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Big Ten Football Goes Bowling: Looking for a Perfect 8-0 Post-Season

Posted on December 15, 2010 by JA Allen

The Big Ten Conference is sending 8 teams to Bowl Games after the 2010 season.

The Big Ten has an opportunity to shed their “also-ran” or more appropriately their “barely-ran” mantle compiled in recent bowl game appearances.

This year they could actually make their way into the top tier of bowl-winning conferences like – dare we say it – the SEC?

As Bowl Season gets underway this coming weekend, the Big Ten will send eight teams bowling while the SEC lines up ten.

Last year the Big Ten managed to record a winning record of 4-3 in bowl game appearances as Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin won their contests – with Iowa and Ohio State in BCS Bowls.

Michigan State, Northwestern and Minnesota came close but no cigars.  All in all, it was a great bowl year for the Big Ten.

Great, when you consider that after the 2008 football season the Big Ten went 1-6 with only Iowa winning that year over SEC opponent South Carolina.

Following the 2007 football campaign, the Big Ten amassed a paltry 3-5 record.  We might also point out that in 2006 and 2007, the Ohio State Buckeyes played for the National Championship, losing both times to SEC opponents, Florida and LSU respectively.

In the past three years the SEC has compiled a 19-8 bowl record while the Big Ten skidded to an 8-14 record.  It cannot be overlooked that the SEC has won the last four BCS Championship games.

Indeed, the SEC is an impressive conference and going forward, the Big Ten hopes to catch and pass them as the newly realigned Big Ten begins a new era in Conference play with great expectations.  Welcome you Corn Huskers!!

With eight teams vying for victory, can the Big Ten score a strike?

Insight Bowl – Iowa (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) vs. (12) Missouri (10-2, 6-2 Big 12) in Tempe AZ on December 28

Iowa will face No. 12 ranked Missouri in the Insight Bowl on December 28.

Iowa, a red-hot football team that suddenly cooled mid-season, was characterized in the press as being in the final stages of a colossal meltdown at the end of the season as players left or were suspended.

This supposed scandal rocked the headlines and the Iowa faithful on Monday in Iowa City.

It turned out to be one player who was dismissed Derrell Johnson Koulianos, one who transferred, Jewel Hampton and one who was suspended, Adam Robinson. Only the Koulianos incident was related to drug usage.

It turned out to be the proverbial tempest in a teapot sort of media storm.

The effect of this revelation will not be understood until Iowa travels to Tempe, Arizona to meet a team that did not melt down at the end of the season.

Iowa finds itself facing a very strong opponent, the Missouri Tigers in the Insight Bowl on December 28. The two teams look alike in uniform but Iowa is on a three game losing skid. Missouri had a great year with some great wins led by quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

If both teams play to their potential, this could be one heck of a football game seeing as there is no love loss between the two Midwest neighbors.

Texas Bowl – Illinois (6-6, 4-4 Big Ten) vs. Baylor (7-5, 4-4 Big 12) in Houston on December 29

Illnois will meet Baylor in the annual Texas Bowl.

Illinois after a good rebound 2010 season lost three of their last four games, doing just enough to become bowl eligible––saving Ron Zook’s job for another year.

Still Illinois showed improvement in every phase of their game during the 2010 season, offering up some exciting wins in the process.

The Illini problem was in trying to play with consistency from the start to the finish of games. That will come with more experience under the new Illinois system.

For the Baylor Bears, the thrill is there.  Just becoming bowl eligible was a triumph for the perennial bottom of the barrel team in the Big 12.

Baylor after winning three in a row, however, lost their last three.

So who will win this bowl game between two teams fading badly at the end of the season?

Both teams remain anxious to prove themselves worthy and will work hard to win this game to hopefully punctuate a new era for their players and fans.

TicketCity Bowl – Northwestern (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) vs. Texas Tech 7-5, 3-5 Big 12) in Dallas on January 1

Northwestern will have to win without their starting quarterback Dan Persa.

It is never a good idea to overlook a Pat Fitzgerald coached Northwestern team.

Nonetheless, it appears that when Northwestern lost quarterback Dan Persa, they lost the best part of their offense.

This happened as the Wildcats once again upset Iowa in the closing moments of the game.

With Persa out of the line up, Northwestern did not fare too well against their remaining opponents losing to Illinois and to Wisconsin in a lop-sided affair.

Not only did their offense misfire, their defense seemed cemented in place allowing opponents to score 118 points in those last two games.

Texas Tech has shown some definite promise under first year coach Tommy Tuberville. Four of their five losses were to ranked teams.

The Raiders improved on the season, enough so to gain another chance to go bowling on January 1. Playing this game in Dallas, a certain amount of home team advantage should go the Red Raiders way.

Outback Bowl – Florida (7-5, 4-4 SEC) vs. Penn State (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) in Tampa on January 1

Penn State faces Florida in the Outback Bowl on January 1.

