Smile Politely

Going bowling is a mere hypothesis

A mere two weeks ago, Illini fans were feeling dismayed by their chances to watch their team enter the post-season for the first time in three years. The Illini football team then shocked the Illini faithful with a historic win at Wrigley Field, gaining that elusive sixth win and bowl eligibility. The Illinois football team going bowling is just an educated guess when and where they will play. Only question that remains is will the football team have a record of 6–6, or 7–5?

Excluding any huge upsets this upcoming weekend, a second team from the Big Ten appears likely to be selected to a BCS Bowl. That has been a Big Ten tradition, for the last five years. Presuming Boise State and TCU get BCS invites, that leaves the potential for three 11–1 teams fighting for two BCS spots: LSU, Stanford and Ohio State/Michigan State.

Big Ten outlook: Wisconsin will earn the Rose Bowl berth with a win Saturday against Northwestern based on its higher BCS ranking. The Badgers also need Ohio State to beat arch rival Michigan. In a two-way tie between Michigan State and Wisconsin, the Spartans earn the Rose Bowl based on their win against the Badgers. Michigan State plays at Penn State this weekend. If they don’t go to the Rose Bowl, the Spartans appear headed to the Capital One Bowl. The Iowa Hawkeyes finish the regular season at Minnesota and are likely going to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida. The Gator Bowl picks next and will likely take Penn State. The Insight Bowl has its sights set on the Michigan Wolverines.

That leaves Illinois and Northwestern for the Texas and Ticket City bowls. The Houston game, played at Reliant Stadium, will likely grab the Illini. The Texas Bowl selects Big Ten vs. Big 12. While Northwestern has a better overall record, Illinois will likely finish with a better conference record than the Wildcats and just beat Northwestern at Wrigley Field. The Illinois’ offense over the last five games appeals to the Texas Bowl. Northwestern lost starting quarterback and Big Ten MVP candidate Dan Persa for the season diminishes Wildcat appeal. The potential Big Twelve opponents being considered for selection to the Texas Bowl, includes Baylor, Texas, and Texas Tech.

Illinois will enjoy a few days off before getting back to work after Thursday. The coaches will hit the recruiting trail hard today and Tuesday, before the focus shifts to the final regular-season game at Fresno State on Dec. 3. Fresno State is 6–4 and bowl eligible, after being shut out by Boise State 51–0 last Friday night. We’re all guessing, because we don’t know if the Big Ten will even land two teams in the BCS bowl games. But the way things are looking right now, I’d pencil Illinois into the Texas Bowl on Dec. 29 down in Houston.

Congratulations to Mikel Leshoure, the Illinois tailback earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors after running for a school-record 330 yards Saturday against Northwestern. Leshoure averaged 10 yards per carry while breaking Robert Holcombe’s school record of 315 yards. It was the second time in three weeks Leshoure has been honored by the Big Ten. He also won the award after a five-touchdown game against Michigan. Leshoure also received national recognition in the form of Walter Camp Foundation National Player of the Week, National Player of the Week, and College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Week. Wow!

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