.

That's eight teams for seven bowl games. Minnesota's remaining schedule (vs. Illinois, vs. South Dakota State, @ Iowa) is favorable, while Michigan and Northwestern are even money to, like MSU, finish 6-6.

So let's allocate the bowl games, for the moment assuming that the Big Ten sends both Iowa and Penn State to BCS bowls. The Capital One and Outback, the other two New Year's bowls select Ohio State and Wisconsin, respectively, while Minnesota goes to the Alamo Bowl. By rule, a 7-5 team must get picked over a 6-6 squad, so the fact that Minnesota is a terrible traveling team won't hurt them in this scenario.

The Champs Sports Bowl gets to choose next, between MSU, Michigan and Northwestern. MSU beat both squads, but that doesn't matter nearly as much as which school will travel best. Michigan does travel better than MSU, however we've done well two years in a row bringing fans to Orlando. Still, Michigan hasn't gone bowling in a year, so there's a little more pent-up demand on their end.

Whoever doesn't get picked is likely the favorite to go to the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., with Northwestern headed to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.

Right now, the most likely scenario would see Michigan State head to the Insight Bowl. That prediction assumes we'll win two of the next three games, likely against Western Michigan and @ Purdue.

Granted that it's not the destination we were all hoping for in August, but I could do with a New Year's Eve in Arizona, couldn't you?

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