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Connelly projects the Northern Illinois Huskies (9-3) to square off against the Arkansas St. Red Wolves (9-2) on the January 8 GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. The GoDaddy yearly pits Arkansas State against a top Mid-American Conference team. The Huskies, whom Bill projects will end the year at 10-3, finish their season this Friday night against the Ohio Bobcats.
For the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on New Year's eve, Connelly foresees the Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6) playing the Wyoming Cowboys (7-5). The Illini, who have reportedly fired head coach Ron Zook, finished the season with six consecutive losses after starting 6-0.
On December 29, Connelly predicts the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4) will face the Florida St. Seminoles (8-4) in the Champs Sports Bowl. The Noles, who were at one point ranked in the top five of most polls, have won six of their last seven games. The Champs Sports Bowl typically pairs ACC and Big East teams.
Lastly, Connelly expects the Northwestern Wildcats (6-6) to challenge the Ohio Bobcats (9-4) in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The Pizza Bowl pairs Big Ten teams -- such as Northwestern -- against MAC teams -- such as the Bobcats. The Wildcats enter the possible as winners of four of their last five, including an upset over the No. 19 Nebraska Cornhuskers.
In what could be one of the marquee match ups of the 2011 bowl season, Scout is predicting that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will take on the Florida State Seminoles in this year's Champs Sports Bowl. For fans and bowl executives alike, the game would pit two traditional powers who haven't faced each other since 2003.
For Notre Dame it would be one final measuring stick against a quality opponent as the program continues its attempt to climb back into the upper echelon of college football. The Irish went 1-3 vs. ranked teams this season, and in only one of those losses (to Michigan) were they competitive for four quarters. A potential victory over Florida State would give the Irish a strong momentum push heading into the off season.
Though Northwestern ended the 2011 season with a disappointing 31-17 loss to the Michigan State Spartans to finish 6-6, in many respects most fans would likely deem the season as at least a mild success. The Wildcats battled injuries, and after sitting at 2-5 after a loss to Penn State, they reeled off four wins in their final five games, including a road victory over Nebraska that is one of the best in the program's history.
Thanks to winning four of those final five, the Wildcats will be bowl eligible again this season, which is nothing to scoff at. Scout's 2011 bowl predictions currently have Northwestern in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against the Northern Illinois Huskies, a team that ended the season with six straight wins of their own to finish 9-3.
A 6-6 season is likely not how Illinois players or fans pictured the Illini's 2011 season ending after the team started off 6-0, but the Illini did indeed finish with six straight losses, resulting in the firing of head coach Ron Zook. And while it was a disastrous end to the season in many respects, those first six wins mean that Illinois will still be going to a bowl in 2011, even if its currently without a head coach.
Scout's 2011 bowl prediction for the Illini has them heading out San Francisco to participate in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. There, Scout predicts, the Illini would take on the UCLA Bruins, who would be 6-7 on the season and also likely minus its coach as well. Two teams with a combined record of 12-13 and without head coaches doesn't exactly sound like the most appetizing match up, but such is one of the downsides of the current bowl system.
The Big Ten didn't manage to put a team in the top 10 in this week's AP poll, but Michigan State slots in at No. 9 on the most recent USA Today poll. The Spartans only come in at No. 11 in the AP rankings, but a couple of factors have them pushed two spots ahead in the USA Today rankings.
In the AP poll, Michigan State is ranked behind both Arkansas and USC, both of whom are in the top-10. But in the USA Today poll, USC isn't eligible to receive votes due to recent NCAA infractions, and Arkansas is ranked behind the Spartans after getting crushed by No. 1 LSU on Saturday. the AP voters weren't nearly as harsh to the Razorbacks, putting them at No. 6 in the nation.
Michigan State plays No. 12 Wisconsin next week in the inaugural Big Ten championship game, with the winner getting an automatic invitation to a BCS bowl, presumably the Rose Bowl.
Before Saturday, it seemed like there was at least the possibility that the BCS Championship Game wouldn't end up being a rematch of LSU and Alabama, but now that appears to be awfully unlikely. Unless the Tigers get upset by the No. 12 Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game next week, it appears that everyone will treated to another game between two of the nation's elite programs.
