LINCOLN, Neb. — Despite no signature wins so far this season, Nebraska still has a legitimate shot at a 10-win season for the first time since 2012.
After the 24-17 win over Minnesota last Saturday, the Huskers are just two wins and one Wisconsin loss away from making it to the Big Ten Title game.
But what happens after that? And what if Nebraska loses the next two games? What bowl would the Huskers be in then?
Here’s a quick rundown of a few possible bowl scenarios for Nebraska:
The best-case scenario: Rose Bowl
This is the long shot, but believe it or not Nebraska could make it to Pasadena if a few balls bounce its way.
If the Huskers take care of Maryland this weekend and beat Iowa the day after Thanksgiving and Wisconsin loses to either Purdue or Minnesota, Nebraska would win the Big Ten West and play for the Big Ten title.
If Nebraska wins the Big Ten title game against Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State, the Huskers would be in the Rose Bowl. That is the simplest way for them to make it to Pasadena.
But if they make it to the Big Ten title game and lose, it gets tricky.
Technically, by playing in the Big Ten championship game, Nebraska is the Big Ten’s second-best team. But realistically, that’s not true, considering both Ohio State and Michigan could make the College Football Playoff despite one of them not being the conference champion.
So, what happens if Nebraska makes it to Indy, loses, and Ohio State and Michigan make the playoff? Who does the Rose Bowl pick among Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin?
Per the Big Ten’s Bowl Determination Procedure, “if the Big Ten Champion qualifies for the playoff, the Rose Bowl Game will choose a replacement Big Ten team.”
The Rose Bowl Game also “has sole discretion on a replacement team, and will generally select the highest‐rated available team, but will take into consideration final College Football Playoff rankings, head‐to‐head competition, division champions and most recent Rose Bowl Game appearances.”
In head-to-head, Wisconsin has the upper hand. And in College Football Playoff rankings, Penn State would probably have the upper hand. So Nebraska would need both of those teams to lose one (or both) of their final two games for the Huskers to make the Rose Bowl.
A very slim possibility, but a possibility nonetheless.
The worst-case scenario: Music City Bowl
Nebraska loses to Maryland and Iowa and is 8-4. In that scenario, Nebraska probably ends up in the Music City Bowl or Holiday Bowl.
Instead of competing with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin for a good bowl, Nebraska would be essentially competing with Iowa and Minnesota for a mid-tier postseason game.
Where Nebraska would end up would depend on how Iowa and Minnesota finish.
If Nebraska wins one of these next two games, it probably could end up in the Holiday Bowl over the Music City. CBS currently projects Minnesota would end up in the Holiday Bowl. Nebraska’s win over the Gophers would likely put it over the top in that race.
But in the worst possible situation, Nebraska ends up in Nashville.
The likely scenario: Outback Bowl
If Nebraska wins out against Maryland and Iowa and Wisconsin ends up winning the Big Ten West, the Huskers will end up where they’re projected to right now: the Outback Bowl.
Not a lot of things need to fall into place for this. Making the Outback Bowl wouldn’t depend on Ohio State and Michigan both making the playoff, or Penn State swooping in and stealing a bid.
Considering that Nebraska was lucky to make a bowl as a five-win team last season, the Outback Bowl would be a nice step in the right direction for coach Mike Riley and his staff.
Nebraska would play on Jan. 2 in Tampa Bay against an SEC team.