It will be interesting to see what the effect of hiring Will Muschamp will have on the Florida Gators as they take the field against Penn State at the Outback Bowl on January 1.

Florida had a rather lackluster year––Urban Meyer’s last year at the helm, as it turned out.

Neither of these teams gave their fans much to shout about during their respective seasons. Both teams struggled on offense. Florida, however,  won their first four but folded when they met ranked teams.

Penn State also seemed unable to win against higher ranked teams, finishing middle of the pack in the Big Ten.

Both teams are playing in this game on New Year’s day more out of reputation than outstanding results.

One would think that teams more deserving like Boise State or Nebraska or Oklahoma State should be playing on this traditional day for college football because they put together better seasons with wins against better opponents.

What you can say about this contest is that it the teams appear to be very equal in talent and in results in 2010. Plus, it looks like Penn State has a good chance for a victory.

Capital One Bowl – (16) Alabama (9-3, 5-3 SEC) vs. (9) Michigan State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) in Orlando on January 1

Michigan State has a big challenge facing them as they meet Alabama on the playing field on January 1.

On paper without considering the inevitable intangibles, this match-up has the potential to be one of the best bowl games of the season.

Both of these teams, especially Michigan State, deserved better because Michigan State overcame terrific odds to share in the Big Ten title.

Why the Sparty season is judged as less than Ohio State’s or Wisconsin’s (Michigan State actually beat Wisconsin) is one of the great BCS mysteries of 2010.

No one can explain why. The pundits simply shrug their shoulders accepting the ranking and the bowl bid as inevitable.

Alabama simply was not good enough to overcome a couple of tough competitors in the power-packed SEC.

The truth was that Alabama could not hold a lead or make up a deficit against high ranked teams when they needed to do so to win.

The bottom line is that if both teams play up to their potential, it will go a long way to provide an answer as to which conference is truly better in 2010––the SEC or the Big Ten?

Gator Bowl – (21) Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4 SEC) vs. Michigan (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten) in Jacksonville, FLA on January 1

Both Michigan and Mississippi State are pleased to be a bowl game again.

Both Michigan and Mississippi State are pleased to be playing in this year’s January 1 Gator Bowl.

Unranked Michigan has not been to a bowl game in three years.

Mississippi State’s last bowl appearance came after the 2007 season.

Both teams and their fans are hungry for post-season play.

The Bulldogs and the Wolverines will spread the offense and try to out run and out gun the other’s defense. Denard Robinson and the Michigan Wolverines with their No. 6 ranked offensive squad will attack the Mississippi State line.

The Michigan quarterback is a force of nature. Unlike Michigan, however, the Bulldogs have held up well on defense.  Denard Robinson’s has had a break out year for the Wolverines but probably he will not be able to overpower the Bulldogs.

Rose Bowl – (5) Wisconsin (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) vs. (3) TCU (12-0, 8-0 MWC) in Pasadena on January 1

Wisconsin will respresent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

In the end it was Wisconsin who came out of the Big Ten with the highest BCS ranking.

For their efforts, the Badgers won a trip to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl, the granddaddy of all bowl games.

Wisconsin has not appeared in the Rose Bowl since 2000 when they met and defeated Stanford.

They should have met Stanford in 2011 except that this year the BCS awarded the TCU Horned Frogs, from a non-automatically-qualifying conference, a berth to play in the Rose Bowl instead.

The Horned Frogs will need to employ their stingiest defense to keep the high-scoring Badgers grounded.  Wisconsin loved to run up the score on lesser opponents. Their ability to do that will be severely tested against the No. 1 ranked defense in the nation.

TCU has produced back to back undefeated regular seasons.  Their expectation was to play in the BCS Championship Game. That, however, was not in the cards for the Frogs.  Instead they get to meet the high scoring Buckeyes on January 1.

Sugar Bowl – (6) Ohio State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) vs. (8) Arkansas (10-2, 6-2 SEC) in New Orleans on January 4

Ohio State will have its hands full with Ryan Mallett and a talented Arkansas squad in the Sugar Bowl.

The 2010 Sugar Bowl contest comes down to this––which conference is better?

Another intriguing match up of Big Ten vs SEC.

Ohio State, however, never beats the SEC––they remain 0-9 against the best football conference in the nation in bowl games.

Will this be the year the Big Ten juggernaut team gets a win against the SEC by going through the Razorbacks?

Arkansas has a lot of weapons starting with their quarterback  Ryan Mallett who has passed for over 3000 yards this season. The powerful and explosive offense of the Hogs will be a handful for the Buckeye defense.

But Ohio State has a few weapons of their own in Tyrelle Pryor and a very good defense. After stumbling against Wisconsin, Ohio State has been steady––winning by holding opponents to 17 points or less and winning most games by over twenty points.

The defense will have to work hard to stop Ryan Mallet and the Arkansas multi-faceted offense. This one should go right down to the wire and depend essentially on turnovers.  The team that hangs onto the ball will win.

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