Both LSU and Alabama firmly established themselves as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation with dominant victories over quality SEC opponents on Saturday, with the Tigers crushing then-No. 3 Arkansas while the Tide had little trouble with then-No. 24 Auburn. LSU defeated Alabama in a low-scoring, tight-knit game 9-6 that included zero touchdowns despite going to overtime.
As for the Big Ten, they were once again locked out of the top 10 this week. Michigan State comes in at No. 11 after beating Northwestern, but that's as close as they get.
Here's the full AP Poll top 25 for Week 14:
Another weekend of college football is in the books and ESPN's Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards have released their latest bowl projections. Both Schlabach and Edwards project Northwestern, Illinois, Northern Illinois and Notre Dame to land somewhere in the postseason.
Illinois could be left out of the Big Ten bowl selection process because there are more teams eligible for bowls than there are bowl tie-ins. ESPN's experts expect Illinois to find an at-large spot somewhere else; Schlabach thinks it will be the New Mexico Bowl, while Edwards has the Illini in the New Orleans Bowl.
Northwestern is playing well down the stretch and could end up in the Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl, according to Schlabach. That would pit them against an opponent from the Big 12. Edwards placed the Wildcats in the Little Caesars Bowl for a potential matchup with Toledo.
Schlabach and Edwards are in agreement on Notre Dame's landing spot: the Champs Sports Bowl. They project that the Irish will face Florida State, which would be an exciting matchup of traditional powers.
Northern Illinois is projected to land in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
New bowl projections for week 13 were recently compiled by SB Nation, so let's take a look at how a crazy weekend of games ended up shaking things up. We'll start with the national title game, which is unsurprisingly a projected rematch of LSU and Alabama. Unless No. 6 Arkansas can upset the Tigers next week, this is likely the title game that we're going to be treated to.
The projections have Notre Dame playing Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl, Illinois playing Iowa State in the TicketCity Bowl, Northwestern playing Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl and Northern Illinois playing Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Here are all of the projections for the remaining Big 10 teams:
Though the Big Ten finally returned to the top 10 of the USA Today Coaches Poll for Week 13, thanks to differences in the voting rules between the polls, the conference will remain outsiders in the AP Poll this week. In the Coaches Poll, the USC Trojans are ineligible to receive votes, which has opened up a spot in the rankings, allowing the Michigan State Spartans to jump into the top 10 this week.
But the AP Poll allows its voters to rank the Trojans, and after their upset victory over the Oregon Ducks on Saturday, USC is ranked No. 10, bumping the Spartans down to No. 11. The Wisconsin Badgers, who many believe will face the Spartans in the Big Ten's inaugural championship game, clock in at No 15, while the Michigan Wolverines, who are fresh off of a route of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, jump up to No. 17. The Cornhuskers are down to No. 22 this week, two spots below the Penn State Nittany Lions, who sit at No. 20.
The Big Ten is finally back in the top 10 of the USA Today Coaches Poll. After thrashing the Indiana Hoosiers 55-3 on Saturday, the Michigan State Spartans jumped up two spots to No. 10. The Wisconsin Badgers, fresh off of a 28-17 victory over the Illinois Fighting Illini, are right on the Spartans' heels at No. 12, up one spot from last week. T
he Michigan Wolverines, who routed Nebraska 45-17 in the Big House on Saturday, jumped up two spots to No. 16, with the Cornhuskers falling six spots to No. 22. Penn State, who faces Wisconsin next Saturday in a de facto Leaders Division championship game, is up two spots this week to No. 19.
Here is the full Week 13 USA Today Coaches Poll.
The Northwestern Wildcats defeated Rice over the weekend and, at 5-5 with a home game against Minnesota coming up, the team appears to be in good shape to reach bowl eligibility. ESPN's Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg project the Wildcats to land in the TicketCity Bowl against a Big 12 team on Jan. 2.
And should Purdue pick up another win along with the Wildcats, the Big Ten would have 10 bowl-eligible schools for nine slots. Bennett and Rittenberg think Illinois could be the odd team out in the bowl selection process since the Illini have lost four consecutive games after a 6-0 start. If the Illini are left out of the Big Ten bowl picture, they would need to find an at-large spot somewhere else.
