College Football Bowl Projection: Potential Matchups for Michigan Teams

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Jan 1, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Connor Cook (18) rolls out in the first half of the game against the Baylor Bearsin the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium. Michigan State beat Baylor 42-41. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State Bowl Projection

The Michigan State Spartans know they’re headed to Indianapolis for next weekend’s Big Ten Championship Game, but there are still four or five possible destinations when it comes to bowl game destinations.

It would seem a laughable thought just a handful of years ago, but the Rose Bowl would represent a disappointment for Michigan State at this point. A Rose Bowl berth would mean they had lost the Big Ten title game and missed out on an invitation to the College Football Playoff.

The Spartans aren’t in the top four of the latest CFP rankings (they’re fifth), but with the Iowa Hawkeyes ranked in the fourth and final spot, it’s clear that the winner of the Big Ten Championship Game is in and the loser is out.

Where They Might Go

If Michigan State can beat Iowa, they’ll head to one of the two College Football Playoff semifinal sites. This year those will be played at the Orange Bowl and the Cotton Bowl. The top two seeds in the final CFP rankings will be placed at locations closest to their home town to avoid playing a “road game” in the semifinals. Then the committee will pair the No. 3 seed with the No. 2 seed and the No. 4 seed with the No. 1 seed.

If Michigan State loses to Iowa, they’ll still land in one of the big New Year’s Six bowl games. This likely means the Rose Bowl, but that’s not guaranteed. The Rose Bowl would be within their right to select Ohio State over Michigan State, but the head-to-head result and the Spartans’ inclusion in the Big Ten Championship Game would make that difficult to justify.

If Michigan State were to get snubbed by the Rose Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl looks like the most reasonable destination with the Peach Bowl remaining a possibility.

Who They Might Play

If the Spartans get past Iowa, they look like good bets to slide into the College Football Playoff as either the No. 3 or No. 4 seed and play as the “road team” against one of the top two seeds. Currently that’s Clemson and Alabama. If either stumble, Oklahoma (or Michigan State themselves) would be poised to slide into one of the top two spots.

If the Spartans lose to the Hawkeyes, they’d face the winner of the Pac-12 Championship Game, either Stanford or USC, in the Rose Bowl or an at-large team in one of the other New Year’s Six bowl games. A matchup with Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl could be compelling.

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