For those of you who haven’t completely given up on the season and remember there’s a bowl season (players, considering your recent bowl record, this may apply to you, too), you might want to check this out. The bowl announcements aren’t for another week, but I’ll do my best to project where Michigan will end up come Jan. 1 (or late December, for that matter).
Rose Bowl: At the start of November, a return trip to Pasadena seemed like a foregone conclusion. Even if Michigan dropped its rivalry game to Ohio State, it would probably get to go to the Rose Bowl since Ohio State would be National Championship Game bound. The two rivals’ losses to Wisconsin and Illinois on the same day put a dent in that hope, though. Even if Ohio State slips into the National Championship Game with a Missouri loss next weekend, the Rose Bowl has no obligation to pick Michigan, even though the Wolverines tied for second place and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against Illinois.
Translation: Don’t hold your breath. BCS officials aren’t drooling over four-loss teams.
Likelihood: .5-percent chance
Capitol One Bowl: If Illinois doesn’t sneak into a BCS game, this is the perfect spot for the Big Ten’s surprise team. The Illini haven’t made a bowl game since the 2002 Sugar Bowl, and their fans should travel well. Combine that with the fact that Florida will likely be the SEC representative in this game, and the networks and bowl officials alike will be salivating at the prospect of Illinois coach Ron Zook facing off against the team that fired him just a few short years ago. If the Illini slip into a BCS bowl, though, this could be the spot for Michigan, since Wisconsin has played here two years in a row and would almost certainly not be chosen for a third straight time.
Likelihood: 12-percent chance
Outback Bowl: The Wisconsin Badgers are the likely pick for this one. Even though Michigan had one fewer conference loss than Wisconsin, the Badgers beat the Wolverines in their head-to-head battle. On top of that, Wisconsin fans have a much better reputation for traveling to bowl games than Michigan fans, who only seem to care about their team when the Wolverines are playing in a marquee bowl matchup (see: 2005 Alamo Bowl). Bowl officials may expect Michigan to draw a little better this year, though, since it’s going to be Michigan coach Lloyd Carr’s final game roaming the sidelines. But don’t be shocked if the Badgers jump Michigan to play in the Big Ten’s third New Year’s Day Bowl – I’d be more shocked if it didn’t happen.
Likelihood: 20-percent chance
Alamo Bowl: If Wisconsin jumps Michigan, surely the Wolverines will at least make it into the Big Ten’s No. 4 bowl, right? Well, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, Michigan fans.” The Wolverines played (well, kind of) in this bowl just two short years ago, and their dismal performance on the field was matched by a similarly awful turnout by their fans. Because of this, Penn State could slip in, which like Wisconsin, seems to travel better to bowl games than Michigan.
Likelihood: 32-percent chance
Champs Sports Bowl: A trip to Orlando was what many people forecasted for the Wolverines this year – but that was for the Capitol One Bowl, not the Champ Sports Bowl. Michigan could very well drop to the Big Ten’s fifth bowl spot despite having the conference’s second-best record this season. It seems unlikely on paper, but when you factor in fans’ unwillingness to travel and different matchups certain bowls want, then this could be Michigan’s most likely destination. For those hoping to keep the 2005 Alamo Bowl trip as the program’s biggest disappointment in recent memory, here’s what you need to cheer for: Lots of Illinois hype, lots of Lloyd Carr sympathy and (gasp) an Ohio State berth into the National Championship Game. If not, the Wolverines very well could be Champs Sports Bowl bound, a destination most fans would have laughed at three weeks ago.
Likelihood: 35-percent chance
Motor City Bowl/Insight Bowl: OK, things aren’t this bad. Let’s take a step back, realize we’re still Michigan and stamp a big RESERVED FOR LITTLE BROTHER on this one.
Likelihood: .5-percent chance
– Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.