December 04, 2014

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) The Big Ten has informed its schools that one of its bowl-eligible teams could be left out of the postseason.

Illinois sports information director Kent Brown says the school received a memo from the league office notifying it of the potential bowl shortage. The league has 10 eligible teams.

''Worst-case scenario, there will be nine spots for 10 teams. It could affect us,'' Kent Brown said Thursday.

ESPN first reported an email was sent from a Big Ten official to conference members on Wednesday.

Illinois (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten), which became bowl eligible Saturday by beating Northwestern, is one of the teams most likely to get left out. Penn State is also 6-6 and bowl eligible for the first time in three years after NCAA sanctions for the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal. Conference newcomers Rutgers and Maryland each finished 7-5.

Penn State is unlikely to get snubbed. The Nittany Lions have a huge fanbase that is expected to gobble up tickets to the team's first bowl appearance since after the ill-fated 2011 season. The Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium is hoping to land Penn State.

''We got to six wins. We're eligible. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out,'' Illinois quarterback Reilly O'Toole told WSJK radio station in Champaign. ''We did our job.''

Big Ten officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The problem for the Big Ten is tied to its agreements with the Orange and Citrus bowls.

Michigan State, as the eighth ranked team in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, is in position to go to the Orange Bowl. The South Florida game has a deal to take the highest ranked team that does not win a conference championship from among the Big Ten, Southeastern Conference or Notre Dame to face a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

If the Spartans or another Big Ten team go to the Orange Bowl, the Big Ten does not get a spot in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

The trickle down from losing that spot leaves the Big Ten with agreements for seven bowl spots. Unless the Big Ten gets three teams in the six New Year's Day games that are part of the College Football Playoff, the conference will be one short.

There also will be no at-large spots available in other bowls. There are currently 80 bowl eligible teams to fill 76 spots. All of those spots are accounted for by other conferences with either primary or secondary agreements.

Getting three teams into those six New Year's Day games is possible for the Big Ten. If Wisconsin beats Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game, that would guarantee the Badgers a spot, and could leave Ohio State, fifth in the latest rankings, and Michigan State with good enough rankings to earn their way into the New Year's Six, too.

The Big Ten has agreements with 12 bowls in all, but some spots are shared with other conferences to avoid sending teams to the same games in a short period of time.

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AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo in New York contributed.

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