Big Ten Bowl Power Rankings: Five losses sink a once strong football conference


Jan 3, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd (10) carries the ball during the first half in the 2014 Orange Bowl college football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten finished a disappointing 2-5 in bowl games. The conferences’ reputation has taken a beating over the years and the results from this year’s slate of bowl games certainly didn’t do anything to improve that. But despite the performance of the conference as a whole, Michigan State earned a ton of respect from the college football world with a solid 24-20 win in the Rose Bowl over one of the most physically imposing teams in Stanford. The rest of the conference left a lot to be desired during the bowl season. Arguably the least impressive performance of the season belonged to Minnesota, who lost to a bad Syracuse team 21-17.

Here’s how the Big Ten’s bowl teams stacked up in the final power rankings of the 2013 season.

1. Michigan State: The Spartans fought back after finding themselves down 10-0 early. Connor Cook overcame some early mistakes to finish 22-36 passing for 332 and two touchdowns and the Spartans defense held Stanford without an offensive touchdown after the opening drive.

2. Ohio State: This game went according to the script of the entire Buckeyes season, which was to score a bunch of points and give up a bunch of points. It feels to me like defensive coordinator Luke Fickell is working on borrowed time as he’s one of the worst defensive coordinators in the country. I would like to think that Ohio State University can do a heck of lot better than that guy. The Buckeyes defense was a complete joke at the end of the year and that was even with one of the best defensive players in the country – linebacker Ryan Shazier who is off to the NFL.

3. Iowa: The Hawkeyes played a very good team in LSU that was playing hard. Iowa made a huge jump this year and will have high expectations heading into 2014. Will the Hawkeyes be able to meet those expectations? This is something they have struggled with in the past. For now, the program and head coach Kirk Ferentz look reinvigorated.

4. Wisconsin: The Badgers ran into a red-hot quarterback in South Carolina’s Connor Shaw and an extra motivated defensive end in Jadeveon Clowney, who was clearly trying to impress NFL scouts in his last collegiate game. The result was a 34-24 loss to the Gamecocks, but no shame in that for the reasons listed previously. The battle was fairly even. First downs were 21-20 in favor of the Badgers and total yards favored the Gamecocks 438-410. South Carolina just had a few more elite players and that was the difference. The Badgers did get good news when tailback Melvin Gordon announced he was returning to Madison instead of going to the NFL.

5. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are one of the most fraudulent 9-4 teams in the history of college football. They needed a hail Mary to win one game, lucky breaks down the stretch to beat Michigan and Penn State, and faced a Georgia team that was missing its start quarterback in Aaron Murray and had all but quit in the Gator Bowl. Georgia couldn’t have looked less interested to be there. I just think the Nebraska program is going nowhere under the leadership of Bo Pelini. You know what they say right? You can’t spell Pellllini without 4 L’s.

6. Michigan: Shane Morris certainly looks the part of a prototypical Michigan quarterback. He’s a big, strong, drop back passer, however he’s left handed which could throw their offensive line a wrinkle. The Wolverines will likely move their best offensive lineman to right tackle in 2014 to protect Morris’ blind spot. He didn’t have much of a chance in the bowl game against veteran coach Bill Snyder who was more than prepared to make Morris’ life uncomfortable from the pocket. The Wolverines should be in good shape next year if freshman tailback Derrick Green can lay off the Krispy Kremes. The youngster definitely needs to drop a few pounds in the off-season.

7. Minnesota: After a really satisfying regular season, the Gophers laid an egg in their bowl game against a lousy Syracuse team. The Gophers will not improve next year until they can get improved play from the quarterback position. The talent will be there in 2014 along with the offensive line, but it won’t matter if the quarterbacks can’t improve their accuracy. In the second half of the Texas Bowl, Philip Nelson was missing receivers so badly it almost looked like he was working with a bookie on the point spread. The defense was solid, but not spectacular this year. Everything lies on the progress at the quarterback position heading into 2014.

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