It’s been more than a decade since Michigan last played in the granddaddy of ‘em all bowl games.
And yet, with the Wolverines locked into a 9-1 record and two games left on the schedule, the Rose Bowl is quickly becoming a real possibility for bowl sites.
Jerry Palm, CBS Sports’ chief bowl prognosticator, gave Michigan the slot over Michigan State “since there does not seem to be any reason to believe the head-to-head result will suddenly start mattering to the CFP Selection Committee.”
Last week, Michigan jumped MSU for the No. 6 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings despite a head-to-head loss to the Spartans, who were No. 7. And with both teams winning over the weekend, the order is not expected to change this week.
Which sets up an intriguing stretch finale in the Big Ten East: Ohio State is a game ahead of both schools in the standings and scheduled to face both in the next two weeks.
ESPN and CBS Sports are both projecting the Buckeyes to reach the four-team playoff, which would require victories over both. If that does indeed happen, then it would be up to the individual bowls and the Big Ten to slot the next-best teams accordingly.
ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach both think Michigan State will end up at the Rose Bowl, moving Michigan down a slot in the pecking order. But they’re both split on where Harbaugh’s team ends up: Bonagura thinks the Peach Bowl (Atlanta) against Wake Forest, while Schlabach projects the Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Ariz.) against Notre Dame.
Still, Bonagura identified Michigan as the team that helped its cause most over the weekend with a win.
“The Wolverines didn’t necessarily look great, but their 21-17 win against Penn State kept them in the mix in the Big Ten East — and by extension the playoff,” he wrote for ESPN.com. “If they get past Maryland this week, that would set up the biggest game of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan against Ohio State in the regular-season finale.”
Michigan was once a regular guest at the Rose Bowl, appearing 20 times in school history and three times during the mid-2000s. But the last game in the iconic stadium there was 2007, a 32-18 loss to Southern Cal. Could the absence come to a long-awaited end this year?