Bowl Breakdowns, In Brief: Where Michigan, Michigan State Could Be Headed

Written By Danny Lawhon on December 2, 2021

It was the expected message Tuesday night, but one Michigan Wolverines football fans are ecstatic to hear: Their team is one victory away from uncharted modern college football territory.

Jim Harbaugh’s bunch, fresh off its inspiring 42-27 victory last Saturday over Ohio State that propelled Michigan into this Saturday’s Big Ten Conference championship game against Iowa, is now the No. 2 team in the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings for 2021.

In essence, that means a victory as a double-digit favorite over the Hawkeyes in Indianapolis will lock up a berth in the national semifinals.

Of course, that’s not the only state-of-Michigan team with some significant moments coming in the next few days. Michigan State (10-2) is through with its regular season, but its own No. 11 playoff ranking puts the Spartans in wait-and-see positioning for a New Year’s Six bowl berth.

Here’s the brief breakdown on the marquee paths for both teams this weekend.

Michigan vs. Iowa: Big Ten Championship Football Odds

Michigan bowl projections: Playoff, or New Year’s Six

The Wolverines’ path is straightforward. Barring a blowout loss and other chaos, the worst Michigan can finish is out of the playoff but squarely in the at-large picks for the New Year’s Six.

The loss would mean Iowa snatches the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl slot. But Michigan and bitter rival Buckeyes will likely each be placed in either the Dec. 30 Peach Bowl in Atlanta or in the Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl in greater Phoenix.

A win? That’s easy. It’s a College Football Playoff berth in either the Cotton Bowl (near Dallas) or Orange Bowl (near Miami) on New Year’s Eve.

Not bad at all, for a team whose national title odds sat at +4000 just last week. (They’re between +450 and +900 now at most legal Michigan sportsbooks.

Michigan State bowl projections: Root for the Wolverines?!

The path for the newly-extended Mel Tucker and his Spartans isn’t complicated, really. In fact, you should be a Michigan fan (gulp) if you want one of the big-money bowl slots mentioned above.

Iowa reaching the Rose Bowl will almost certainly have Michigan and Ohio State taking up two of the four at-large spots in the New Year’s Six. They won’t pit conference opponents against each other, so … see ya, big bowl. It’d be off to the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla.

But a Michigan win keeps the Hawkeyes out of the New Year’s Six, places the Wolverines in the playoff, sends Ohio State to the Rose Bowl and leaves Michigan State as a likely option for one of those two at-large games.

So just know that, if you’re rooting against the in-state rival, be prepared for a slightly less prestigious postseason destination.

Photo by AP photos
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Danny Lawhon

Danny has more than a decade of reporting experience in three states, including nearly 10 years with the Des Moines Register in Iowa. He's covered college and professional sports, the NCAA Tournament and the PGA, LPGA and Champions Tours. Danny is a professional musician in his spare time and plays the piano and pipe organ (seriously). He now covers the online gambling industry in Michigan.

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