Thursday, May 28, 2020

Michigan State Bowl Game Possibilities: A strong month sends Spartans to Florida

October 30, 2019
<p>Redshirt senior wide receiver Darrell Stewart (25) celebrates during the game against Penn State Oct. 26, 2019 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans fell to the Nittany Lions, 28-7.</p>

Redshirt senior wide receiver Darrell Stewart (25) celebrates during the game against Penn State Oct. 26, 2019 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans fell to the Nittany Lions, 28-7.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

With a month of football left, Michigan State still has tons of work to do. Sitting at 4-4, the Spartans need to split two of its final four games (vs. Illinois, at Michigan, at Rutgers, vs. Maryland) to get bowl eligible for the 12th time in Mark Dantonio's tenure.

Michigan State is off this week before beginning the final leg of its regular season against the Fighting Illini on Nov. 6 (3:30 p.m., FS1).

RELATED: Michigan State Bowl Game Possibilities: The unlikely destinations

In recent years, the Spartans have traveled all over the country for postseason play, including Santa Clara, San Diego, Arlington, Pasadena and Tempe, Arizona.

The State News takes a look at potential bowl game destinations, the likelihood the Spartans reach there and potential opponents. But first, MSU needs to win two more games.

Outback Bowl

Last time Michigan State traveled to Tampa for its bowl game, the Spartans sent their senior class out with a bang in a thrilling triple overtime game against the Bulldogs. When Michigan State was 4-1, the Outback bowl looked like a potential destination, but as the losses keep piling up, the Spartans have moved further away from Florida.

The one thing MSU has going for it is that the Big Ten is in agreement to send five different teams in six years to the Outback Bowl. So, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Northwestern are not eligible.

Location and Date: Tampa, Florida on Jan. 1, 2020 (1 p.m., ESPN).

Tie-Ins: Big Ten vs SEC.

Recent Matchups: 2018: Iowa (27) vs. No. 18 Mississippi State (22); 2017: South Carolina (26) vs. Michigan (19); 2016: No. 20 Florida (30) vs No. 21 Iowa (3); 2015: No. 23 Tennessee (45) vs. No. 13 Northwestern (6); 2014: No. 18 Wisconsin (34) vs. No. 19 Auburn (31).

Michigan State History: 2011 vs Georgia, win 33-30 F/3OT.

Likelihood of Happening: Five percent.

Potential Opponents: Texas A&M, Auburn and Missouri are three middling SEC teams that could find their way to Tampa come postseason play.

Citrus Bowl

The Spartans have had a long history playing in Orlando bowl games, but their last experience is one MSU fans would like to forget. Nick Saban and Alabama rolled over Michigan State for a blowout win. With a good month of football, the Spartans could return to the Citrus Bowl.

The Big Ten is in agreement with the Citrus Bowl to send five different teams in six years. So Penn State, Minnesota and Michigan are not eligible.

Location and Date: Orlando, Florida on Jan. 1, 2020 (1 p.m., ABC).

Tie-Ins: Big Ten vs. SEC.

Recent Matchups: 2019: No. 16 Kentucky (27) vs. No. 13 Penn State (24); 2018: No. 14 Notre Dame (21) vs. No. 17 LSU (17); 2016: No. 20 LSU (29) vs. No. 13 Louisville (9); 2015: No. 14 Michigan (41) vs. No. 19 Florida (7); 2014: No. 16 Missouri (33) vs. No. 25 Minnesota (17).

Michigan State History: 2000, vs Florida, won 37-34; 2008 vs Georgia, loss 24-12; 2010 vs Alabama, loss 49-7.

Likelihood of Happening: Five percent.

Potential Opponents: LSU and Alabama are destined for sports in the College Football Playoff and New Year's Six bowl games. The leaves SEC powers like Georgia, Florida and Auburn to get sent down a few notches to a game like the Citrus Bowl.

Gator Bowl

The Big Ten ties with the Gator Bowl are connected with the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. The ACC and Big Ten are in agreement to play three times each within six years in both games. The Big Ten sent a team to Nashville in 2016, 2017 and 2018, so the Gator Bowl is the most likely destination for a Big Ten team. Iowa and Penn State are not eligible for this game because of the five teams within six years agreement.

Location and Date: Jacksonville, Florida on Jan. 2 (7 p.m., ESPN).

Tie-Ins: SEC vs ACC/Big Ten/Notre Dame.

Recent Matchups: 2018: No. 21 Texas A&M (52) vs. NC State (13); 2017: No. 24 Mississippi State (31) vs. Louisville (27); 2017: Georgia Tech (33) vs. Kentucky (18); 2016 Georgia (24) vs. Penn State (17); 2015: Tennessee (45) vs. Iowa (28).

Michigan State History: 1989 vs. Georgia, loss 34-27.

Likelihood of Happening: 10 percent.

Potential Opponents: Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Kentucky are teams, just like Michigan State, that will be fighting for bowl eligibility in November. So, they fit as potential matchups for the Spartans if they end up in Jacksonville.

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