Last week, we shared our post-spring look at the Big Ten Leaders Division. That analysis is linked here.
Stars of the Legends Division include Michigan's Denard Robinson, Iowa's James Vandenberg, Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez.
With spring practice over, we thought this would be a good chance to look back at what we learned and also look ahead to the season in the fall.
In late April, we published two articles looking specifically at the quarterback situation at each Big Ten school. (Click here for a look at the Leaders Division and here for a look at the Legends Division.)
Today, we are back with a more thorough look at the six schools in the Big Ten Legends Division. We also have our projection for each team’s record as well as the postseason bowl bids for the conference.
Here we go:
BIG TEN LEGENDS DIVISION
* 2011 Record, Bowl: 7-6 overall, 4-4 Big Ten Legends (fourth), lost Insight Bowl to Oklahoma 31-14.
* Returning Starters (12): Offense (6): WR Keenan Davis, C James Ferentz, TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, FB Brad Rogers, OG Matt Tobin, QB James Vandenberg; Defense (5): DE Dominic Alvis, DB Micah Hyde, LB Christian Kirksey, DB Tanner Miller, LB James Morris; Specialists (1): K Mike Meyer.
* Spring Game Recap: Iowa held an open practice at Kinnick Stadium on April 14 with 15,000 fans in attendance.
* Summing Up The Spring: It was a spring of transition for Iowa. The Hawkeyes broke in two new coordinators with Greg Davis replacing Ken O’Keefe as the offensive coordinator and longtime defensive coordinator Norm Parker being replaced by Phil Parker, who was promoted from the secondary coaching spot.
The Hawkeyes were also looking for new playmakers with the departure of top rusher Marcus Coker and top receiver Marvin McNutt. Davis (50 catches last year) and Kevonte Martin-Manley (30 catches) figure to be the top names at receiver.
“We’ve got a relatively young football team,” said coach Kirk Ferentz, back for his 14th year as the Iowa head coach. “We had some staff changes and some system changes. We have a lot of new elements to the program, but that has made it more interesting. The attitudes were very good, but we still have a long road in front of us.”
Vandenberg (3,022 yards passing, 25 TDs) is a good building block at quarterback. He talked how the Hawkeyes must find consistency in 2012.
“We knew we could play good football, but we didn’t do it consistently enough,” Vandenberg said. “I think that started with the road games. We are working on that this spring. You can’t be a good team in this conference without being a good road team. You have to be able to concentrate, and that’s something we weren’t able to do very well last year.”
Iowa was eighth in the Big Ten in scoring defense (23.8 ppg) and total defense (378.9 ypg) last season. Morris and Kirksey (110 tackles each) and Hyde (72 tackles, three INTs) lead that side of the ball. Hyde was a second-team All-Big Ten pick last season.
* 2012 Schedule: Sept. 1, vs. Northern Illinois (at Soldier Field, Chicago); Sept. 8, Iowa State; Sept. 15, Northern Iowa; Sept. 22, Central Michigan; Sept. 29, Minnesota, noon (ESPN, ESPN2 or BTN); Oct. 13, at Michigan State, noon (ESPN, ESPN2 or BTN); Oct. 20, Penn State, 8 p.m. (BTN); Oct. 27, at Northwestern, noon (ESPN, ESPN2 or BTN); Nov. 3, at Indiana; Nov. 10, Purdue; Nov. 17, at Michigan; Nov. 23, Nebraska, noon (ABC).
* 2011 Record, Bowl: 11-2 overall, 6-2 Big Ten Legends (second), defeated Virginia Tech 23-20 (OT) in the Sugar Bowl.
* Returning Starters (15): Offense (6): LT Taylor Lewan, RG Patrick Omameh, QB Denard Robinson, WR Roy Roundtree, LG Michael Schofield, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint; Defense (7): CB J.T. Floyd, MLB Kenny Demens, FS Thomas Gordon, SS Jordan Kovacs, WLB Desmond Morgan, DE Craig Roh, SLB Jake Ryan; Specialists (2): K Brendan Gibbons, P Will Hagerup.
* Spring Game Recap: A crowd of 25,000 attended the spring game April 14 at Michigan Stadium. The offense defeated the defense 17-0 in the scrimmage. Backup QB Russell Bellomy completed 6 of 9 passes for 40 yards. Toussaint had five carries for 39 yards, while Thomas Rawls had 10 carries for 42 yards and two touchdowns.
