Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 11/6/11

When looking at the Big Ten conference standings, and trying to figure out the hierarchy for the college football bowl system, I can’t help but think of one of my favorite lines from the ’80s movie “Fletch.”

“I’d say we’re in a gray area.”

“How gray?”

“Charcoal.”

We do know this however- the Big Ten bellcow is still Wisconsin (get it bellcow, dairy state?). The Badgers, last year’s Rose Bowl representative is still the favorite to go to Pasadena this year.

Last fall, three conference teams: Wisconsin, Ohio St. and Michigan St. all went 11-1. Two of them got BcS bids, and MSU probably deserved a third. Until you saw what their former coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide did to them on New Year’s Day. This year the league will get one, no way they get two. And it’s impossible for any conference to get three.

There are 6 slots for the champions of these AQ or Automatic Qualifier conferences: Big Ten, Big East, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC. That includes the #1 vs. #2 in the title game. I predict the four BcS at large bids will be accounted for as follows- second bids for the Big 12, SEC and Pac-12, and the final slot to Boise State.

The last couple years the Big 10 has had two BcS slots meaning every conference team has got to jump up one in the pecking order. Obviously, that won’t happen this year. So here’s how it breaks down, with all the conference bowl tie-ins and the order in which they get to choose from the available teams.

Rose Bowl  #1

Capital One #2

Outback #3

Gator Bowl #4 or #5

Ticket City or Meineke Car Care #6

Insight #4 or #5

Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl #7

Thanks to an almost perfect permutation of possible outcomes, perfect if your goal was parity and national irrelevance (as I pointed out in my last Big Ten Power Rankings), no Big Ten team is ranked high enough to be a BcS player, but you have all eight of your slots already filled with bowl eligible teams. So for now, I’ll just rank the 8 eligible teams (Purdue and Northwestern, if/when you get there, I’ll slot you then) in terms of where I think they’ll finish. This is not based on today, but where I think it will all be when the dust settles.

1.)  Wisconsin Badgers (7-2, 3-2)

ROSE- Still the class of the league, and the only school to be ranked in the top 5 at any point this season. Despite the recent setbacks, the early season dominance still resonates with the college football world and that will only help their selling points to the BcS. Having the league’s marquee player in Russell Wilson, who’s set to break the passing efficiency and consecutive games with a TD pass record, helps even more.

They slaughtered Purdue 62-17 after dropping back-to-back games

“We’ve won so many games around here I was trying to remember the last time we lost two games back-to-back. It’s been a while, and you’re just not used to that feeling, they’re not used to it and I don’t want our kids to ever get used to it,” Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema said.

I’d say their back on track.

They’re especially dominant at home, where they draw huge crowds. And that rabid fan base travels really well too. In short, they’ll set the pace for everyone falls into line when it comes to the conference handing out its bowl bids.

“I think we needed a win, not necessarily a blowout win. It’s something that we just go out and do. For us, it was another game that we needed a win,” Left Guard Trevor Frederick said.

2.)  Michigan Wolverines (7-2, 3-2)

CAPITAL ONE- Will end up much better than they deserve simply because they’re Michigan.

 3.)  Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-1, 3-1)

OUTBACK- Northwestern loss yesterday HURTS them. Still, Corn Nation travels en masse to bowl games every year, and the bowls are well aware of that.

4.)  Penn State Nittany Lions (8-1, 5-0)

INSIGHT- Remember this process is NOT a meritocracy. The BcS does something that makes zero sense each year and then the other bowls always follow suit. This year will be no exception. Now that PSU is getting into the real meat and potatoes of their schedule, they’ll starting losing and drop down. JoePa, and the school’s fine tradition, will be a big draw though. Won’t go back to Gator Bowl, since they were there last year. Coincidentally against the Gators. (That’s not fair is it?)

5.) Ohio State Buckeyes (6-3, 3-2)

GATOR- Will probably beat Penn State 2-0 when they meet later this season, in the ugliest, most boring game in Big Ten history. Will get a better bowl than they deserve because so many people are just BUCKNUTS over this team and will follow them wherever they go.

6.)  Michigan State Spartans (7-2, 4-1)

MEINEKE CAR CARE- Too much of a college basketball school, and too mediocre a history in football to leapfrog anyone.

7.) Illinois Fighting Illini (6-3, 2-3)

TICKET CITY- Won’t go back to Houston, so Dallas it is. To end up way down here after starting 6-0 is kind of pathetic when you think about it. Losing to Purdue is still mind-bogglingly inexplicable.

8.) Iowa Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-2)

PIZZA  Could easily leapfrog a couple spots.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports.

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the FWAA, USBWA and SPJ. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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