Illinois Football Might Not Be Going Bowling

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fighting illini

[icon name =icon-bolt] VIRAL –¬†In a strange twist of events, the bowl eligible Fighting Illini football team (6-6) may not be going bowling. The Big Ten Conference alerted their schools’ athletic directors on Wednesday that one of the league’s bowl eligible teams may be left at home this postseason.

One Spot Short

How did this situation arise in the first place? The Big Ten currently has nine contractually obligated bowl slots for 2014, but with Illinois win over Northwestern in the season finale, the league has ten bowl eligible teams.

The Big Ten made a deal with the ACC for shared rights to the Orange Bowl. If a Big Ten team ends up going to the Orange Bowl, the Big Ten has to give its Citrus Bowl bid to the ACC. Michigan State is currently expected to be headed to the Orange Bowl, and with no games left on the Spartans schedule, that’s unlikely to change.

The teams that could potentially be affected by the lack of bids are Maryland (7-5), Rutgers (7-5), Penn State (6-6), and Illinois (6-6).

“Given that the league’s only 6-6 teams are Penn State and the Illini, it doesn’t seem difficult to figure out which team would be in the biggest danger of being snubbed.” -Jerry Hinnen, CBS College Football Writer

Confusing Scenarios

There are multiple scenarios that could diffuse the situation, although none of them are definitive.

One such scenario involved a Wisconsin win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday night. If the Badgers win, Jerry Palm projects that the Big Ten will have three teams (Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin) in the “committee assigned New Year’s Six bowls”. If that happens, the Big Ten would have seven bowl spots for seven teams. However, if the Badgers embarrass the Buckeyes, it could result in Ohio State sliding so far in the rankings that they are left out of the New Year’s Six Bowls.

The New Year’s Six Bowls are the Sugar, Rose, Cotton, Orange, Fiesta, and Peach Bowls. The Sugar and Rose bowls are the National Semifinal games.

Another scenario involves the Oklahoma State-Oklahoma game. If Oklahoma State upsets the Sooners, they will become bowl eligible. With a loss, there’s a possibility that the New Orleans Bowl or the Armed Forces Bowl would have an unfilled bowl spot. All of the bowl executive directors outside of the New Year’s Six are stuck waiting until after the Selection Show on Sunday, so they could not comment on whether or not Illinois would be chosen in place of Oklahoma State.

A Missouri win over Alabama could also put more SEC teams into the New Year’s Six bowls which would ensure that the SEC has enough slots for all of their bowl eligible teams, making it more likely for the Fighting Illini to be selected as an at large. If Ohio State or Wisconsin don’t both make one the New Year’s Six bowls, Ole Miss could take one of their spots, also ensuring that the SEC doesn’t steal any at-large spots.

An Alabama loss could also force the Crimson Tide into the Orange Bowl instead of Michigan State, which means the Big Ten would then have a slot in the Citrus Bowl.

The New Orleans Bowl executive director said it’s unlikely that his bowl will likely use its partnership with Conference-USA if the Mountain West doesn’t have a team available to fill the slot. That leaves the Armed Forces Bowl as the only probable at-large slot, and that’s if Oklahoma State loses.

Did you follow all that?

Here’s the summarized version of the events that will increase Illinois chances of being bowl bound:

Wisconsin defeats Ohio State, but not badly enough that the Buckeyes plummet in the rankings.

Oklahoma defeats Oklahoma State.

Missouri defeats Alabama.

If three Big Ten teams are in New Year’s Six Bowls then every Big Ten team will be bowling. The New Year’s Six Bowls are announced along with the College Football Playoff during the Selection Show on Sunday, December 7th.

Why Penn State?

The Fighting Illini ended the season with back-to-back wins, including a win over Penn State. When it was initially announced, many Illinois fans weren’t concerned since Illinois had defeated Penn State. That win means Illinois is more likely to receive the league’s final bowl bid right? No.

All though Illinois may be more deserving of a bowl appearance, the decision comes down to each individual bowl game to decide which team they want. Each bowl wants to optimize interest, both on TV and in-person. With Illinois’ dreadful attendance numbers this year (only 13, 000 or so actually attended the Penn State game in Champaign), and poor play throughout most of the season, it’s pretty clear which team a bowl game would select.

“There is little doubt that Penn State’s national pull and ability to travel well might be the determining factor. Bowl games generally focus on potential TV ratings and tickets sales when selecting participants and Penn State has proven time and time again it excels at both of those areas…So in that regard it’s difficult to imagine Illinois being selected.

No offense Tim Beckman, but people don’t even attend your home games.” -Ben Jones, StateCollege.com

The Big Ten is unlikely to have any impact on a bowl game’s selection of a team.

“The conference will not interfere or influence our contract bowls’ selection rights, nor does it have any control over the [College Football Playoff]. Unless a contract bowl selects a team that is over-exposed because of recent trips to the same bowl or same region, we will not interfere with the bowl’s selection.” -Mark Rudner, Big Ten Senior Associate Commissioner

Being left out of a bowl game would be a disappointing end to Illinois season after rallying behind senior quarterback Reilly O’Toole to win the final two games.¬†Unfortunately, being left at home may be the reality. Illinois football continues to practice¬†in preparation of a bowl bid.

“We got six wins. We’re eligible. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. We did our job.” -Reilly O’Toole, Illinois Quarterback

The Selection Sunday show starts at 11:45 PM CT on ESPN. The rest of the bowl games will be announced later Sunday afternoon and evening.

SOURCECBS Sports
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Student at the University of Illinois. Graduate of Freeburg High School, home of the Midgets. College basketball and fantasy football enthusiast.