IOWA CITY, Iowa — Two seasons remain on the Big Ten’s six-year deal on its current bowl cycle, with several options open and a few closed for most of its teams.
The Big Ten’s postseason agreements allow for most of its non-College Football Playoff bowls to select five different teams over a six-year period (not counting the Pinstripe Bowl). The league wants to promote location diversity, avoid bowl fatigue and bypass repeat trips like Nebraska to the Holiday Bowl (2009, 2010), Iowa to the Insight Bowl (2010, 2011) and Wisconsin in Florida (six consecutive seasons from 2004-09). It wanted to set up a system that rewarded teams based on merit rather than on reputation, and the league had veto power over the selection process.
So far, the results are mixed. No team has repeated locations in a non-College Football Playoff bowl. That’s progress. However, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s vision of a tiered bowl structure back in 2013 hasn’t quite followed the initial rhetoric.
“It’s not so much about the teams being in tiers as it is the bowls being in tiers,” Delany said in a teleconference back then. “I’d say there’s probably three tiers if we ended up with nine or 10 bowls. I think that you’ll see some Florida bowls and the Holiday Bowl in the top tier and probably the Pinstripe and the Kraft Fight Hunger [also known as Foster Farms, and now known as San Francisco] Bowl in the middle tier, and the others we haven’t quite figured out.”
Here is the 2018 schedule of bowl games with conference ties:
|Big Ten Bowl (2018)||Location||Opponent||Date||Time (ET)||Network|
|Rose||Pasadena, Calif.||Pac-12||Jan. 1||5 p.m.||ESPN|
|Citrus||Orlando, Fla.||SEC||Jan. 1||1 p.m.||ABC|
|Outback||Tampa, Fla.||SEC||Jan. 1||Noon||ESPN2|
|Holiday||San Diego||Pac-12||Dec. 31||7 p.m.||FS1|
|*Gator||Jacksonville, Fla.||SEC||Dec. 31||7:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|*Music City||Nashville, Tenn.||SEC||Dec. 28||1:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Pinstripe||New York||ACC||Dec. 27||5:15 p.m.||ESPN|
|San Francisco||Santa Clara, Calif.||Pac-12||Dec. 31||2:30 p.m.||FOX|
|Quick Lane||Detroit||ACC||Dec. 26||5:15 p.m.||ESPN|
|Heart of Dallas||Dallas||Conf. USA||Dec. 26||1:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|*Gator OR Music City|
The bowls still draft teams in order, as they did previously. In a tiered system in which, say, the Foster Farms, Music City and Pinstripe bowls are considered even, perhaps Northwestern competes in Santa Clara, Calif., Purdue in New York and Iowa in Nashville. Instead, the Music City Bowl picked first, followed by the Pinstripe Bowl and followed by the currently known San Francisco Bowl.
The only unfair situation of a team getting jumped came last season when 8-4 Michigan leaped past 9-3 Michigan State for the Outback Bowl. The Spartans won the head-to-head matchup, too.
|Heart of Dallas||Illinois||—||—||—|
Entering the final two years of this bowl cycle, here are 10 big facts and factors about the 2018 Big Ten bowl games.
10 Big Ten bowl plots
- Rose Bowl to pit Big Ten vs. Pac-12. Last year, Big Ten champion Ohio State played in the Cotton because the Rose Bowl staged a College Football Playoff semifinal. This year, either the Big Ten’s champion or most deserving at-large team will compete in Pasadena on Jan. 1. It doesn’t get more traditional than that.
- Big Ten will play in the Citrus Bowl this season. The Big Ten, SEC and Notre Dame have an arrangement with the Orange Bowl to face the ACC champion in the years the Orange Bowl doesn’t host a College Football Playoff semifinal game. Well, this year the Orange hosts a semifinal. The last two seasons, the Big Ten has played in the Orange Bowl, which forced the league to forfeit its Citrus Bowl slot to the ACC. This year, the Big Ten could send a team to Miami for a playoff semifinal, but the league keeps the Citrus Bowl bid no matter what.
- Gator, Music City bowls equally back in play. The Big Ten and ACC have a shared arrangement with the Gator and Music City bowls, with each league participating in both bowls three times over a six-year period. The Big Ten sent teams to the TaxSlayer Bowl the first two seasons, and it was a given the Music City Bowl would select Big Ten teams the last two years, which it did. It’s unpredictable which bowl will select a Big Ten squad this year. The other bowl will get a Big Ten team in 2019.
- Holiday-Iowa connection. The Holiday Bowl sent a scout to Kinnick Stadium last year for the chilly home finale against Purdue and left disappointed. After beating Nebraska in Lincoln, 7-5 Iowa still was under strong Holiday Bowl consideration, but the selection committee couldn’t jump the Hawkeyes past either 9-3 Michigan State (which it selected) or 9-3 Northwestern, especially after both beat Iowa head-to-head. But with the Hawkeyes’ historical ties with the bowl, if they win between seven and nine games, San Diego seems the likely destination.
- Michigan, Northwestern could head west, too. The Wolverines haven’t played in a California bowl game since the 2007 Rose Bowl. The Wildcats’ last California bowl was the 1996 Rose Bowl. Michigan has played three straight years in Florida. If both teams win at least eight games but don’t qualify for a New Year’s Six bowl, look for one or both to play on New Year’s Eve in either Santa Clara or San Diego.
- Pinstripe arrangement. The Big Ten has an eight-year contract with the Pinstripe Bowl, with a minimum of seven different teams over eight years. So far, the league has sent four teams in four years to New York. If Maryland, Purdue or Nebraska return to bowl eligibility, all are solid possibilities.
- Ohio State’s excellence. The Buckeyes remain the only Big Ten team to play in a New Year’s Six bowl each season of the College Football Playoff era. Only once since 2004 has Ohio State played in a non-major bowl, and that was the Gator after the 2011 season.
- Michigan State misses Florida. The Spartans haven’t played in a Florida bowl since after the 2011 season. Unless Michigan State reaches a New Year’s Six bowl invitation — which is possible — it’s about time the Spartans return to the Sunshine State in late December or early January.
- New Year’s Eve-ning. Three Big Ten-affiliated bowls kick off on New Year’s Eve, including two at night. Fox will air the San Francisco Bowl that afternoon, while FS1 shows the Holiday Bowl to ring in the New Year. ESPN2 broadcasts the Gator Bowl — which takes either a Big Ten or an ACC team — also that night.
- On deck without ivy. The Chicago Cubs are interested in bringing a future bowl game to Wrigley Field. It’s interesting to see where it would fit in the Big Ten’s next bowl alignment. Considering the league rarely fills out in its current structure, Big Ten officials would need to shoehorn the Wrigley Bowl high enough to maintain an annual presence in their unofficial capital. It would be interesting to see if football fans would embrace a Chicago bowl — or detest it.