Michigan football: Five potential bowl destinations

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Bowl season gives the Michigan football team one more game to play.

The question is, where will Michigan play? At 8-4, Michigan is eligible to play in one of at least five bowl games. CBSSports.com and ESPN.com project Michigan to play in the Holiday Bowl, while TheScore.com and Sports Illustrated project Michigan to play in the Outback Bowl.

Michigan’s final destination will hinge upon the outcome of the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday between Wisconsin and Ohio State, and upon the bowl placement of several teams ahead of the Wolverines in the Big Ten standings.

Bowl pairings will be announced Sunday afternoon. Here’s a look at Michigan’s options and what helps or hurts the Wolverines as a candidate for each bowl.

Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 27, New York City

Why choose Michigan: Michigan has a strong alumni base in the New York metropolitan area, which would help interest in the game and in ticket sales. The Pinstripe Bowl also has the option of taking either an ACC team or Notre Dame — an Irish-Wolverines matchup in New York City would be an intriguing draw. But several bowls, including the TaxSlayer, Orange and Music City, can also offer Notre Dame a bid.

Why choose another team: If Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State go to New Year’s Six bowls, the Wolverines would likely go to the Holiday Bowl or to the Outback Bowl, thus eliminating the possibility of playing in New York during the Christmas holiday.

Holiday Bowl, Dec. 28, San Diego

Why choose Michigan: Jim Harbaugh’s return to San Diego would make Michigan a solid fit for the Holiday Bowl. Harbaugh played for the San Diego Chargers and coached at the University of San Diego. Like New York City and the Pinstripe Bowl, Michigan also has a strong alumni base in Southern California, and bowl officials expect Michigan’s fan base will travel well.

The Holiday Bowl pits a Pac-12 opponent against a Big Ten opponent. It has one stipulation, that it hosts five different Big Ten schools over the course of a six-year agreement. Michigan hasn’t played in the Holiday Bowl since 1994.

Why choose another team: The Wolverines could accept a better bid from one higher-profile bowl game — the Outback Bowl precedes the Holiday Bowl in the Big Ten pecking order.

Music City Bowl, Dec. 29, Nashville, Tenn.

Why choose Michigan: The Music City Bowl is less than 20 years old and recently re-established bowl ties with the Big Ten. Only five Big Ten teams since 1998 have played in the Music City Bowl. The Wolverines would be a marquee get for the Music City Bowl, as far as name and brand recognition.

Why choose another team: The Music City Bowl could be an outside shot, given Michigan’s eight wins. Of the Big Ten’s bowl-eligible teams, five have at least nine wins and two are vying for the College Football Playoff. This might become a wait-and-find-out bowl pick.

TaxSlayer Bowl, Dec. 30, Jacksonville, Fla.

Why choose Michigan: The TaxSlayer Bowl — formerly known as the Gator Bowl — is one of college football’s longest-running bowl games. Michigan is one of college football’s more prominent programs. It would make an appealing bowl pairing from a historical standpoint, especially considering the Wolverines played in the Gator Bowl just three times since 1979.

Why choose another team: The TaxSlayer Bowl has a pick between an ACC and a Big Ten team to face an SEC team. It’s in a similar predicament as the Music City Bowl, an outside possibility for a bowl destination for the Wolverines.

Outback Bowl, Jan. 1, Tampa, Fla.

Why choose Michigan: The Score.com reported that the Wolverines are  “a lock” to return to the Outback Bowl, which would pit them against an SEC opponent. Like the Holiday Bowl, the Outback Bowl’s only stipulation is that it hosts five different Big Ten teams through the course of a six-year agreement. The Wolverines last played in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2013.

Why choose another team: The Wolverines’ 8-4 finish may not be high enough in the Big Ten for it to be a candidate for the Outback Bowl. Michigan State and Northwestern finished with better records (9-3) than the Wolverines, but aren’t in reach of the New Year’s Six bowls. Northwestern, however, played in the Outback Bowl in January of 2016, which could move the Wildcats to another bowl.


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