Mark Zerof-US PRESSWIRE
The way bowl projections are shaping up, Michigan appears to be headed to the Gator Bowl to play Vanderbilt or Mississippi State.
Going into Saturday, Michigan pretty much knew it was headed to Florida for its bowl game, but it didn't know the exact location. Now, with the Big Ten Championship Game in the books, it's becoming clear that Michigan's most likely destination is the Gator Bowl.
Originally, Michigan was set to take on Texas A&M in the Capital One Bowl, but Nebraska's loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game threw a wrench into those plans. By rule, Michigan can't be selected for the Capital One Bowl over Nebraska since the Cornhuskers have two more wins than the Wolverines. Michigan still has a shot at the Outback Bowl, but Teddy Greenstein reports that Northwestern will likely be picked to play in the Capital One Bowl. This would send Nebraska to the Outback Bowl, forcing Michigan down the lineup to the Gator Bowl.
If Michigan does in fact return to Jacksonville for the second time in three seasons, it could once again face Mississippi State. The Bulldogs creamed Michigan by a score of 52-14 in the 2011 Gator Bowl, and that actually turned out to be Rich Rodriguez's final game as the Wolverines' head coach. Now, with Brady Hoke at the helm, Michigan could have a shot at revenge in Denard Robinson's final collegiate game.
If the Gator Bowl opts against a rematch from Jan. 1, 2011, Michigan will likely take on Vanderbilt. The Commodores, like Mississippi State, finished 8-4 in 2012. Ole Miss will be the only other SEC team left at that point in the selection process, and a 6-6 record means Vanderbilt would be the pick if it's not Mississippi State.
To sum up the situation, Michigan will be in the Gator Bowl if the Capital One Bowl picks Northwestern. If the Capital One Bowl goes with Nebraska, Michigan would have a shot at being picked to play in the Outback Bowl, although Northwestern could end up being the pick anyway.
In any case, Michigan will not be headed to Orlando for the Capital One Bowl. While that is a bit disappointing, the reality of the situation is that Michigan's chances of actually winning its bowl game are much higher in the Gator Bowl than the Capital One or Outback.