The Big Ten has seven teams playing in bowl games, which gives fans a reason to cheer for opposing teams in their conference. That’s right, conference pride is on the line and with the Big Ten’s fading reputation, the bowl season offers an opportunity for the conference to redeem itself.
In some ways, bragging about the greatness of your conference is like bragging about how many beers your Uncle Bob can drink on Christmas Eve. In the grand scheme of things, it’s probably not that relevant, but in the age of SEC fatigue, conference pride probably means more than it should and for the record, I think most of us are sick of hearing about the SEC.
So let’s breakdown the Big Ten bowl games and see how many games we can expect our great conference to win, a couple of which are SEC/Big Ten match ups. Game watchability is based on a one to 10 scale — one, comparable to Gigli and 10, the 2013 Iron Bowl
Texas Bowl: Minnesota vs. Syracuse
On paper, this game does zilch for your casual college football fan. However, this game presents one very attractive caveat for the Gophers — a possible nine win season. The Gophers have beaten Syracuse twice recently, an overtime win to open the 2009 season in the Carrier Dome, and a 17-10 victory last year at TCF Bank Stadium. Look for Philip Nelson to gain confidence going into the off-season with his best performance of the year against a poor Syracuse pass defense.
Prediction: Minnesota 34, Syracuse 20
Game watchability: 3
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan vs. Kansas State
This game offers a historical power vsersus a program built almost single-handedly by one man. Bill Snyder turned the Kansas State football program from one of the nation’s worst into one that competed for Big 12 championships. After nearly making it to the national championship game last year, the Wildcats have fallen back to earth a bit with a 7-5 record, including a loss at home to FCS power North Dakota State. As for Michigan, they found their sea legs with a great offensive performance against Ohio State, losing on a failed two point conversion attempt, 42-41, to finish the season 7-5. While 7-5 seasons are acceptable in Manhattan, Kan. they aren’t so much in Ann Arbor. My guess is Michigan picks up where it left off against Ohio State and wins a shootout.
Prediction: Michigan 38, Kansas State 34
Game watchability: 6
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Nebraska vs. Georgia
Roster for roster, these teams aren’t even in the same galaxy. Georgia is chock full of four and five star recruits, while the Huskers have to fight to land an occasional four star player. The Bulldogs will be without senior quarterback Aaron Murray who injured his knee a few weeks ago. Junior Hutson Mason has looked pretty good in relief of Murray in the last two games, but Georgia will miss the leadership that Murray provided. The Huskers meanwhile have been rotating Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong Jr. Look for both quarterbacks to get playing time against Georgia. I don’t like the way Nebraska has played all year and Georgia has too much talent. Unless Georgia is out late drinking, look for this to be somewhat of a blowout.
Prediction: Georgia 41, Nebraska 24
Game watchability: 5
Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin vs. South Carolina
Steve Spurrier a/k/a The Ol’ Ball Coach took over the coaching duties at South Carolina in 2005 and has compiled a 76-39 record, including 41-31 in the SEC. That’s a really good record at South Carolina. I anticipate a close game here and relatively low scoring. South Carolina quarterback Conner Shaw will make a few more plays than Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave and that will be the difference in this one.
Prediction: South Carolina 20, Wisconsin 17
Game watchability: 7
Outback Bowl: Iowa vs. LSU
The Hawkeyes are in the Outback Bowl again. Doesn’t it seem like they’re always there? Like the match up between Nebraska and Georgia, athlete on athlete, this game is a total mismatch. However, these are typically the games Iowa excels in. With that being said, look for the blue collar Hawkeyes to bully the fast, athletic, but somewhat soft LSU Tigers into submission.
Prediction: Iowa 24, LSU 21
Game watchability: 6
Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Michigan State
People are saying the same thing about this game and that’s “don’t forget your chinstrap” and they’re right. This game is for grown men only and will truly be a throwback game. Maybe they can play in sweaters and leather helmets. I’m as intrigued by this match up as any in the bowl season, including the national championship game. These teams don’t miss tackles, don’t commit silly penalties, and are extremely well coached. It’ll be a joy to watch and is almost certain to come down to the last possession. For me, the Spartans are the better team, simply because they’re hotter. That and they haven’t lost to Ed Orgeron or a mediocre Utah team.
Prediction: Michigan State 17, Stanford 14
Game watchability: 10
Discover Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Ohio State
The last time the Buckeyes and Tigers squared off, Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player in the 1978 Gator Bowl. As Keith Jackson, who announced the game would say: “Whoa Nelly!” Words can’t even begin to describe what would happen if that took place in this day and age. For one thing, I think the internet would break.
As far as this game is concerned, I see the Buckeyes winning because outside of Clemson’s season opening win over Georgia, they don’t have another quality win. The Tigers’ second best win was probably a win over Georgia Tech. I see the Buckeyes coming into this game, a little salty after their loss to Michigan State, which costed them a chance to play for a national championship.
Prediction: Ohio State 38, Clemson 28
Game watchability: 8