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Posted on Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 12:19 p.m.

Bowl outlook promising for Michigan football team after road win at Illinois

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan is in position to play in a prime bowl game, and Brady Hoke would like to see the Wolverines improve their position. "We'd like to have 10 wins," he said. "We have two guaranteed opportunities left."

Melanie Maxwell |

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Big Ten had been unkind to road teams, but that was not the case this weekend.

That makes the Michigan football team's 31-14 win at Illinois all the more important to its postseason bowl prospects. A loss could have been devastating.

Road teams entered the weekend 9-22 in Big Ten play, but went 4-1. Michigan would have lost important bowl positioning if it would have lost.

Instead, the No. 22 Wolverines are 8-2 overall — their most regular-season wins since 2007 — and 4-2 in Big Ten play. It also keeps them in the mix atop the Legends Division, where Michigan State leads at 5-1 and Nebraska trails by a game with the Wolverines at 4-2.

Both those teams won on the road Saturday. Michigan kept pace.

"The murmurs around campus were Michigan can't play on the road," defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen said. "I don't buy into that. We're a team that can play in any stadium on any given Saturday and give our best effort and beat good teams. Illinois is a good team.


Defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen, (right, sacking Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase) on Michigan: "We're a team that can play in any stadium on any given Saturday and give our best effort and beat good teams."

Melanie Maxwell |

"I definitely didn't want that to be the stigma when we left here, 'Oh, Michigan was good, they just couldn't play on the road.' We can play on the road."

Michigan remains mathematically alive to advance to the Big Ten title game, but the odds are long. The Wolverines would need to win their final two games, and have Michigan State — which closes with Indiana (1-9, 0-6) and Northwestern (5-5, 2-4) — lose its final two games.

But a good bowl is in sight, thanks to their work in Champaign, Ill.

Just two teams match or exceed Michigan in the Leaders Division, where Penn State leads at 5-1 and Wisconsin trails at 4-2. That means, overall, Michigan is in a three-way tie for third place in the Big Ten. The third bowl tie-in for the league is the Outback Bowl.

If the Wolverines were to win out, this would be their likely destination, although they also would have a chance at the Capital One Bowl, the league's second draw. That is the best-case scenario for this team, and a very good one at that.

It will be interesting to see how bowls treat the loser of the Big Ten title game. It's possible a second-place divisional team, such as Michigan, has a better record than the loser of the championship game. Will the league runner-up be punished with a worse bowl bid? Or will it still be preferred ahead of a divisional runner-up, despite an extra loss?

Michigan's worst-case scenario likely is the Insight Bowl, which is the Big Ten's fifth bid. The sixth bid, the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, could be in play if the Wolverines lose out, but that's not likely to happen because they normally bid-up due to their national appeal and ability to travel.

The Gator Bowl is the Big Ten fourth draw, but Michigan isn't likely to accept a bid to play in Jacksonville, Fla., after it was blown out by Mississippi State there last year.

All told, Michigan is most likely to end up at the Outback Bowl or Insight Bowl, but the Capital One is in play. Those are good options for a team with a first-year coach and only one bowl appearance in the past three years.

If the Wolverines can split their final two games against Nebraska and Ohio State, they will be a lock for a winning Big Ten record, a nine-win season and an attractive bowl bid.

Not that the first-year coach is satisfied with that logic.

"Well, we’d like to have 10 wins," Brady Hoke said, when asked about Michigan reaching eight wins for the first time since 2007. "We have two guaranteed opportunities left, and we get to be at home for both of them."

Big Ten bowl tie-ins, with predictions

Rose Bowl
Date: Jan. 2
Location: Pasadena, Calif.
Tie-ins: Big Ten No. 1 vs. Pac-12 No. 1
Prediction: Wisconsin vs. Oregon

Capital One Bowl
Date: Jan. 1
Location: Orlando, Fla.
Tie-ins: Big Ten No. 2 vs. SEC No. 2
Prediction: Nebraska vs. Arkansas

Outback Bowl
Date: Jan. 1
Location: Tampa, Fla.
Tie-ins: Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC Nos. 3/4
Prediction: Michigan State vs. Georgia

Gator Bowl
Date: Jan. 2
Location: Jacksonville, Fla.
Tie-ins: Big Ten No. 4 vs. SEC No. 6
Prediction: Penn State vs. Auburn

Insight Bowl
Date: Dec. 28
Location: Tempe, Ariz.
Tie-ins: Big Ten No. 5 vs. Big 12 No. 4
Prediction: Michigan vs. Texas

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Date: Dec. 31
Location: Houston
Tie-ins: Big Ten No. 6 vs. Big 12 No. 6
Prediction: Ohio State (if eligible) vs. Missouri

TicketCity Bowl
Date: Jan. 2
Location: Dallas
Tie-ins: Big Ten No. 7 vs. C-USA No. 2
Prediction: Iowa vs. Southern Miss

Little Caesar's Bowl
Date: Dec. 27
Location: Detroit
Tie-ins: Big Ten No. 8 vs. MAC No. 1
Prediction: Illinois vs. Toledo

Insight Bowl? Outback Bowl? The national championship game? Leave your predictions in the comments below. (Just don't say national championship game, if you want to be taken seriously.)