* Summing Up The Spring: Michigan broke through and got its first BCS bowl win in 11 years with the victory over Virginia Tech. However, the Wolverines have not won a Big Ten championship since 2004 – their longest drought since going 14 years between 1950-64 without a title.
Kovacs (75 tackles last year) said the Wolverines do not intend to rest on their laurels after having some success last year.
“The interesting thing about this team is everybody wants to say we set the bar really high last year,” Kovacs said. “We went 11-2, we won some big games and we won a BCS bowl game. But I think one of the things Coach Hoke emphasizes is how last year we failed.
“Our mission is to win a Big Ten championship every year. We didn’t do that. Big Ten championships are what this program is about. We didn’t get what we want and that keeps us even hungrier for next year.”
Brady Hoke, back for his second year as the UM coach, talked about what he wanted to see this spring.
“The expectation level of how physical we want to be as a football team, we’re not where we want to be,” Hoke said. “I think the guys are trying to play with the demeanor and the mentality we want to play with. You see some improvements in that. From the defensive standpoint, I know we’re not near where we need to be.”
It will help the cause to have a high powered offense, led by Robinson (2,173 yards, 20 TDs passing; 1,176 yards and 16 TDs rushing) at the quarterback spot. Robinson now has 3,229 career rushing yards and is closing in on the Big Ten quarterback rushing record of 3,895 yards set by Indiana’s Antwaan Randle-El.
Robinson got help last season from Toussaint (1,041 yards, nine TDs) at running back. This spring, UM looked to develop a new receiving threat and may have found one with promising Jerald Robinson. Robinson and Lewan, a mainstay at left tackle, were second-team All-Big Ten picks last year.
Defensively, Greg Mattison worked a minor miracle in his first year on the job. He has seven starters back, led by Roh at defensive end and Demens (94 tackles) and Ryan at the linebacker spots. Kovacs said having some stability on that side of the ball – finally – should pay huge dividends.
“It’s nice to come in and have the same defense for the second year in a row,” Kovacs said. “This is the first time I’ve been able to do that. It’s the first time anybody on this team has been able to do that. We still have a lot of holes to fill.”
* 2012 Schedule: Sept. 1, vs. Alabama (at Cowboys Stadium; Arlington, Texas); Sept. 8, Air Force; Sept. 15, Massachusetts; Sept. 22, at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. (NBC); Oct. 6, at Purdue, 4 p.m. (BTN); Oct. 13, Illinois, 3:30 p.m. (ABC); Oct. 20, Michigan State; Oct. 27, at Nebraska, 8 p.m. (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2); Nov. 3, at Minnesota; Nov. 10, Northwestern; Nov. 17, Iowa; Nov. 24, at Ohio State.
* 2011 Record, Bowl: 11-3 overall, 7-1 Big Ten Legends (first), defeated Georgia 33-30 (OT) in Outback Bowl.
* Returning Starters (15): Offense (5): TB Le’Veon Bell, RT Fou Fonoti, LT Dan France, C Travis Jackson, RG Chris McDonald; Defense (8): BC Johnny Adams, LB Denicos Allen, LB Max Bullough, FC Darqueze Dennard, DE William Gholston, SS Isaiah Lewis, LB Chris Norman, DE Marcus Rush; Specialists (2): K Dan Conroy, P Mike Sadler.
* Spring Game Recap: MSU had 20,000 fans at its spring-ending scrimmage April 28 at Spartan Stadium. The White defeated the Green 14-2. Playing for both teams, quarterback Connor Cook completed 20-of-45 passes for 294 yards. He led a nine-play, 97-yard drive in just 1:15 at the end of the second quarter for the White, capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass to Andre Sims with seven seconds remaining in the half.
* Summing Up The Spring: MSU got good news on Thursday when the NCAA granted the hardship transfer release for wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett. Arnett, a Saginaw, Mich., native, sought a transfer to MSU to be near his ailing father. He had 24 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns last season at Tennessee. His arrival should help cushion the blow of losing top receivers B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin.
Those two were among a strong senior class that left the program, including QB Kirk Cousins and DB Trenton Robinson. RB Edwin Baker and DT Jerel Worthy each left school a year early for the NFL. MSU coach Mark Dantonio said he will rely on his team’s rising seniors.
“If your seniors have their best year, guys will follow that,” Dantonio said. “The chemistry will build off of that. That’s how it has gone for me wherever I have been as either an assistant or as a head coach.”
