It has seemed like a foregone conclusion that Nebraska is headed to Tampa for the Outback Bowl. That still seems like the most likely destination based on how we think things will shake out for the rest of the Big Ten, but according to a couple of reports this week, a trip to Nashville for the Music City Bowl might be more in the mix than it seemed early in the week.
There are two major puzzle pieces here. The first is what happens on Saturday in the Big Ten title game and then what happens with the rankings on Sunday. Are Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State all destined for New Year’s Six bowls? Ohio State and Michigan almost certainly are. The winner of the championship game is in. Is the loser, either a three-loss Wisconsin or Penn State, still there? Right now, it looks like it.
That would likely leave the Outback Bowl to choose between Iowa (8-4) and Nebraska (9-3). The Hawkeyes played in Tampa three seasons ago and the Huskers have never been in the Outback Bowl, and everyone has been pointing to that fact as the reason, more than record, Nebraska would go east and Iowa would west for the Holiday Bowl.
But Outback Bowl president Jim McVay told Chad Leistikow of the Des Moines Register his committee may not be thinking along the same lines:
But the Outback Bowl’s McVay insisted those things are “not a factor to us. We’re trying to reward the teams for what they accomplished this year; how they’d match up against an SEC team this year.”
Not lost on McVay: Iowa finished strongly, including a win over then-unbeaten Michigan and a head-to-head 40-10 trouncing of Nebraska on Black Friday.
“Iowa’s always attractive to us. We like Iowa,” he said. “We like a couple other teams in the Big Ten.”
If the Outback were to take Iowa, Nebraska isn’t going to the Holiday Bowl based on the Big Ten’s bowl variety mandate — Minnesota would — which would leave the Music City Bowl to take the Huskers and probably pit them against Tennessee.
The other major factor here for the Huskers is if either Wisconsin or Penn State falls out of New Year’s Six contention. If it’s the Badgers, who played in the Outback Bowl two seasons ago, the Huskers probably still head to Tampa, Iowa goes to San Diego and Wisconsin heads to Nashville.
If Penn State is available, pencil the Nittany Lions in for the Outback, the Holiday gets what it wants (Iowa) and the Music City Bowl will happily take Nebraska.
Got all of that? Don’t worry if you don’t, it’s all hypothetical at this point. But if you were to recap it, I’d say the most likely scenario for Nebraska is still Tampa, but the next two most likely outcomes probably send the Huskers to Nashville.
The latter would be just fine by me for a number of reasons, one of which is that hot chicken is greater than faux-Australian fast casual.
The Grab Bag
- Interesting read: Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck offers an inside look at his “Row the Boat” philosophy for The Player’s Tribune.
- It will be a busy month for Husker assistant Dani Busboom Kelly as she helps coach Nebraska in the NCAA tournament with an eye to taking over the Louisville program.
- Jordan Westerkamp and Nick Gates represented the Huskers’ offense on the All-Big Ten teams released yesterday.
- Rex Burkhead is making the most of increased opportunities with the Bengals.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.