One season ago, Michigan State reached the College Football Playoff, Iowa played in the Rose Bowl and Ohio State played in the Fiesta Bowl. That meant the Big Ten sent three teams to the New Year’s Six bowl games — the only league to do so, though the SEC did it in 2014.
Could the Big Ten do it again?
Helping the Big Ten’s chance is the league could have two teams to the College Football Playoff, as Ohio State and Michigan are popular picks. With the Rose Bowl’s typical Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup, that would then easily bring the Big Ten to three teams — not a bad performance two years in a row considering only 12 teams get picked.
Of course, there’s also at-large possibilities if only one Big Ten team makes the CFP. Fox Sports’ Stewart Mandel sees it that way, as he has Ohio State vs. Louisville in a CFP semifinal, Michigan vs. Washington in the Rose Bowl and Wisconsin vs. Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
Mandel even mentioned Nebraska as battling Wisconsin for the Big Ten’s third spot:
It was a toss-up whether to pick Wisconsin or Nebraska as the Big Ten’s presumptive West Division champ and likely No. 3 team. The Badgers play a tougher schedule, which may work against them or may impress the committee.
The point about Wisconsin is an important one. The Badgers’ schedule is so ridiculously difficult that Wisconsin could afford a loss and still do more than enough to impress pollsters and the playoff committee and stay in the playoff or New Year’s Six discussion.
It’s still relatively early this season, but right now the Big Ten has four undefeated teams all ranked in the Top 15 in the AP and Coaches Polls — and that doesn’t even include always-dangerous Michigan State. As long as the ranked teams win games they should, the Big Ten could be the only conference to (again) send three teams to New Year’s Six bowl games.