Both Michigan and Michigan State will have their work cut out if they want to make a run at the College Football Playoff this season, let alone a New Year’s Six bowl game. Being in the Big Ten East, arguably the toughest division in all of college football, it will be difficult just getting to Indianapolis to compete for a conference championship.
With that said, both the Spartans and Wolverines expect to be major contenders in the league, thus putting them in the conversation for higher-tier bowl games. Sure, we are still three weeks away from Week 1 kicking off, but that does not mean it is too early to project bowl games for teams.
CBSSports‘ Jerry Palm took the challenge recently and provided his way-too-early subjective projections. When revealed, neither Michigan nor Michigan State can be found when surveying the New Year’s Six landscape.
Bowl projections: Michigan to Gator, Michigan State to Citrus https://t.co/3fC0PMT9RI
— MLive Sports (@MLiveSports) August 9, 2018
Palm currently projects Michigan playing SEC foe Texas A&M in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Eve. As for Michigan State, he has them picking up a January 1 time slot, dueling with Auburn in the Citrus Bowl.
The Wolverines limped down the stretch, losing their final three games of the year to the likes of Wisconsin, Ohio State, and South Carolina in their Outback Bowl game, ultimately finishing with an 8-5 record overall after collecting 10 wins in each of the previous two seasons under Jim Harbaugh. They made a big splash in the offseason by landing Ole Miss quarterback transfer Shea Patterson, who was deemed eligible to play immediately. Michigan also brings back another loaded defense, led by perhaps the most dominant defensive lineman in the country in Rashan Gary.
As for Michigan State, the big headline surrounding them will be what they do for an encore after completing the best single-season turnaround in program history, a +7 win improvement from 2016 to 2017. Last year’s team that finished with a blowout win over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl capped the Spartans with a 10-3 overall record. Heading into 2018, MSU loses just three starters from the 2017 edition and now sits as one of the more returning experienced teams in the country. The quarterback/running back tandem of Brian Lewerke and LJ Scott appear to give opposing defenses total nightmares from a preparation standpoint. Defensively, good luck running on the Spartans. They bring nine of 11 starters on a unit that ranked second nationally in rush defense.
Palm currently has Ohio State coming out on top in the Big Ten and representing the conference in the playoff. The Buckeyes, who are going through some off-the-field turmoil regarding a recently-fired assistant coach that has head coach Urban Meyer on the hot seat, are one of three teams in the conference to make their way into New Year’s Six games.
In addition to OSU, Palm has presumptive Big Ten West Division champion Wisconsin playing in the Rose Bowl against the presumptive Pac-12 champion, Washington. The other is Penn State, who is slotted in as an at-large in Palm’s preseason projections, battling with Miami in the Peach Bowl.
Those same programs represented the Big Ten in the New Year’s Six last season. The Big Ten, however, was left out the two national semifinal games entirely last season, largely due to the Buckeyes’ 31-point drubbing at Iowa late in the season.
Overall, Palm has nine Big Ten programs making bowl games in 2018-19. You can see all of his projections here.