Cook took center stage at quarterback late in the spring after projected starter Andrew Maxwell went down with a knee injury. He is due back before the start of preseason camp.
“Andrew has been here three years,” Dantonio said. “He has a good athletic ability and he is an excellent student. He was put in a situation where he was behind Kirk Cousins, who was our guy for three years. He has a live arm and is a good young person. He is very calm and I think good things are around the corner for him.”
The 6-2, 240-pound Bell (948 yards, 13 TDs rushing) returns at running back and will get the lion’s share of the work after sharing the job with Baker last year. Tight end Dion Sims, who had a big spring, could also factor in the receiving game. Beyond Arnett, redshirt freshman Andre Sims and soph Keith Mumphery emerged at receiver. Four starters are back on the offensive line.
Eight starters return on a defensive unit that led the Big Ten easily in yards allowed (277.4 ypg). Worthy leaves quite a void up front. But there is a ton of star power coming back. Adams (three interceptions) was a first-team All-Big Ten pick last year, while Allen (83 tackles, 11 sacks), Bullough (89 tackles), Gholston (70 tackles, five sacks) and Lewis (74 tackles) were all second-team All-Big Ten selections. Adams and Gholston are already being looked at as NFL first-round draft picks next year.0
Conroy is also back after hitting 17 of 23 field goals (long of 50) last year.
* 2012 Schedule: Aug. 31, Boise State, 8 p.m. (ESPN); Sept. 8, at Central Michigan; Sept. 15, Notre Dame, 8 p.m. (ABC); Sept. 22, Eastern Michigan; Sept. 29, Ohio State; Oct. 6, at Indiana, noon (ESPN, ESPN2 or BTN); Oct. 13, Iowa, noon (ESPN, ESPN2 or BTN); Oct. 20, at Michigan; Oct. 27, at Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. (ABC); Nov. 3, Nebraska; Nov. 17, Northwestern; Nov. 24, at Minnesota
* 2011 Record: 3-9 overall, 2-6 Big Ten Legends (sixth).
* Returning Starters (16): Offense (7): OL Caleb Bak, RG Zac Epping, QB MarQueis Gray, WR Brandon Green, LT Ed Olson, LG Tommy Olson, HB John Rabe; Defense (6): LB Keanon Cooper, DE Ben Perry, LB Mike Rallis, CB Troy Stoudermire, CB Brock Vereen, DE D.L. Wilhite; Specialists (3): K Chris Hawthorne, P Dan Orseske, K Jordan Wettstein.
* Spring Game Recap: The Maroon downed the Gold 3-0 on a 21-yard field goal by Chris Hawthorne in the spring game, played before a crowd of 3,500 on April 21 at TCF Bank Stadium.
* Summing Up The Spring: Minnesota was the only Legends Division team that failed to reach postseason play last year, so there is only one direction for the Golden Gophers to go.
“We have to continue to get better so we can compete at the level the other people in our league are competing at,” said Jerry Kill, who returns for his second season as the Minnesota head coach.
Gray (1,495 yards, eight TDs passing; 966 yards, six TDs rushing) is back for his second season as the starting quarterback after moving over from wide receiver last spring.
“There is no comparison where he’s at now and where he was last spring,” Kill said. “Last spring, he had trouble even getting a snap. He’s a different guy pulling the trigger for us. We all know what kind of athlete he is. But I think he is an improved quarterback. We have to make sure we get some people around him who can help him.”
Gray will be looking for new receiving targets after the departure of top receiver Da’Jon McKnight. Senior Brandon Green (15 catches) and sophomore Marcus Jones (coming off an ACL injury) seem to be the top candidates after the spring.
“We have a senior leader in Brandon Green who has been here three years,” Gray said. “We have some other young guys making plays. They will be competing to get playing time. That’s a positive from my standpoint.”
The good news on defense and in the return game is the return of Stoudemire, who received an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA after missing last season due to injury. He is a standout at corner and already holds the Big Ten record for kick return yards (3,102).
“It’s great to have Troy back,” Gray said. “He brings a physical presence on the defensive side of the ball and in special teams. He’s been a playmaker since he’s been here. We look forward to having him back there this year.”
Minnesota was 10th in the Big Ten in total defense (403.1 ypg) and 11th in scoring defense (31.7 ppg allowed) last year. An improved pass rush, led by emerging ends Thieren Cockran and Mike Amefula, can only help the bottom line. Another key piece could be DT Ra’Shede Hageman, a former blue chip recruit, although he was jailed early Thursday for disorderly conduct after an altercation at a bar near campus.