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 5:03 p.m.

Jumping in late (again): I agree, it's too early to start seriously discussing Michigan's bowl chances. And just to update the article: Michigan is no longer No.22. Michigan got the 18th slot in 3 of 4 polls and that includes their (most meaningful) BCS ranking. So it's No. 18 Michigan. (Using only the AP ranking is just an ego trip for sports writers - lets make that clear.) That positions the Wolverines just below Nebraska (No.16) and well above un-ranked Ohio State. Given the history of UM vs OSU: even that position isn't a guarantee of a win over OSU for the Wolverines this year. As Hoke wisely puts it: there are two opportunities left for Michigan to improve it's final position this year. That's all we have at this time: opportunities. Just hope the Wolverines stay on track these next two games. A win over Nebraska will have the biggest impact - something else new since Nebraska joined the Big Ten. It's odd to say it: this year, beating TSiO would be just a feel good moment, without "national implications." But, oh what a feeling!


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:16 a.m.

Problem with this notion that the b10 is any good is the out of conference record and who they have played. Parity is fine as long as the admission that the top team is not among the nation's elite is made. Bowls will show that


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

Without a sixteen team play off, all a bowl games shows is who was the better of each match up that day. If you seriously want to determine "the top team" a play off is the only ay to know. Given the investment the NCAA has in the bowls I doubt I'll live to see it.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 12:13 a.m.

I would rather revisit this the day after the OSU game. There are still two more games to be played. Don't count the chickens before the eggs are hatched. Next up, let's break down the Michigan-NE match up.

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 3:27 p.m.

MRunner73..I totally agree with your post, lets' just worry about Nebraska right now, and let the rest of the season, and post season, unfold in due time. Michigan has a severe test on saturday, on BOTH sides of the ball. I am surprised that we are favored.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 9:14 p.m.

10 victories?in your dreams. how do you define "prime bowl games"? meanwhile it's day 2913.that's how many days it's been since the Wolves beat OSU.

Blue Marker

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

Keep talking smack while you can. Until PSU came in to take the crown OSU was the most disgraced program in the country. Legendary coach, fired in disgrace! Heisman candidate QB, run off in disgrace! Scandal after scandal, everyday in the paper something new. So, keep counting if it makes you feel good. The worm has turned and it's going Blue's way. And I wouldn't wait up for Urban Meyer to ride in on his white horse. He doesn't want anything to do with the mess in C-bus. And one last thing......UM 21 OSU 13 on 11/26/11

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 3:24 p.m.

15 are you a college graduate?...we don't count THE osu, in the term 'college'. Ten wins means, ten wins during the regular season. Michigan is in the running to do that this year, THEosu, will NOT be able to do that.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 10:08 p.m.

15...he's not talking about 10 victories for ohio, we know that's impossible. He's talking about 10 wins for Michigan. And "prime bowl games"....I would define those as any a team is eligible to got to when not on probation. By the way, what's the countdown on how many days since Purdue's beaten ohio?


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 9 p.m.

isn't OSU 6-4? I think that makes them bowl-eligible........


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

@Lorain, if that's the case then it is a good thing. With the average record TSIO has this year, they won't be getting a great Bowl Bid, however, if they get a 2 year Bowl Ban starting the next 2 years when they might have better records then it will sting more.

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 3:21 p.m.

I am not holding my breathe on the NCAA response to THE osu. I look for the NCAA to defer until after this bowl season.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 1:27 a.m.

And as long as they giving themselves bogus "self-imposed penalties". What a sham program they are.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 10:02 p.m.

As long as they're not banned from bowl participation by the NCAA when their sanctions are handed down soon.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 8:48 p.m.

Would Michigan really play in Tempe on Wednesday, December 28th instead of in Florida at the Gator Bowl on January 2nd? The ratings and exposure for recruiting should make the decision easy. UM should be able to beat the sixth pick from the SEC.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

I also think it is MSU in the Capital One Bowl. WIth Michigan and Nebraska playing for the Outback Bowl Saturday. Would the Gator Bowl really want Penn State over Michigan? I don't think so.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 8:46 p.m.

Some people will say the B1G is having a down year. I say "hello parity". Is it so wrong to have competitive games each and every week that are very enjoyable to watch? This weeks tOSU and Purdue game, last weeks Iowa vs Michigan game. The football being played in the B1G is an outstanding product. Just because none of the teams in the league are in Mythical National Championship contention does not degrade the league. What degrades the league are the off field issues with tOSU and Penn State. That brings the league down. Wait until after the Bowl Season to determine whether the B1G is up or down.

