As Thanksgiving approaches it brings with it the excitement of Conference Championship games and the revealing of the bowl match-ups. With the biggest game of the season left against its hated rivals the Ohio State Buckeyes; the Wolverines have an opportunity to possibly gain an At-Large big to a BCS bowl game with a win and some help. A loss, however, and the Wolverines will likely be headed to a bowl among the likes of the Outback Bowl, Citrus Bowl, or Gator Bowl which annually take Big Ten teams that finish in the middle to upper portion of the conference standings. With that being said, it is obvious that Michigan’s upcoming rivalry game with Ohio State may have gained even more importance than the already deafening bragging rights that come with a victory.
Scenario # 1 (Best Case) – Orange Bowl/Sugar Bowl/Fiesta Bowl
A win against the Buckeyes on Saturday and Michigan will be a worthy candidate at 10-2 to earn an invitation to a BCS bowl game. With the Wolverines out of contention for the National Championship and the Rose Bowl; the possible BCS bowls that could extend invitations include the Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl. Each of these bowl games have an allegiance toward a particular conference champion, and extend At-Large bids to teams that finished in the upper echelon of the BCS Standings to be the conference champion’s opponent. Possible opponents for Michigan in this game include the winner of the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State game (winner will likely be Big 12 Champion pending the BCS standings and will earn an automatic berth in the Fiesta Bowl), Virginia Tech (likely ACC Champion who would receive an automatic berth to the Orange Bowl), Oregon, Arkansas, or Houston. Oregon, Arkansas, or Houston could likely receive At-Large bids to a BCS bowl assuming they can win their remaining games. Boise State is likely to be left out of receiving an At-Large bid as Houston will be a more likely suitor to receive the At-Large bid typically reserved for schools from non-AQ conferences due to the fact that they are the only undefeated team with the exception of LSU.
Scenario #2 (Worst Case) – Citrus Bowl/Outback Bowl/Gator Bowl
A loss to Ohio State this coming Saturday will not only crush the heart and souls of the Wolverine faithful, but it will assuredly seal Michigan’s fate of heading to one of these three bowl games. Even with a win against Ohio State on Saturday it is possible that Michigan could not receive an At-Large BCS bid and could find themselves playing in one of these bowls. The Outback Bowl, Citrus Bowl, and Gator Bowl always extend invites to Big Ten teams year in and year out. Michigan is likely to attract the Citrus Bowl (the most highly regarded of the three) as they have arguably the most historic and tradition rich program in the Big Ten and possibly all of college football. Remember that last year the Wolverines played in the Gator Bowl (a New Year’s Day bowl) with a dismal 7-5 record and a losing record in conference play. The Wolverines received a better bid than they were deserving of last year, and the same situation could likely repeat this year as they could easily receive an invite over a team such as Michigan State, Penn State, or Wisconsin depending on which team loses the Big Ten Championship Game. These bowl games usually feature Big Ten versus SEC match-ups which would leave South Carolina, Auburn, Florida, and Arkansas as potential opponents for the Wolverines.
The bowl possibilities for Wolverines are still considerably undecided heading into their final game of the regular season against the hated Buckeyes. Regardless of the outcome this weekend in Ann Arbor it does appear as though Michigan will be playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game for the second year in a row. Fans of the Wolverines will surely hope that this year’s bowl plays out better than last year’s 52-14 embarrassment at the hands of Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.
About the Author
Written by Casey Phillips
I am a resident of South West Michigan and a graduate of Western Michigan University. Like most residents of Michigan I am a die hard Tigers, Red Wings, and Pistons fan. However, my allegiances in the NFL stand with the St Louis Rams as I have been a fan since I become mesmerized by their "Greatest Show on Turf" offense that ruled the late 90s and the early 2000s. My devotion to the Rams has not swayed through their recent struggles and turmoil. When it comes to collegiate sports my heart lies solely with the University of Michigan Wolverines. I have been a U of M fan since almost the time I was born, and will never root for Michigan State, Ohio State, or Notre Dame in any circumstance. Besides my love and passion for sports I am a young, developing IT professional for a moderate sized company. I enjoy working out, spending time out doors, and visiting with friends and family when I am not at work or looking at football box scores.