Michigan's collapse and then possible resurgence threatens to throw a monkey wrench into the Big Ten's BCS chances. I'm not referring to the chances of a Big Ten school playing for the national championship, but the lucrative question of whether this league's second place team will get an at-large spot to a major bowl game.
Under the current format, ten teams get BCS bids (The national title game, plus the Fiesta, Rose, Orange and Sugar must be filled). Six are automatically awarded to the champion of each major conference. With four at-larges to give out, the Big Ten's chances are pretty good of getting one. This season, Notre Dame will obviously not be a candidate for a bid. And with Boise State's loss, the odds of a mid-major jumping up a stealing a slot isn't real likely. So it looks to be already settled that the four spots will all go to runner-ups in the major conferences.
The Big Ten runner-up is almost certainly going to be more attractive then the Big East runner-up, so now the group of competitors for the slots is down to five. When you consider the SEC & Big 12 play championship games, and that the loser of those games has diminished bowl appeal, you further enhance the Big Ten runner-up's odds of being chosen over them. Basically, in a year when Notre Dame or a midmajor is not a contender, it's almost mathematically impossible for the Big Ten not to get two bids.
But with Michigan's badly damaged resume, what if the Wolverines finish second? A 6-2 conference season for them is hardly out of the question. And at 8-4, they aren't going to get a BCS bid, unless we're in for a year of pedestrian mediocrity everywhere. The conference would lose significant dollars, as well as the prestige that comes from multiple teams playing in the biggest events. The Big Ten has a clear interest in an all-or-nothing proposition for the Wolverines--either win the conference, get the automatic and let a Penn State/Wisconsin/Ohio State runner-up take an at-large. Or just take a Champs Sports Bowl bid and be happy. Anything in between is a negative for the league.