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

Agreed the big ten whimps out, regarding playing good teams. (That is purely money driven, as no one wants to play 'home and homes', and give up the gate, every other year. However, I give Penn state credit, they played Alabama in the preseason. Um has it's 'traditional' against ND. And Minnesota traveled to USC, and scared the crap out of the Trojans in LA. The league may not be as weak, as some on here want to believe.


Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 1:30 a.m.

but AZ: how can you say that it is not down as a conference when the record out of conference includes no victories of ranked teams (other than each other based on pre-season rankings) and losses to many not so good teams? First the B10 wimps out of playing real competition for the most part, and those that do have some guts, lose those games.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 10 p.m.

I don't buy into the B10 being down. Nebraska came into this league with basically the same team intact that dominated in the big 12 and was supposed to dominate in the B10. Hasn't happened. Why? Not because Nebraska is any worse than anyone thought, imo, but because the week-in-week-out grind of the B10 is tougher than they, or anyone else, imagined. The B10 beats each other up from week to week because of the depth of league, and what has always happened to teams in this league is now happening to Nebraska (as it did to Penn St). It's a tough conference to look good in week after week.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

Fair point. The parity *within* the league is actually refreshing. Parity with other conferences is another matter, and the bowl season will shed more light on this. With respect to the bowl games -- domination by the Big 10 might be asking too much ... but at least an overall split would be nice. And competitive games throughout. Blowouts are hard to take.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 7:43 p.m.

The most depressing thing for me is looking at the first five bowls and seeing Big 10 losses for each. The Big 10 is simply not a strong conference this year. It just isn't.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 7:52 p.m.

Good, that will free up a lot of time for you during bowl season. I think MSU goes to either the Rose Bowl or Capitol One Bowl and UM travels to the Outback Bowl


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 7:21 p.m.

The thing that sticks out within this article: The prediction of MSU finishing 3rd in the Big Ten, meaning a loss to Indiana at home or at Northwestern, which also means Michigan losing to Nebraska at home. Not very good logic on either issue. Zero faith in Big Blue?!? I'm guessing MSU wraps up the division next week: beating Indiana and Michigan knocking off the corn boys. GO GREEN!!

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 3:11 p.m.

I think UM's win at Illinois WAS huge. My fear is that they may just pack it in, now. But I want to see the Wolves 'win out'. The bowl destination should not be a consideration until, Nov. 27. These last two games can each go either way, they are that closely matched. The defense, will need to play BETTER than they did on saturday. Nebraska's offense will be more difficult to stop, and will put pressure on all 11 guys. assigment football, playing in space, and aggressiveness! A very fine line to achieve. Also, UM's offense has not shown it can perform for four quarters, against strong defenses...both Nebraska and THEosu, will challenge Borges, to 'grow up'. Time will tell.

Elton in Atlanta

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 4:52 a.m.

Remember that in the bowl lexicon "Big Ten #3" doesn't mean third place, it means third selection. Sparty could be runner-up and still be the third bowl pick.


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 9:54 p.m.

Here's what I thought the writer, Meinke, was thinking: MSU will go to the B10 Championship game and lose to Wisconsin. Then, the loser of the B10 championship will lose out to the Legends Division runner-up, in this case Nebraska, for the better bowl game. The part about that scenario I don't like is that Meinke seems to be supposing that Nebraska is going to beat Michigan in the Big House. We'll see, but I know the Wolverines will fight tooth and nail to keep that from happening. We must protect this House! Go Blue!!!


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 6:52 p.m.

I just care about OSU. Agree with Rod Johnson. These corporate bowl games have taken a lot out of the game, Tressel and Paterno have gutted it's dignity. It was sad to see Hoke say how much respect he has for JoePa. That thing about coaches ALWAYS supporting each other is ugly. But two home games should be fun. Maybe they'll open up the offense and we can see Denard run wild one last time. Denard's smile was innocent and about the love of the game and life. he's not smiling much these days. I miss that.

Lorain Steelmen

Mon, Nov 14, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

Larry, not at all, I think Rufus was only saying that the kid has grown 'more serious' this last year. Quit trying to make this into something it is not. I give Denard more credit than you do. He stayed at Michigan and was encouraged to buy into the new system, by his previous coach, Rodriguez. Both those individuals have a lot of class. Denard has helped the new staff make the transition. We are not fully there yet. The last two games will show us how far we have come, or NOT come.

Larry Weisenthal

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 7:37 p.m.

You are saying that Dernard was happier the previous two years, when he played on losing teams, but had some early season big plays, before the defenses figured him out and he had to play against the better teams? I give the kid a lot more credit than that. Michigan is playing great team football. There's no disgrace in having the tailback gain more rushing yards than the quarterback.

Rod Johnson

Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 6:14 p.m.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas? Little Caesar's Bowl? Geez, seeing them all together like this is a sad reminder of how classless college football has gotten. Depressing.