As we get closer to the end of the season and our bowl projections become (hopefully) a bit clearer and more accurate, it's important to remember something: Postseason order doesn't always reflect the most deserving teams.
Fan support, attractive matchups and momentum all have a lot to do with it. That's why even though Michigan State is riding high right now at 8-1 and 5-0 in the Big Ten, we don't have the Spartans in the league's No. 2 slot. Right now, we're projecting them to lose to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, while Wisconsin could benefit by winning out. The Badgers still have a chance of grabbing an at-large BCS bid but will need to keep moving up in the polls to make up for poor computer rankings.
And while Minnesota is a hotter team than even Nebraska or Michigan right now, the Gophers will have to battle a perception that their fan base does not travel well when it comes to bowl selection. That's why we think Minnesota will be behind the Cornhuskers and Wolverines in the pecking order, even though it could finish even or ahead of them in the division standings. Iowa likely will be a bigger draw than Minnesota once it gains one more win to become bowl-eligible, but Hawkeyes fans have not been filling Kinnick Stadium to capacity and don't seem overly enthused by this season's team.
We had been projecting Indiana to make a bowl, but the Hoosiers' loss to Minnesota pretty much ends that idea. With Illinois and Northwestern also struggling, we now think the Big Ten will be unable to fill all of its bowl slots in 2013.
The latest projections:
Rose Bowl Presented by VIZIO, Jan. 1: Ohio State
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Wisconsin
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan State
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 28: Nebraska
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Michigan
Texas Bowl, Dec. 27: Minnesota
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1: Iowa
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26: Not filled