As a guy who has been paying attention to the bowl forecasts even since before the season kicks off, I've wondered how the Nebraska Cornhuskers are being looked at bowls like the ones in San Francisco or the National University Holiday in San Diego.
I've asked why Nebraska wouldn't be a prime candidate to go back to Florida for a Citrus (formerly Capital One) or Outback Bowl bid.
With the help of this post by ESPN's Adam Rittenberg, now it becomes clearer.
Rittenberg lays out the parameters of the Big Ten's Bowl outlook with the College Football Playoff now in session:
1. The Big Ten champion cannot play in the Capital One Orange Bowl.
2. If a Big Ten team plays in the Orange Bowl, another will not appear in the Citrus Bowl.
3. The Big Ten really wants to avoid repeat bowl destinations and even repeat postseason areas for teams. The league will ask each bowl to submit its top three choices for participants and then match teams based on where they've been in the past, who the opponent could be and other factors. Basically, the Big Ten is in charge here, not the bowls.
4. Each bowl will see a minimum of five different teams in six years (the New Era Pinstripe Bowl is on an eight-year contract).
So now, with the fact that Nebraska has been to Florida for two bowls in Orlando and one in Jacksonville the past three years, it takes everything but Tampa out of play for this year. Which wouldn't have been the case if Nebraska had gone to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl last season instead of Michigan to take on Kansas State. Also, let's say that Nebraska makes the CFB playoff and does not win the Big Ten title, it cannot play in the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami. So, eliminate that aspect.
One other thing that could be big here is the fatigue with playing the SEC in the year-ending game for Nebraska. The Big Ten seems to love it, but in the end, facing them every bowl game could tire you out if you're in the losing camp more times than not.
So, let's take a look at what bowl games could be in play for Nebraska if they do not make the College Football Playoff Final 4:
Cotton Bowl, Arlington, Texas: There would be worse places that Nebraska could play in than JerryWorld in the middle of the DFW metro. It's arguably the easiest place to travel from Lincoln/Omaha with a 10-11 hour drive. Plus, the thought of getting some Texas HS eyes on the offense and secondary has to sit well in the mind of the coaching staff. As far as opponents, would you be okay with a TCU or Baylor taking on the Huskers here? I would.
Outback Bowl, Tampa, Florida: The lone Florida landing spot for the Huskers would also be the brightest spot to take on a SEC opponent. The Huskers have never played in the former Hall of Fame Bowl, and would look to take on maybe an Ole Miss or even Missouri here if they got to Raymond James Stadium.
San Francisco Bowl: While the thought of not playing in a bowl game on New Year's would turn off a lot of folks, it's quickly replaced by playing in the brand new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, a quick jaunt south of Frisco. That would sit a lot better than a mid-afternoon game in AT&T Park, which is a great baseball stadium but seems to have zero point zero charm for a football game. The tie-in here is from the Pac-12, so Arizona could be a likely opponent.
National University Holiday Bowl, San Diego: This is a game in a city that Big Ten bros chide and scold Nebraska fans for the hate that the Husker fanbase seems to have for this game. I suppose if it was in a better stadium than Qualcomm, there wouldn't be much of an issue. However, for as good as I've read about how the city and such treats the teams, the stadium itself is the setback that a few folks have. The tie is is from the Pac-12 once again, so USC or even a UCLA if it has issues in the end could be facing the B1G competition here.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Nashville, Tennessee: The ACC and Big Ten share a bowl bid here, but since the B1G has 1) not sent a team here since 2005 and 2) the only two B1G teams to ever visit Music City are Minnesota and Wisconsin, it could be a viable option if Nebraska finishes with a 1-2 record in their final three. The tie-in is with a SEC team, so there's a possibility for a Florida here in Will Muschamp's swan song? What about a Texas A&M in this spot?
Of course, Nebraska is going to win out and make the Final 4, which makes this whole piece irrelevant and I'm perfectly okay with that, right? Right.