Monday, December 8, 2008

Bowling with the Big Ten

The Big Ten squeaked two teams into BCS games this year, mostly due to how awful the Big East and ACC were, and with an assist to the bowl committee for the Fiesta Bowl screwing over Boise State a bit. The two BCS berths make 19 total appearances by Big Ten teams, more than any other conference in the 11-year history of the puzzling system. Overall, the Big Ten will send seven teams to bowl games, here's a look at the match-ups:

Champ Sports Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Florida State, Dec. 27

Wisconsin will return to Florida for the fifth straight season when they take on the Seminoles in the Champ Sports Bowl. This is the first game for the Big Ten and might be the conference's best shot at a win. It also carries on the tradition of the Big Ten playing what are essentially road games in the bowl season.

Alamo Bowl: Northwestern vs. Missouri, Dec. 29

The Wildcats will go down to Big 12 country to take on Mizzou in the Alamo Bowl. Tough draw here for Northwestern, but they've come up big all year when people have counted them out. Northwestern will be looking get its first bowl win since 1949. Now is as good a time as any to get your first bowl win on color television.

Insight Bowl: Minnesota vs. Kansas, Dec. 31

What a turnaround for Minnesota, going from winning only one game last season, to a bowl game this season. Another turnaround happened in the middle of Minnesota's season though. The Gophers went from the top of the Big Ten to four straight losses, including a 55-0 loss to end the season. Kansas and quarterback Todd Reesing did not live up to expectations this season, but should hand Minnesota its fifth straight loss.

Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. South Carolina, Jan. 1

Here is the other good chance for the Big Ten to win. Iowa has won five of six to end the season and will take on Steve Spurrier and South Carolina. The Gamecocks have beaten virtually no one this year and finished off their season with two lopsided losses. Iowa has taken down teams like Florida and LSU in the last five seasons in New Year's Day bowl games, so a win against South Carolina is not out of the question.

Capital One Bowl: Michigan State vs. Georgia, Jan. 1

Oh boy, this could be ugly. We have a Georgia team that was #1 to start the season and suffered through a disappointing year, culminating with a loss to Georgia Tech in their last game. Give them a month off to think about things and get ready for a bowl game. Add in the fact that Stafford and Moreno will want to show off for the pro scouts and Georgia becomes a team no one wants to see in a bowl game. Michigan State is not the team the Big Ten wants to send to match up, but there they are. The Spartans played well against Cal to start the year, but were blown out by the only other two good teams they played all year. It doesn't look good for MSU, but there is usually at least one big upset for the Big Ten recently, so maybe this one. Never know. Right? No.

Rose Bowl: Penn State vs. USC, Jan. 1

This game doesn't look favorable for the Big Ten either. Ohio State already went out to Southern California and got spanked this year, now it might be Penn State's turn. But hey, the Nittany Lions blew out Oregon State this year and the Beavers gave USC its only loss, so there is hope! Not much though. USC will be looking to make a statement that their crappy loss wasn't much different than Florida's crappy loss and maybe they deserved a little more consideration to play in the championship game. Penn State will be looking to make a similar statement, but I think they'd be thrilled with a 3-2 win.

Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs. Texas, Jan. 5

Ohio State and Texas are toward opposite ends of the BCS spectrum. Texas is feeling the wrath of the system because their win against Oklahoma was played in October and not November, while Ohio State underacheived and coasted through their schedule beating bad teams, only to be welcomed to the BCS party with open arms over Boise State. This makes four straight BCS bowls for the Buckeyes, but the task will be tall against an angry Texas team holding out hope for a split national title. The formula will be the same for Ohio State as it has been all season, hope that the defense can keep it close and rely on Chris Wells for the offense. A win for the Bucks could take some sting out of what was a down year for the Big Ten.

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