Bowl chances abound in Big Ten

Matt Perkins

With a 42-21 win over Indiana on Saturday, Minnesota’s football team clinched bowl eligibility for the sixth time in seven years.

The Gophers have won their last three bowl games, two of which were played at the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.

So where will the Gophers play this year?

With two weeks to go, there are multiple scenarios that could play out.

The Gophers sit in sixth place in the Big Ten. If they end the season in that spot they would be slotted to visit the Music City Bowl for the third time in four years.

But they are tied for sixth with Iowa at the moment. Minnesota has not beaten Iowa since 2000, and they end this year’s campaign on the road against the Hawkeyes.

At best, the Gophers can hope for a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten, which would place them in line to go to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

But they don’t control their own destiny.

For a trip to the Alamo Bowl, the Gophers would need both Michigan and Northwestern to lose one of their final two Big Ten battles and win their final two against Michigan State and Iowa.

All of which is possible.

The Wolverines and Wildcats have a game against a proven Ohio State team remaining, with Northwestern traveling to take on the Buckeyes this weekend.

Minnesota could end the season 8-3, with a 5-3 mark in the Big Ten, a fourth-place finish, and still not make the Alamo Bowl.

Minnesota fans remember the 2003 season that saw the Gophers finish 9-3 and tied for fourth in the Big Ten, only to be passed up for the Alamo Bowl, replaced by an 8-4 Michigan State team.

This bumped the Gophers into the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Tex., where they beat Oregon 31-30 on a last-second field goal from kicker Rhys Lloyd.

Similar bumps are possible this year as Michigan State and Iowa are just one win from bowl eligibility. If both make it, there would be eight Big Ten teams in the mix, and at-large bowl bids would be necessary.

However, the Gophers’ bowl game situation could be a lot clearer if not for a final-minute misfortune against Wisconsin.

Russell’s second half showing earns honors

The Big Ten announced Monday that Gophers sophomore running back Gary Russell’s performance Saturday at Indiana earned him Offensive Player of the Week honors.

The Gophers trailed 14-7 at halftime, but that didn’t last long into the third quarter.

Russell scored three second-half touchdowns, ending the game with 28 carries for 188 yards and three scores, all of which were career highs.

Russell has 15 rushing touchdowns on the season, good for second place on the Gophers single-season rushing touchdowns list and just two behind Marion Barber III’s school record.

Maroney recognized

Junior running back Laurence Maroney is a semifinalist for the 2005 Maxwell Award, an award handed out annually Philadelphia by the Maxwell Football Club to the nation’s top collegiate player.

Maroney joins fellow Big Ten standouts Brian Calhoun of Wisconsin and Drew Stanton of Michigan State as a semifinalist.

Maroney leads the Big Ten in rushing with 1,345 yards and is just 98 yards from passing Chris Darkins’ single-season rushing record of 1,443 yards.