Big Ten Bowl Season Primer

By RossWB on December 26, 2018 at 8:00 am
go bowls go
© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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Bowl season as a whole got underway 10 days ago, but the Big Ten sat out those early games. It's only now, with 14 bowl games in the books, that the Big Ten will begin their bowl season. Starting today, there's at least one Big Ten bowl game on six of the next seven days. Here's an overview of all nine Big Ten bowl games this year. 

Quick Lane Bowl

Minnesota (6-6) vs Georgia Tech (7-5)
Wednesday, December 26, 4:15 PM CT, ESPN

Favorite: Georgia Tech -6.0
Over-Under: 60

REASON TO WATCH

It's the first Big Ten bowl of the season and it's on a lazy Wednesday afternoon the day after Christmas -- what else are you going to do? It's also a chance to (probably) watch a lot of offense and a lot of points. Minnesota ranked 75th in the nation in rushing yards conceded per game (170.7) and 118th in average yards per carry allowed (5.2), although it's worth noting that they conceded less than 100 rushing yards (and under 3.0 ypc) in two of their final three games. But Georgia Tech boasts one of the nation's best run offenses, ranking 1st in yards per game (334.9), 11th in yards per carry (5.7), and 4th in rushing touchdowns (45). Meanwhile, Georgia Tech ranks 80th in scoring defense, so bring on the points.

FUN FACT 

Big Ten teams are 4-2 in Detroit bowls (including appearances in both the current Quick Lane Bowl and the previous Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl), while ACC squads are 3-1 in Detroit bowls. 

WATCHABILITY FACTOR: 6.5

Again: it's the first Big Ten bowl of the season, and it's on a Wednesday afternoon the day after Christmas -- surely a little college football (even a game involving the Gophers) is more desirable than returning unwanted gifts or pretending to work. Plus, it's a chance to see Georgia Tech's flexbone triple option at work, which can be a joy to watch. 

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Wisconsin (7-5) vs Miami (7-5)
Thursday, December 27, 4:15 PM CT, ESPN

Favorite: Miami -3.5
Over-Under: 48

REASON TO WATCH

Wisconsin has the best running back in college football in Jonathan Taylor. He won the Doak Walker Award this season after rushing for a national-best 1989 yards on 7.1 yards per carry and 15 TD. While Wisconsin as a whole certainly had a disappointing year, it would be difficult to pin any of that on Taylor, who improved his total rushing yards (1989 vs 1977 a year ago -- in 14 games), his per-carry average (from 6.6 to 7.1), and his touchdowns (from 13 to 15). Not bad! In this bowl he'll be facing one of the better run defenses he's seen all year; the Hurricanes rank 25th in average rushing yards allowed (127.5) and 11th in yards per carry (3.3). The nation's best running back against one of the nation's better run defenses is pretty compelling. 

FUN FACT

Wisconsin has the longest current bowl winning streak in the Big Ten, at four postseason wins. (No other Big Ten team has an active winning streak longer than two games.) Miami has lost seven of their last eight bowl games. 

WATCHABILITY FACTOR: 5

Well, it's football between two brand-name programs. But that's about all this game has going for it. You saw this game between better Wisconsin and Miami teams almost exactly a year ago, in the Orange Bowl. 


Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Purdue (6-6) vs Auburn (7-5)
Friday, December 28, 12:30 PM CT, ESPN

Favorite: Auburn -4.0
Over-Under: 54.5

REASON TO WATCH

It pains us to admit it, but Our Most Hated Rival can be... pretty fun to watch. Jeff Brohm is a creative playcaller, David Blough was probably the best QB in the Big Ten not named Dwayne Haskins this year, and Rondale Moore is one of the most electrifying players in college football. Seeing what they can do against an SEC defense is worth tuning in, especially on a lazy Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend. 

FUN FACT

Would you believe that the SEC has a losing record in the Music City Bowl? It's true -- SEC teams are just 8-11 in this bowl. Big Ten teams are 3-3, splitting their last two appearances (Northwestern beat Kentucky last year, while Nebraska fell to Tennessee the year before that). 

WATCHABILITY FACTOR: 7

This game really boils down to whether Auburn can get motivated to play a 6-6 Purdue team. On paper, they're the superior team -- four of their five losses came against Top 20 opponents (Alabama, Georgia, LSU, and Mississippi State), although the Tennessee loss was a definite puzzler. But if they're not excited about this game, Purdue is certainly dangerous enough to steal a win here. 

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

#7 Michigan (10-2) vs #10 Florida (9-3)
Saturday, December 29, 11 AM CT, ESPN

Favorite: Michigan -7.5
Over-Under: 51.5

REASON TO WATCH 

To see if maybe this time Jim Harbaugh's face will get stuck in one of those painful grimaces he's always displaying.  

FUN FACT

Florida has never beaten Michigan. They're 0-4 against the Wolverines dating back to a 38-30 loss in the 2003 Outback Bowl.  

WATCHABILITY FACTOR: 5

A match-up between two top ten teams ought to produce more juice than this game, but there just isn't much to latch onto with this game. It's the third time these teams have played in the last four years and there aren't a lot of really exciting storylines, players, or match-ups to generate excitement. It's high level college football, but that's about it. 