* 2012 Schedule: Aug. 30, at UNLV, 11 p.m. (CBS Sports Network); Sept. 8, New Hampshire; Sept. 15, Western Michigan; Sept. 22, Syracuse, 8 p.m. (BTN); Sept. 29, at Iowa, noon (ESPN, ESPN2 or BTN); Oct. 13, Northwestern, noon (ESPN, ESPN2 or BTN); Oct. 20, at Wisconsin; Oct. 27, Purdue; Nov. 3, Michigan; Nov. 10, at Illinois; Nov. 17, at Nebraska; Nov. 24, Michigan State.
* 2011 Record, Bowl: 9-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten Legends (third), lost to South Carolina 30-13 in Capital One Bowl.
* Returning Starters (16): Offense (8): WR Kenny Bell, IB Rex Burkhead, OG Seung Hoon Choi, TE Ben Cotton, WR Quincy Enunwa, OG Spencer Long, QB Taylor Martinez, OG Andrew Rodriguez; Defense (7): DE Jason Ankrah, LB Will Compton, DB Ciante Evans, CB Andrew Green, DE Cameron Meredith, DB Daimion Stafford, DT Baker Steinkuhler; Specialists (1): K-P Brett Maher.
* Spring Game Recap: Due to inclement weather and potentially severe weather throughout Eastern Nebraska and the Lincoln area, Nebraska's Red-White Spring Game on April 14 at Memorial Stadium was canceled.
* Summing Up The Spring: Nebraska survived its Big Ten baptism last season and looks to take the next step in Year 2 in the conference. It could be a big year behind NU’s productive offense, led by a third-year starting quarterback in Martinez (2,089 yards, 13 TDs passing; 874 yards, nine TDs rushing). Consistency has been the biggest issue with Martinez.
“When you have a threat like that at the quarterback position, that makes my job easier,” said running back Rex Burkhead. “He's made tremendous strides in the passing game and that's going to help the run game for him and me that much more, I think.”
Burkhead (1,357 yards, 15 TDs rushing; two TDs receiving) returns as a senior for his final go-around.
“Rex has had a heck of a career,” said Bo Pelini, back for his fifth year as the NU head coach. “Going into his senior year, he is set up to do some great things. I think he is a tremendous football player and a great leader. He’s the kind of guy you would want to model your program around. He works so hard at it, I don’t see any reason why that won’t continue to happen.”
Burkhead and Maher (19 of 23 on field goals; 44.5 yard punting average) were first-team All-Big Ten picks, while Long was a second-team pick. The Huskers need more receiving threats to emerge to complement Bell (32 catches) and balance the run-heavy offense (Nebraska ran the ball nearly 68 percent of the time last year).
Pelini had to replace his brother, Carl Pelini, as the defensive coordinator after he left to become the head coach at Florida Atlantic. John Papuchis takes over that job as the coordinator. The Nebraska defense briefly gained Blackshirt recognition last year, but it was not a normal year for the NU defense. Nebraska was seventh in the Big Ten in total defense (350.7 ypg) and scoring (23.4 ppg).
Ankrah comes in off a strong spring at one end spot, while Meredith (58 tackles, five sacks) figures to man the other. Compton (82 tackles) returns in the linebacker corps, where NU lost star Lavonte David. Three starters are back in the secondary, including Stafford (80 tackles) at safety.
“Overall, I think we've really gotten better on defense,” Pelini said. “I expect to be a better defensive football team than we were a year ago, we're a lot more experienced in the secondary first and foremost and that will help us. We get our guys back up front, so we have a chance to be pretty good.”
* 2012 Schedule: Sept. 1, Southern Miss; Sept. 8, at UCLA; Sept. 15, Arkansas State; Sept. 22, Idaho State; Sept. 29, Wisconsin, 8 p.m. (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2); Oct. 6, at Ohio State, 8 p.m. (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2); Oct. 20, at Northwestern; Oct. 27, Michigan, 8 p.m. (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2); Nov. 3, at Michigan State; Nov. 10, Penn State; Nov. 17, Minnesota; Nov. 23, at Iowa, noon (ABC).
