Neither Michigan nor Michigan State had the season it hoped for — the Wolverines finished 8-4 with losses to Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State; the Spartans lost five times at home and needed a victory in their finale just to achieve bowl eligibility.
But both teams will have one more shot to finish the season in style with a bowl victory. Where will those teams be playing come December or January? And will Central Michigan, at 6-6, join the postseason party?
Here’s where things stand heading into the final week of college football’s regular season:
Michigan (8-4, 6-2 Big Ten)
The Wolverines’ shot at a Rose Bowl berth ended Friday when Nebraska downed Iowa to clinch a spot in the Big Ten title game. They still had a chance to sneak into a BCS bowl by beating Ohio State, but in reality, Michigan’s bowl situation did not change this week.
The likely destination: the Capital One Bowl and a meeting with a top-10 team out of the SEC — probably Georgia or LSU. The Capital One Bowl has made it no secret that it’s interested in Michigan, with the Wolverines’ national following, a chance to pit them against one of those top-notch SEC teams and the drama of Denard Robinson playing his last college game in his home state.
One caveat, though, presented by the bowl’s official Twitter page Sunday: If Nebraska loses the Big Ten championship game to Wisconsin, current rules stipulate that the Capital One Bowl has to either take 10-win Nebraska or a team within one win of the Cornhuskers. That leaves only 9-3 Northwestern; 8-4 Michigan would not qualify. The Bowl’s feed later added that the conference might still allow a Michigan selection, but it’s another potential road block.
Should the Capital One Bowl turn elsewhere, the Wolverines likely would end up in the Outback Bowl, also against an SEC foe. It’s hard to imagine them falling further, but the Gator Bowl (Big Ten vs. SEC, again) has fourth choice.
Michigan State (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten)
The invite is not official yet, but the Spartans are about 99 percent set to play in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on Dec. 29 in Phoenix, Ariz. That game pits a Big Ten team against the No. 4 selection out of the Big 12.
CBS’ Jerry Palm currently has MSU there against Oklahoma State, while both of ESPN’s bowl experts (Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards) have a Michigan State-TCU matchup.
The only way that the Spartan’s travel plans might change comes from an unlikely scenario pitched by the Free Press’ Joe Rexrode: If Wisconsin wins the Big Ten title game but Nebraska stays high enough in the BCS rankings to claim an at-large spot, Michigan State could jump to a Gator Bowl bid.
Central Michigan (6-6, 4-4 MAC)
The only other team in the state with enough wins for bowl eligibility is Central Michigan, whose fate may come down to simple math — how many total teams wind up eligible? How many conferences will be unable to fill their allotments?
Neither of ESPN’s gurus have the Chips bowling, but Palm dropped them into the Military Bowl in Washington D.C., against San Jose State. The slots for that game are the ACC’s No. 8 selection and Army, neither of which will be filled by the expected teams.