Redbox Bowl

Michigan State (7-5) vs Oregon (8-4)
Monday, December 31, 2:00 PM CT, FOX

Favorite: Oregon -2.5
Over-Under: 48

REASON TO WATCH

It's college football. Come April or May, you'll be jonesing for any hit of college football you can find and you'd probably willingly subject yourself to Michigan State football at that point. So maybe you want to DVR this so you have a "break glass in case of emergency" game available to view in those lean summer months? Hey, I'm not judging you. Also: Oregon QB Justin Herbert could be the first quarterback taken in the 2019 NFL Draft (if he opts to go pro), so if you're a fan of QB-needy team, this game counts as scouting! 

FUN FACT

N/A. Oregon has steadily lost its sense of fun ever since Chip Kelly left Eugene and Mark Dantonio considers fun a worthless distraction from #TheGrind and #TheProcess. 

WATCHABILITY FACTOR: 2

This is not the only game on at this time (you can also watch Stanford-Pitt, kicking off at 1 PM CT on CBS, or Missouri-Oklahoma State, kicking off 2:45 PM CT on ESPN), so you have options. Also: Michigan State has been one of the most miserable teams to watch all season so I cannot in good conscience recommend that you tune into this game. 

SDCCU Holiday Bowl

#22 Northwestern (8-5) vs #17 Utah (9-4)
Monday, December 31, 6:00 PM CT, FS1

Favorite: Utah -7.5
Over-Under: 46

REASON TO WATCH

Welcome to the Dollar Store Rose Bowl! It's the Rose Bowl match-up one wanted! Well, these two fanbases really wanted it. No one else did, though. (I'm guessing ESPN really didn't want a Rose Bowl between two non-blue blood programs who would have had a combined seven losses.) If you're in the mood for defense, though, this game will probably do you right -- Northwestern held six of their last nine opponents under 20 points (the exceptions were Ohio State, Notre Dame, and... Nebraska) while Utah held six of 13 opponents to 10 points or less. 

FUN FACT

Kyle Whittingham is 11-1 in bowl games at Utah, including a current five-game winning streak. So pick against the Utes at your peril. 

WATCHABILITY FACTOR: 3

This game is on at the same time as the Gator Bowl between Texas A&M and NC State; that game will probably feature much livelier offenses and, y'know, more points. Also: it's New Year's Eve! Surely you can find something better to do on New Year's Eve than watch jNW football. 

Outback Bowl

Iowa (8-4) vs #18 Mississippi State (8-4)
Tuesday, January 1, 11 AM CT, ESPN2

Favorite: Mississippi State -7.0
Over-Under: 43.5

REASON TO WATCH

Duh. 

FUN FACT

Did you know this actually isn't the lowest over-under of all the bowl games? It's true: it's actually the third lowest total for the bowls presently. UAB-Northern Illinois (43) and Cal-TCU (41.5!) currently have lower totals than the Outback Bowl. 

WATCHABILITY FACTOR: 10

If you're reading this blog, you're watching this game. 

VRBO Citrus Bowl

#12 Penn State (9-3) vs #14 Kentucky (9-3)
Tuesday, January 1, 12 PM CT, ABC

Favorite: Penn State -6.5
Over-Under: 47.5

REASON TO WATCH

Do you like sacks? This game could have plenty. Penn State is third in the nation in sacks with 43 as a team. Kentucky is 32nd in the nation with 32, but they also have Josh Allen, a pass-rushing force who's fourth in the nation with 14 sacks this year and will be coming to an NFL draft board near you shortly. This game also has two of the best running backs who don't get a lot of publicity: Kentucky's Benny Snell, Jr. was second in the SEC with 1305 yards rushing (4.96 ypc) and 14 touchdowns, while Penn State's Miles Sanders was second in the Big Ten with 1223 yards rushing (5.91 ypc) and 9 touchdowns. 

FUN FACT

This game will be played on the 20th anniversary of the 1999 Outback Bowl, which also featured Penn State against Kentucky. (Penn State won, 26-14.) 

WATCHABILITY FACTOR: 2

Let's be honest: the only reason you're going to be watching this game is if the Outback Bowl turns into a repeat of Iowa's last Outback Bowl appearance. That said, if Kentucky's defense can keep this game close, it might set up for a fun ending to flip to after the Outback Bowl is over. 

Rose Bowl 

#6 Ohio State (12-1) vs #9 Washington (10-3)
Tuesday, January 1, 4:00 PM CT, ESPN

Favorite: Ohio State -7.0
Over-Under: 58

REASON TO WATCH

It's the Rose Bowl. Even if the Rose Bowl is no longer quite what it used to be, it still feels like an Event. The pomp and circumstance, the gorgeous scenery, the postcard-worthy stadium shots... everything outside the action on the field is top-notch at the Rose Bowl and the game itself is usually pretty good as well. The last two Rose Bowls were all-time classics (USC 52, Penn State 49 in 2017 and Georgia 54, Oklahoma 48 last year), so this year's game has a lot to live up to. 

FUN FACT

Even though Washington and Ohio State are tied for the third-most Rose Bowl appearances (15 apiece), this game will be their first Rose Bowl match-up against one another. Washington's most frequent Rose Bowl opponent has been Michigan (4 times), while Ohio State's most common dance partner has been USC (7 times). 

WATCHABILITY FACTOR: 8

Like I said: it's the Rose Bowl, y'know? And this iteration does have an intriguing match-up between Ohio State's high-powered passing offense and Washington's stout pass defense. And there are additional storylines as well, like this being Urban Meyer's final game at Ohio State and the possibility of it being Dwayne Haskins' final game at Ohio State as well. 

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