There is no inside information to offer with this headline. Just math and logic and the reality of this year’s Big Ten.
The Gator Bowl, Jan. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla., is fourth this year in the pecking order of Big Ten bowl games. Representatives from the game were in Madison, Wis., Saturday to look at the Spartans.
Their overtime win over Wisconsin put them back in the picture for a decent New Year’s Day game (though, in this Big Ten, it’s hard to fall out of that picture).
Wisconsin is all but locked into the Big Ten title game and, therefore, either the Rose Bowl, Capital One Bowl or Outback Bowl.
Nebraska and Michigan, barring a collapse, are the other two programs that appear destined for the Big Ten’s top three bowls.
If Michigan State wins two of its final three games and gets to 7-5, anything but the Gator Bowl seems unlikely.
At 8-4, that’s probably still the destination.
The bottom line is no other bowl-eligible Big Ten team — beyond U-M, Nebraska or the Badgers — is a more attractive pick than MSU.
Perhaps if MSU lost to Nebraska and Northwestern, the Wildcats could be Gator Bowl-bound.
Frankly, there might not be any other bowl-eligible Big Ten teams after Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, MSU and Northwestern. Minnesota, if it wins at Illinois, is the most likely sixth team.
That means, beyond the Insight Bowl (selecting fifth this year) and the Meineke Car Care Bowl, aka the Texas Bowl, (selecting sixth), the Big Ten probably won’t be able to fill out its bowl roster.
The Gator Bowl is a noon kickoff on New Year’s Day on ESPN2, against the sixth selection from the SEC. That’s going to be a fairly solid football team, along the lines of South Carolina or more likely Texas A&M or Mississippi State.
The South Carolina matchup with MSU would obviously have the appealing story line of Mark Dantonio facing his alma mater.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves here, though not that far ahead. The Gator Bowl, with three games left, looks like a pretty safe bet.