* 2011 Record, Bowl: 6-7 overall, 3-5 Big Ten Legends (fifth), lost to Texas A&M 33-22 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
* Returning Starters (13): Offense (5): WR Demetrius Fields, WR Christian Jones, OL Brian Mulroe, OL Brandon Vitabile, OL Pat Ward; Defense (6): S Ibraheim Campbell, LB Collin Ellis, LB David Nwabuisi, LB Damien Proby, DL Tyler Scott, DL Quentin Williams; Specialists (2): PK Jeff Budzien,
P Brandon Williams.
* Spring Game Recap: The defense stopped the offense 47-43 in the April 14 spring-ending scrimmage, which featured a special scoring system. QBs Trevor Siemian (8 of 14, 119 yards, two TDs) and Kain Colter (7 of 12, 56 yards) each had solid moments. Tyris Jones had a TD catch, while Cam Dickerson caught a touchdown pass. DT Chance Carter returned an interception for a touchdown.
* Summing Up The Spring: Northwestern had a strong 4-1 finish to the regular season – including a clutch win at Nebraska (28-25) – to qualify for the postseason. Pat Fitzgerald, back for his seventh year as the coach at his alma mater, hopes his team can carry over that momentum.
“The attitude this spring was good,” Fitzgerald said. “We were putting some of the right pieces together. Hopefully that will be a catalyst going into the summer.”
Colter takes over at quarterback after splitting time between that position and wide receiver last year. He was pressed into service at quarterback last year with starter Dan Persa sidelined at various times. He nearly had 500 yards rushing, passing and receiving, ending up with 673 yards and six TDs passing, 654 yards and nine TDs rushing and 466 yards and three TDs receiving.
“We had a lot of young guys jumping in and getting some reps,” Colter said. “We’ve been working on bringing them along. The more experience these guys get, the better we will be.”
Dickerson and Tony Jones have emerged at receiver and there is hope that USC transfer Kyle Prater can get his hardship transfer approved so he can play this season. The run game still needs an answer beyond what Colter can do from the quarterback spot, though.
The NU defense needs playmakers to emerge. There are hopes that Carter and Deonte Gibson will apply pressure up front. Nwabuisi (84 tackles last year) is a linebacker on the verge of stardom. Campbell (100 tackles, two INTs) came up big at safety last year, while Nick VanHoose emerged at corner this spring. That’s good because NU was last in the Big Ten in pass defense last year.
* 2012 Schedule: Sept. 1, at Syracuse; Sept. 8, Vanderbilt, 8 p.m. (BTN); Sept. 15, Boston College;
Sept. 22, South Dakota; Sept. 29, Indiana; Oct. 6, at Penn State, noon (ESPN, ESPN2 or BTN); Oct. 13, at Minnesota, noon (ESPN, ESPN2 or BTN); Oct. 20, Nebraska; Oct. 27, Iowa, noon (ESPN, ESPN2 or BTN); Nov. 10, at Michigan; Nov. 17, at Michigan State; Nov. 24, Illinois.
Predicting The Division Race
OK, so we’ve looked at the personnel and what was accomplished this spring. Here is where the rubber hits the road and we make our first stab at some can’t-miss predictions for the new season. We will share our projected record for each team as well as thoughts on how each school will fare this season:
* Michigan: 9-3 overall, 6-2 Big Ten – The Michigan schedule is anything but easy with games against Alabama (in Texas) and road games at Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. Alabama, coming off a national championship, is still predicted to be a top-five team. A national championship run seems unlikely for Robinson’s swan song. But if the Wolverines can defeat Michigan State and Iowa at home, they would be well positioned to rep the Legends Division in the title game. That would take breaking MSU's four-year death grip on that rivalry with Michigan.
* Michigan State: 10-2 overall, 6-2 Big Ten – The Spartans probably boast the Big Ten’s best defense and they will have to play like it as the new quarterback Maxwell and the offense finds its way. A big key will be how well MSU establishes the run with the bullish Bell leading that charge. The first five weeks mark marquee home games with Boise State, Notre Dame and Ohio State. The road games at Michigan and Wisconsin will tell the tale.
* Iowa: 10-2 overall, 6-2 Big Ten – The Hawkeyes could be in the division hunt, largely because they don’t have to play Wisconsin or Ohio State in crossover games. Vandenberg, back after a 3,000-yard season, gives Iowa a passing chance in every game. But visits to Michigan State and Michigan will loom large.
* Nebraska: 9-3 overall, 5-3 Big Ten – The Big Ten loaded Nebraska’s schedule the first two years so they could allow their new acquisition to make a big splash. So there aren’t any easy outs in Nebraska’s Big Ten schedule. (Well, other than Minnesota at home.) So this team could be better than last year, but the final result may not show it. And the defense must improve from last year for the Huskers to push for the division title and/or a BCS bowl bid.
