The end of the 2016 collegiate football season is rapidly approaching. Conference championship games are being played this weekend, and in a matter of days, we should know which teams are going to be headed to bowl games.
We know that the Fiesta Bowl and the Peach Bowl will be hosting teams invited to this year’s College Football Playoff. However, the participants for other major bowl games remain a mystery.
This year’s Rose Bowl is especially intriguing because a lot is going to depend on which teams do end up in the playoff and the outcomes of championship weekend. Here, we’re going to take a look at the various situations surrounding the 2017 Rose Bowl and the teams that could be involved.
First, though, let’s take a look at the latest rankings from the CFP committee.
2017 Rose Bowl
When: Monday, January 2
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
Time: 5 p.m. ET
National TV: ESPN
Storylines to Watch
Who’s Getting In?
The biggest question right now surrounding the Rose Bowl is which two teams are going to participate. This could get interesting depending on how things unfold this weekend.
Traditionally, the winner of the Big Ten faces the winner of the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl. However, this isn’t going to be the case if the winner of either or both conferences end up in the College Football Playoff.
Based on the current rankings, Washington appears to be in the playoff if it wins the Pac-12 title game against Colorado this weekend. However, a loss by Washington could allow Wisconsin to slip into the playoff if the Badgers earn a victory in the Big Ten Championship Game against Penn State.
This depends on whether or not the CFP committee would be willing to jump Wisconsin over Michigan because of the championship win. If so, the Badgers might also make it in the playoff if Clemson loses its ACC title matchup with Virginia Tech.
This means that the Rose Bowl is likely to be Wisconsin vs. Colorado, Penn State vs. Colorado or possibly Wisconsin vs. USC.
Confused? Well, things don’t get any simpler from here.
The Big Ten Championship
What: Wisconsin vs. Penn State
When: Saturday, Dec. 3, 8 p.m. ET
Odds: Wisconsin -2.5 (courtesy of Odds Shark)
The Wisconsin Badgers and Penn State Nittany Lions each come into the Big Ten title game with a record of 10-2. Both teams are talented, but both possess different strengths.
The Badgers feature a strong running game—one that averages 201.5 yards per game—and a smothering defense. Wisconsin allows just 13.7 points per game. Penn State, meanwhile, attacks with a balanced offense that averages 36.6 points per game. These teams have also played similar schedules and are familiar with one another.
“I think it’s really valuable, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said, per Jordan J. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star. “You know that team a little bit better. You know their strengths, you know their weaknesses.”
This should be a tremendous matchup, and one that produces the Big Ten’s representative in the Rose Bowl. That is, of course, if Wisconsin doesn’t win and sneak into the playoff. If this is the case, then Penn State is likely headed to Pasadena.
Our guess is that the Badgers do take care of business here. Whether they go to the playoff or the Rose Bowl will depend almost entirely on what transpires over the rest of the weekend.
The Pac-12 Championship
What: Washington vs. Colorado
When: Friday, Dec. 2, 9 p.m. ET
Odds: Washington -7.5
Here’s where things could get even trickier. The 11-1 Washington Huskies will battle the 10-2 Colorado Buffaloes for the Pac-12 title. The Huskies are favored by more than a touchdown, and if they do win, they’ll likely head to the playoff.
The leaves the decision-makers in the Pac-12 to select a representative for the Rose Bowl. It could be Colorado, based on the team’s status as runner-up. However, the conference might also choose to send the red-hot USC Trojans, who are now playing like one of the top teams in the nation.
I still think USC goes to the Rose Bowl if UW wins, but I feel less strongly about that than before the rankings came out. https://t.co/YqqMjW8eaP
— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) November 30, 2016
Oh yeah, and USC is the team that handed Washington its one loss.
USC is arguably the better story (though Colorado is a good story in its own right) and is almost certainly the bigger television draw. Our guess is that if Washington does win, USC will get the nod.
If the Buffaloes win the Pac-12 championship, though, they’ll be in the Rose Bowl and we’ll possibly be looking at two Big Ten teams in the playoff.
Our guess is that this year’s Rose Bowl sees Wisconsin against USC.