Michigan State has won two straight games, including a comfortable win over the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday, and the Spartans have moved up to No. 12 in the latest Associated Press college football poll. The win maintained Michigan State's one-game lead in the Legends Division.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, the Wisconsin Badgers moved up from 16th to 15th after dispatching the Minnesota Golden Gophers over the weekend. The Nebraska Cornhuskers moved up to 17th after a pivotal win at Penn State, while the Nittany Lions slipped from 12th to 21st following their loss to Nebraska. Despite the loss, Penn State still holds a one-game lead in the Leaders Division.
Michigan moved up to No. 20 following a win over Illinois.
Neither Illinois nor Northwestern received votes in this week's poll.
The Illinois Fighting Illini have greatly increased their standing in the 2011 Bowl Projections, gaining a unanimous support for the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl on December 27. SB Nation has compiled the projections of the leading bowl predictions gurus, Brad Edwards and Mark Schlabach of ESPN, Scout.com, and CollegeFootballBowlProjections.com -- and here's what Illinois fans really wanted to see:
|Little Caesars, 12/27||Illinois-Northern
Yes, indeed, the Illini have pressed their way into the college bowl scene despite losing three straight. Of course, their most recent loss, a 10-7 heart-breaker to the now 12th ranked Penn St. Nittany Lions, only made them look better as they stifled the Nittany Lions through almost three and a half quarters of wintry football.
The Little Caesars Bowl, which takes place in Detroit's Ford Field this year, pits a contender from the Big Ten against a MAC opponent. The Fighting Illini can really help their chances this coming weekend, facing off against the No. 24 Michigan Wolverines at 2:30 PM CST.
Meanwhile, the Northwestern Wildcats have vaulted themselves onto the bowl scene for the first time this year, after their stunning win against then 10th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers. Making their first appearance of the 2011 season, the Wildcats have earned Schlabach's blessing for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
They are still very much a long shot at a bowl game, but if the 4-5 Wildcats can win out against Rice, Minnesota, and (17) Michigan St. -- a tall order to say the least -- then a bowl game should be no problem.
For more college football rankings discussion and news from all around college football, visit SB Nation's NCAA Football hub.
The Big Ten got shook up on Saturday with Nebraska and Michigan both getting upset, so let's take a look at how those games will impact our 2011 bowl projections. It appears that the winner of the Big Ten will be the only team from the conference to appear in a BCS bowl game, so this year's inaugural Big Ten Conference Championship game is going to be taking on increased importance.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Dec. 17, 2011
Nevada vs. Northern Illinois
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 27, 2011
Toledo vs. Illinois
Champ Sports Bowl, Dec. 29, 2011
Florida State vs. Notre Dame
Insight Bowl, Dec. 30, 2011
Ohio State vs. Texas A&M
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Dec. 31, 2011
Nebraska vs. Texas Tech
TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 2, 2012
Iowa vs. SMU
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 2, 2012
Michigan State. vs. Arkansas
Gator Bowl, Jan. 2, 2012
Penn State vs. Florida
Outback Bowl, Jan. 2, 2012
Michigan vs. South Carolina
Rose Bowl, Jan. 2, 2012
Wisconsin vs. Oregon
The Northwestern Wildcats' upset of the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday has left the Penn State Nittany Lions at the top of the Big Ten conference this season, although they're still only No. 12 in this week's AP poll results.
Released on Sunday, there isn't a single Big Ten team until you get to Penn State at 12, although four teams are ranked in the top-20: No. 13 Michigan State, No. 16 Wisconsin and No. 19 Nebraska all join the Nittany Lions there. It does a pretty good job of summarizing how elite-level Big Ten football has gone this season. There are some pretty good teams, and only a couple of truly bad teams, but there's a discernible difference between the conference's best teams and the nation's best teams.
Penn State has won seven games in a row and is unbeaten in conference games this season, currently leading the Big Ten Leaders Division. If the standings don't change before the end of the season, they'll face Michigan State in the Big Ten's first conference championship game.
The Big 10 is locked out of the top 10 following Northwestern's road victory over Nebraska.
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