* Northwestern: 6-6 overall, 3-5 Big Ten – Northwestern has been to a bowl game for a school-record four years in a row, but the Wildcats still haven’t won a bowl game since 1948 (0-9 since then). I think NU will get back to a bowl game for the fifth year in a row. But with so much transition and no discernible run game (beyond the quarterback), I have a hard time predicting a whole lot more than that.
* Minnesota: 3-9 overall, 0-8 Big Ten – This reclamation project at Minnesota is going to take some time. The Gophers shrugged off unthinkable early season losses to New Mexico State and I-AA North Dakota State last year and won home Big Ten games over Iowa and Illinois. But as you look at Minnesota’s eight Big Ten games, you have a hard time finding a game that stands out as winnable. Maybe Northwestern or Purdue at home. That’s about it, and that’s not a good thing. The good news for Minnesota is it looks like the school could see a windfall of $3-9 million from hosting the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings as their new stadium is built. Hopefully some of that money trickles down to Gophers football.
* One More Thought – Last year, the Legends Division dominated the Leaders with a 12-6 advantage in the cross-division games. Michigan and Michigan State were 3-0 against teams in the Leaders last year.
I think that dominance continues this year. My informal count would be 11-7 in favor of the Legends in crossover games. I have Iowa at 3-0 (Penn State and Purdue at home, Indiana on the road) and Michigan, MSU, Nebraska and Northwestern all going 2-1.
Big Ten Championship Game Prediction
I am picking Michigan to win three-way tiebreaker for the Legends Division spot in the Big Ten championship game. Honestly, I think whoever survives the Legends would have the upper hand against Wisconsin, which may as well move on to Indianapolis without even playing the season. With Ohio State ineligible, Wisconsin is the prohibitive favorite to rep the Leaders.
Wisconsin and Michigan do not play during the upcoming regular season, making their match-up a first time event if it comes to pass on Dec. 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Playing on the fast track indoors, I would give the nod to Michigan and Denard Robinson in a shootout. He and Montee Ball can trade touchdowns all night – kind of like last year when Wisconsin held on for a 42-39 win over Michigan State in the title game.
My pick for the title game: Michigan 41, Wisconsin 36
And The Big Ten Bowl Bids
OK, mashing what we had with our look at the Leaders Division last week, we examine the Big Ten bowl assignments.
Keep in mind, Ohio State (projected at 10-2 overall, 6-2 in Big Ten play) is ineligible for a bowl in Urban Meyer’s first season as the Buckeyes’ head coach. If OSU was eligible, it would be pushing for a BCS at-large bid.
The Big Ten had 10 bowl teams last year. With OSU ineligible, it will only be nine in 2012. (Sorry to Indiana and Minnesota, again.)
* Rose Bowl – Michigan gets back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 2006 season. With LSU and USC projected to play for the national title (in most early polls), that would put Michigan in against Pac-12 runner-up Oregon possibly here.
* Fiesta Bowl – Michigan State gets the benefit of not playing in the Big Ten title game (like Michigan had last year) and at 10-2 will play in a BCS bowl game for the first time in school history. Oklahoma, projected to win the Big 12, would be the opponent as of today.
* Capital One Bowl – After losing to Michigan in the title game, Wisconsin drops out of BCS consideration but lands comfortably in Orlando. The match-up with Georgia, projected as a solid top-10 team, would be a good one.
* Outback Bowl – Nebraska will move from the Capital One Bowl last year to the Outback, where a rematch with South Carolina from last year’s Cap One would await.
* Valley of the Sun Bowl – This used to be the Insight Bowl. Iowa played in that last year and could be back there this year as well. Kansas State or new Big 12 participant TCU could be the opposition.
* Gator Bowl – Penn State was passed over by the Gator last year. The Nittany Lions haven’t been to the Gator since 1976. A match-up with Florida or Tennessee could be on tap.
* Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas – Illinois could be a logical fit here in the Big Ten bowl ladder with a Big 12 opponent possible (say Texas or Oklahoma State).
* TicketCity Bowl – Purdue could get a Jan. 1 bid for the first time since 2003. The opponent would be somebody from Conference USA. (Does anybody know who’s left?)
* Little Caesars Bowl – Northwestern would fill out the bowl schedule here in Detroit against a MAC team, maybe Ohio U. or somebody else.