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Michigan will be bowling in Orlando

As many experts predicted, Michigan's bowl game for this season will be played in Orlando - though it's not yet clear which Sunshine State bowl will feature the Wolverines. The Capital One Bowl, on January 1st, and the Champs Sports Bowl, played on December 28th, are Michigan's two options. How did it get here?

Illinois and Michigan tied for second in the Big Ten, with Wisconsin in fourth, and Penn State tied with Iowa for fifth. The Big Ten's bowl tie-ins (in order, excluding BCS bowls, which have first choice) are: Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports, and Motor City (with a host of eligible teams, a Big Ten team may also garner an at-large bid to another bowl). With Michigan tied for second, it would follow that they would likely be selected to either the Capital One or Outback Bowl.

However, Wisconsin has already accepted a bid to the Outback Bowl, and Penn State has done the same with the Alamo. This leaves Illinois and Michigan alone near the top of the Big Ten standings, with the Capital One and Champs Sports Bowls between them. Illinois will be selected before Michigan, but that selection may in fact be for an at-large BCS bid, allowing Michigan to get into the Capital One Bowl. However, if the BCS does not select Illinois, Michigan will be left to the Champs Sports Bowl. This means that Michigan fans should be rooting for Illinois to make it into the BCS.

What has to happen for the Illini to get their first such bid since 2001? Let's examine the current BCS situation. There are 5 BCS bowls, meaning ten bids. BCS conferences all have a minimum of one (conference champion) and a maximum of two (conference champion plus one at-large) teams that will go to the BCS. At large bids are available to teams in the top 18 of the BCS rankings.
1. Missouri 11-1
2. West Virginia 10-1
3. Ohio State 11-1
4. Georgia 10-2
5. Kansas 11-1
6. Virginia Tech 10-2
7. LSU 10-2
8. USC 9-2
9. Oklahoma 10-2
10. Florida 9-3
11. Boston College 10-2
12. Hawaii 11-0
13. Arizona State 9-2
14. Tennessee 9-3
15. Illinois 9-3
16. Clemson 9-3
17. Oregon 8-3
18. Wisconsin 9-3

Big Ten and Big East - 1 or 2, 1
Ohio State and West Virginia, champions of the Big Ten and Big East respectively, are guaranteed BCS berths. The Big East will not send a second team, and the point of this exercise is obviously to see if the Big Ten can. Illinois will be the second Big Ten team.

Big 12 - 2
If Missouri beats Oklahoma, winning the Big 12, they will go to the BCS championship game, and Kansas will get an at-large berth to the BCS. If Oklahoma wins, they will get the Big 12 auto-bid, and either Mizzou or Kansas will get an at-large. Either way, the Big 12 sends two teams (remember, they cannot send three).

SEC - 2
Georgia, idle this week, is high enough in the BCS rankings to be guaranteed a BCS bid. The winner of the LSU-Tennesse SEC championship game will get the conference's auto-bid. The SEC will send 2 teams to the BCS. Florida, while ranked ahead of Illinois, will be shut out from the BCS due to the maximum of 3 teams per conference.

ACC - 1 (or 2)
Virginia Tech and Boston College play for the ACC title in Jacksonville on Saturday. The winner of this game will get a BCS bid. If Boston College wins, VT may stay high enough in the rankings to be considered for an at-large bid. If VT wins, Boston College will certainly drop from consideration. Either way, it is unlikely that the ACC gets more than one bid.

PAC-10 - 1 or 2
USC is a shoe-in to the PAC-10 title, unless rival UCLA pulls a massive upset (don't count it out - they upset USC last year, and Stanford(!) managed to pull it off this year). Also under BCS consideration is Arizona State, who faces rival Arizona this week. Arizona State is ranked two spots ahead of Illinois, and it would certainly be possible for them to get a bid over the Illini - assuming they get past the Wildcats. If both teams lose, the Oregon Ducks have a chance to go to the Rose Bowl by beating Oregon State.

Others - 1
Hawaii (ugh schedule ugh) is ranked 12th in the BCS, which is the cutoff for non-BCS conference teams to get an automatic bid to the Big Dance. Therefore, if they defeat Washington on Saturday, they will earn the right to get pasted in a big time bowl.

Add up those totals, and there are 12 teams that have BCS potential. Clearly, they can't all make it in. Thus, the Illini (and, by extension, Wolverines) will have to cheer for a select few teams this weekend to end up where they want. The best case scenario is VT winning the ACC, either USC or Arizona State falling (or both, for that matter), and Washington beating Hawaii. If all those things happen, look for the Illini in the BCS, and Michigan in the Capital One Bowl.

(...and to think, I started this post with the intention of noting that Wisconsin and Penn State had already accepted bids...)

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“Michigan will be bowling in Orlando”