Buffalo Wild Wings Bound?
It's become a fairly common practice for bowl projections to made not just before the college football season but to be revised during the season. Some predictions by ESPN and Athlon would forecast the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl as the destination for Nebraska with the opponent being either Texas or Texas Tech. What might a statistical forecast say?
Historically, the Big Ten's representative in the game has finished with somewhere between six and eight wins. That means somewhere between five a seven losses. If NU did face the Longhorns, you wonder if that might be in an "Interim Coach" bowl since neither Bo Pelini nor Mack Brown would seem particularly safe in that scenario.
Sagarin's predictor ratings have the Huskers ranked 24th currently. They would imply losses at Penn State and Michigan but wins in the other six games. At 9-3, the Huskers would surely do better than the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl. In fact, the rankings actually have Nebraska as the favorite to win their division with a loss against Ohio State to fall to 9-4 heading into a bowl game.
The rankings would imply a Rose Bowl for Ohio State (with a loss to end the regular season at Michigan followed by a Big Ten Championship win). Michigan would finish 8-4, losing all 4 conference road games to Penn State, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Iowa. Northwestern would also finish 8-4 with losses to Ohio State, at Wisconsin, at Iowa, and at Nebraska. Iowa would be 7-5 with just 4 conference losses to Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. Michigan State would be 7-5, losing all 4 conference road games at Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Northwestern. Minnesota would be 5-7, with a lone win over Iowa in conference play. Wisconsin would sit at 10-2 with a lone loss at Ohio State. Illinois would be 6-6, Indiana would be 5-7 and Purdue 1-10. Penn State would not be bowl eligible, but would be 9-3.
A 10-2 Wisconsin team would have a good shot at a BCS bowl, otherwise they fall to the Capital One. It seems likely that the Capital One bowl would skip taking Nebraska for a third straight year, probably opting for Michigan. That could make the Outback the destination for the Huskers over Northwestern. The worst case for a 9-win Husker team would seem to be the Gator Bowl if for some reason the Outback preferred Northwestern. The Buffalo Wild Wings bowl would then be looking at either Michigan State or Iowa.
Of course, the Sagarin rankings are hardly infallible. They currently give a huge edge to home teams, an advantage that is out of the range of where it tends to end up historically. Still, the highly objective (if flawed) ratings paint a slightly rosier picture than the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl for Nebraska. Then again, a win over Texas in that game to send Mack Brown into retirement might not be that hard to stomach for the NU faithful.