The Oregon Ducks are Rose Bowl bound. That much is clear.
Ticket punched. Boom.
Now, who will Oregon play? Minnesota? Penn State? Wisconsin? A team not in the Big 10?
The answer to that is a little more complicated.
Here’s a quick explanation and possible scenarios…
The Rose Bowl Game is contractually obligated to feature the Pac-12 Conference Champion and the Big Ten Conference Champion.
However, the Ohio State Buckeyes, a Big 10 team, is currently undefeated, sits atop the College Football Playoff rankings and a 16-point favorite to win Saturday night’s Big 10 Championship vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (10-2).
Unless the Badgers pull off a colossal upset, the Buckeyes will be headed to the College Football semifinals, leaving the Big 10’s spot in the Rose Bowl open.
The Tournament of Roses website explains what happens in a scenario like this:
Should a team from the Big Ten or Pac-12 be selected to go to the College Football Playoff, the Tournament of Roses will traditionally select the next-highest CFP-ranked team from that conference.
The Tournament of Roses may only select a team from its partner conferences.
This rules out anyone from a different conference facing the Ducks on New Years Day. During the BCS era, an at-large team was able to play in the Rose Bowl. That is no longer an option.
So, that leaves Penn State, Wisconsin and even Minnesota as possible candidates.
If Ohio State does as expected, they will not only advance to the CFB playoff, but hand Wisconsin its third loss of the season.
The No. 8 Badgers’ ranking would drop and Penn State, current No. 10 in the CFB ranking, would slide up and surpass Wisconsin.
There is, however, a caveat to that clause in the Rose Bowl contract.
“If the next-highest ranked team is in a ‘cluster’ of teams, meaning there is another team or teams from the same conference ranked within several spots of each other, the Tournament of Roses will select the team from that cluster that will result in the best possible matchup for the Rose Bowl Game,” said Rose Bowl Management Committee Chair Scott Jenkins.
So, even in a loss, Wisconsin could go to the Rose Bowl. Penn State appears to be in an ideal spot, having lost just two games this season, one of which was to Ohio State. Minnesota, whose last appearance in Pasadena came in 1962, is on the outside looking in. The Golden Gophers lost to Wisconsin 38-17 on November 30th and currently rank 18th. There’s a path, it just seems as if it’s a steep and rocky terrain to get there.
We’ll see how the Big 10 Championship shakes out, but Oregon fans should be prepared for an Oregon-Penn State Rose Bowl match-up on New Year’s Day.
One person who is probably looking forward to that possibility: Ducks wide receiver Juwan Johnson, who transferred to Oregon from Penn State this season.