Two days away from selection Sunday, the Michigan football team’s bowl destination could very much hinge on what happens with Ohio State.
The Wolverines, who finished the regular season with a 10-2 record and share of the Big Ten East division title, are in play for three traditional New Year’s Six bowl games: the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl.
While the Rose Bowl is considered the more prestigious of the three, it is contracted to pit the champions of the Big Ten and Pac 12 conferences against one another on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif. That means the winner of Saturday’s Big Ten championship game, Ohio State or Northwestern, would get the invite.
The only caveat here is if the Big Ten champion qualifies for the College Football Playoff, “then the Rose Bowl will select a Big Ten replacement team.” Should Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) win the title game and leapfrog No. 5 Oklahoma in the rankings, then Michigan — with its large alumni base and popular brand — would be the favorite to end up here.
This week, The Sporting News’ Bill Bender projected Michigan to play Washington in the Rose Bowl. It would be the Wolverines’ first Rose appearance since 2007.
But if the sixth-ranked Buckeyes do not make the playoff, which seems to be the more-likely scenario right now, then Michigan is in line to receive an at-large bid to either the Fiesta or Peach bowls.
Both games have two at-large bids, though the Fiesta Bowl — to be played Jan. 1 in Glendale, Ariz. — is contracted to take the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. Because of that, ESPN’s Heather Dinich now projects Michigan to play Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.
CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has Michigan playing Florida in the Peach Bowl, Dec. 29 in Atlanta.
A Northwestern win over Ohio State on Saturday would really make things interesting. Not only would the Wildcats earn an invite to Pasadena, but they would assuredly knock the Buckeyes out of playoff talk.
That would leave Ohio State and Michigan both vying for the remaining three at-large bids to the Fiesta and Peach bowls. Would they take one over the other? Would they both get in?
And perhaps most intriguing, would the Peach Bowl be willing to pit the two rivals against one another in a rematch from Ohio State’s 62-39 win on Nov. 24 in Columbus?
Should Michigan somehow get bumped, then it would fall to the next Big Ten-affiliated bowl, the Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
The bowl selection show is noon Sunday on ESPN.