BLOOMINGTON – Today marks a crucial step in Indiana's progress toward winning a postseason game for the first time in 28 years and having a nine-win season for the first time in 52 years.
The College Football Playoff selection show is set to take place at noon, with the four playoff teams quickly unveiled before each of the New Year's Six bowl game matchups will be revealed at 3 p.m. That will be followed by the announcement of the remaining 33 bowl game pairings.
The teams involved in those first two releases will help determine where Indiana (8-4) travels for its first bowl game since 2016.
Nine of the Big Ten's 14 teams are bowl eligible in 2019, and seven of those teams have between eight and 10 wins.
One of the teams not in this second category is Illinois (6-6), and the Illini are rumored to be playing in the Redbox Bowl against California in Santa Clara, California.
Conversely, one of the teams in the eight- to 10-win group, Wisconsin (10-2), played Saturday night in the Big Ten championship game against Ohio State (12-0). If the playoff selection committee is impressed enough by Wisconsin's showing, that may be good enough to place three Big Ten teams (Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin) within the top 12 of the College Football Playoff rankings, likely slotting those schools into three of the New Year's Six bowl games.
That would leave Indiana among the teams in contention for the Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl or Outback Bowl.
The Hoosiers are viewed simply as being too good to play in Detroit's Quick Lane Bowl (a potential destination for 6-6 Michigan State), and should Indiana not be picked by the Gator, Music or Outback Bowls, then the Hoosiers would likely fall to the Pinstripe Bowl.
Indiana recently made the trip to New York City for that game, losing in 2015 to Duke in overtime.
Between the Gator, Music City and Outback, it increasingly looks as if the Gator Bowl is Indiana's best chance for a warm weather postseason climate. Played in Jacksonville, Florida, the Gator Bowl is the sixth-oldest bowl game in college football. After three years of matching ACC teams against SEC opponents, the Gator Bowl is slated to feature a Big Ten and SEC team in each of the next three games rotates between ACC and Big Ten teams for the next three games.
A Florida bowl would also makes sense for IU given the roster makeup of the Hoosiers. There are 26 IU players from Florida, including senior safety Khalil Bryant and sophomore defensive back Devon Matthews, both from Jacksonville.
Should the logjam of bowl eligible Big Ten teams force Indiana to go back to the Pinstripe Bowl, it would mark a rare occurrence in which an eight-win team was selected for the game.
Only two prior teams in the nine-year history of the bowl game (Notre Dame in 2013 and Pittsburgh in 2016) have entered the Pinstripe Bowl with eight wins. Pittsburgh (7-5) has also been projected by bowl experts at CBS Sports and the Orlando Sentinel as IU's opponent in a hypothetical Pinstripe Bowl matchup.
When asked if he had a preference for IU's bowl destination, starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey said a fun bowl game experience and the chance to earn a history-making ninth win will arrive regardless of the locale or opponent.
“Obviously everybody's a little anxious wondering where we're gonna go,” Ramsey said Tuesday. “Just having another opportunity to spend a month together and go play somewhere and looking forward to win nine is a special opportunity.”