Each week of the 2009 college football season, I will be examining all the games in which a Big Ten Team plays. All kickoff times are ET and all poll numbers are from the BCS rankings as provided by ESPN. All records are for the entire 2009 season, both in and out of conference, and all bowls are listed in order of when they will be played, starting with the earliest. The Bowl Games are as follows:
#25 Wisconsin (9-3) vs. #15 Miami (FL) (9-3) in the Champs Sports Bowl
While I am still surprised that Wisconsin wasn’t picked for the Outback Bowl, I feel as though they are a great match up against Miami (FL) in the Champs Sports Bowl. Both teams have potent offenses, and both have shown that they are able to shut down on defense if need be. The Hurricanes’ 95 rushing yards allowed to Georgia Tech shows that they have the potential to keep the Badgers at bay. Their 287 against Virginia Tech, however, shows that their defense is too random to count on. Wisconsin should be able to keep Miami (FL) off balance, as their 200 ypg in both passing and rushing is a nice mix. As long as John Clay keeps eating up the clock with his 4 YPC, the Badgers should earn the victory.
Wisconsin 24, Miami (FL) 17
This game will be televised on ESPN at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, December 29.
Minnesota (6-6) vs. Iowa State (6-6) in the Insight Bowl
I hate to say this about any game, but this should be the easiest bowl win for the entire conference. Frankly, with Minnesota’s horrific offense and porous defense, that is somewhat insulting to Iowa State fans. With stagnant offenses on both sides of the ball, this game will come down to field goals and punting, neither of which are areas where the Cyclones of Iowa State excel. I expect Minnesota to be able to get good field position and use that to kick plenty of field goals. Whoever has the most accurate kicker should win this game; wow, that is sad.
Minnesota 15, Iowa State 3
Somehow, these two teams ended up on the NFL Network. They will be televised at 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 31.
Northwestern (8-4) vs. Auburn (7-5) in the Outback Bowl
Two paragraphs and a poll later and I am still shocked that Northwestern is in the Outback Bowl despite Wisconsin’s better record. That said, however, I am happy with this match up for Northwestern. In the last 60+ years, the Wildcats have not won a bowl game, and it might finally be their time. The defense has played against the spread many times this season, which should help them against the Tigers. Their offense, though non-existent at points of the season, came through in the major games. Unless Auburn decides to play like they did against Alabama (unlikely), this game will probably be a decent win for Northwestern.
Northwestern 27, Auburn 17
This game will be televised on ESPN at 11 a.m. on Friday, January 1.
#13 Penn State (10-2) vs. #12 LSU (9-3)
This, frankly, is a hard game to predict. Both teams look good on paper, but both also have clear flaws. With the exception of LSU's accidental loss against Mississippi (seriously, that should not have been a loss), both teams look the exact same. They both had good offenses and defenses, until they came up against the best teams in their conference – at that point, they disappeared. If Penn State focuses on a running game, they should be able to beat the Tigers. However, if they are forced to throw the ball, the strong secondary of LSU should easily stop the Nittany Lions. I expect this one to be close, but baring a stupid mistake by Les Miles (likely), LSU should eke out a victory.
Penn State 17, LSU 21
This game will be televised on ABC at 1 p.m. on Friday, January 1.
#8 The Ohio State University (10-2) vs. #7 University of Oregon (10-2)
For the first time in over a decade, both the Buckeyes and the Ducks will be heading to the Rose Bowl. That, however, is the last of their similarities. Ohio State plays a position game, where they primarily run the ball, work on getting good field position, and either kick a field goal or punt and leave their opponent inside their own 20. Oregon is a high-powered, strike first offense. This allows them to score at any time, from any spot, with any player. The Buckeyes will need to be quick on their feet in order to win this game, while the Ducks will need to overcome one of the best defenses in the country. If Oregon strikes first, the Buckeyes will probably lose the game. That said, however, I believe that the Buckeye defense will hold Oregon long enough for Ohio State to gain a lead, and that the Buckeyes will be able to keep it for the rest of the game. After losing their last three BCS games, the Buckeyes will finally win again.
Ohio State 27, Oregon 20.
This game will be televised on ABC at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, January 1.
Michigan State (6-6) vs. Texas Tech (8-4) in the Valero Alamo Bowl
Before the end of the season, I would have said that a potent (when they want to be) Texas Tech offense could run circles around Michigan State’s defense. After the suspension of eight Spartans, I would say that the second string of the Red Raiders could easily handle Michigan State. Simply put, this is a no-brainer — Texas Tech will be winning this game, and they will thoroughly dominate the Spartans. Hopefully, this will be the only embarrassment of the bowl games.
Michigan State 10, Texas Tech 43
This game will be televised on ESPN at 9 p.m. on Saturday, January 2.
#10 Iowa (10-2) vs. #9 Georgia Tech (11-2) in the Orange Bowl
The key for a Big Ten victory in the Orange Bowl will be how well Iowa stops Georgia Tech’s running game. Tech relies very heavily on their running, which could be a problem for them, as Iowa has a dominating defensive line. Unless the Yellow Jackets can get Josh Nesbitt and his ilk to the outside, the Hawkeyes should be able to keep this game in check. With a powerful and physical offensive line, Iowa should be able to score when they need to, keeping them in the game. I expect the game to be close, but a disciplined effort by the Iowa defense should give them the victory.
Iowa 27, Georgia Tech 17
This game will be televised on FOX at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, January 5.
Overall, I believe that the 2009/10 bowl season will help redeem the Big Ten Conference. After being embarrassed on a national stage the past few years, the Big Ten will go 2-0 in BCS games and 3-1 against ranked teams. They will go 2-0 against the ACC, 1-0 against the Pac 10, and 1-1 against both the Big Twelve and the SEC. With the sole exception of the beat down that Michigan State will receive, each team will be fighting in a close and exciting game, which should help increase the number of viewers. Overall, I expect the Conference to go 5-2, and finish the post season strong.