B1G Bowl Preview: Looking at the Conference's Nine Bowl Games of the Holiday Season

By Andrew Ellis on December 16, 2018 at 7:05 am
Nine Big Ten teams will appear in bowl games this holiday season.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Last year the Big Ten went 7-1 in bowl games with the lone loss coming from Michigan in the Outback Bowl against South Carolina. Whether you're one of those "conference pride" people or you root for everyone not named Ohio State to get annihilated, there's no denying that the 2017 season ended on a high note for the Big Ten. 

Fast forward to 2018 and the conference has once again been narrowly shut out of the College Football Playoff. That's certainly not ideal for the Big Ten and while some of the big shots are discussing an expanded playoff, it'll likely take some time for the changes to actually take place. 

Alas, we're left to play the hand we've been dealt and this year the conference has nine teams making appearances in what should be another exciting bowl season.

Dec. 26 Quick Lane Detroit Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech G.Tech (-6.5)
Dec. 27 Pinstripe New York Wisconsin vs. Miami Miami (-4)
Dec. 28 Music City Nashville Purdue vs. Auburn Auburn (-3.5)
Dec. 29 Peach Atlanta #7 Michigan vs. #10 Florida Michigan (-7.5)
Dec. 31 Redbox Santa Clara Michigan State vs. Oregon Oregon (-3)
Dec. 31 Holiday San Diego #22 Northwestern vs. #17 Utah Utah (-7)
Jan. 1 Outback Tampa Iowa vs. #18 Mississippi State Miss. State (-7)
Jan. 1 Citrus Orlando #12 Penn State vs. #14 Kentucky PSU (-6.5)
Jan. 1 Rose Pasadena #6 Ohio State vs. #9 Washington Ohio State (-7)

Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech • Quick Lane Bowl • Dec. 26 • ESPN

Watching this game means you have to watch Georgia Tech's option offense and a Minnesota offense that ranks No. 86 in America. Remember that time the Golden Gophers put up a decent fight against the Buckeyes in Columbus? We still have no idea how that happened. 

The Yellowjackets are favored by 6.5 in this one but Minnesota did put together a fine showing in its regular season finale. The Gophs topped Wisconsin – in Madison –  to finally reclaim Paul Bunyan's axe. Redshirt freshman Mohamed Ibrahim has rushed for 472 yards and four scores in the last four games.

Excitement Meter: 3.5

Wisconsin vs. Miami • New Era Pinstripe Bowl • Dec. 27 • ESPN

The Badgers have a similar philosophy each year as Paul Chryst relies on a bell-cow tailback and usually a solid defense. Last year's win over Miami in the Orange Bowl was a different kind of game that saw Alex Hornibrook throw four touchdown passes en route to a 34-24 Badger win. 

It's been a disappointing season for both of these teams as they head into this one outside of the Top 25. Some folks actually had Wisconsin and Miami as dark-horse playoff contenders. Those folks were obviously quite wrong, but at least this rematch will feature two big-name programs and plenty of future pros.

Excitement Meter: 6.5

Purdue vs. Auburn • Music City Bowl • Dec. 28 • ESPN

I am really looking forward to this contest primarily because a) I like Jeff Brohm and b) watching Rondale Moore is always a fun time. Gus Malzahn and the Tigers are favored by 3.5 but I took the Boilermakers on my Bowl Mania card. Purdue's offense is significantly better than Auburn's while Auburn has the superior defense. 

The Tigers were being looked at as a contender when they topped Washington in the opener, but it's been mostly all downhill from there. Jarrett Stidham never seemed to develop and there have been all kinds of rumors surrounding Malzahn's future.

Excitement Meter: 8.0

No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 10 Florida • Peach Bowl • Dec. 29 • ESPN

The last time we saw Michigan we were watching Don Brown's vaunted defense get dismantled by Dwayne Haskins and the Buckeye passing attack. The Wolverines still have the nation's top-ranked defense, but if I were Dan Mullen I would do everything in my power to target Brandon Watson and run some crossing routes galore

Rashan Gary is skipping this one and I suppose that helps Feleipe Franks and the Florida passing game. I'll be watching out for Trevon Grimes against a solid Michigan secondary. His last game was the best of the season as he hauled in five passes for 118 yards and a score against the Noles.

Personally I'd love to see another collapse like the one against South Carolina a year ago.

Excitement Meter: 8.0

Michigan State vs. Oregon • Redbox Bowl • Dec. 31 • FOX

The Ducks are favored by a field goal here, but I really have no idea what to expect in this one. Brian Lewerke had an injury-plagued season and the Spartan offense was atrocious throughout the year checking in at No. 118 in the country. The defense has been solid, however, and it's in for a tough test on New Year's Eve.

Justin Herbert is the only quarterback in the country who may be able to push Dwayne Haskins down a few spots in the 2019 Draft, but as of now neither one of them have made their intentions known. Ranked as the nation's 31st-best, the Duck offense should be tested a bit against Mark Dantonio's squad.

Excitement Meter: 7.0

No. 22 Northwestern vs. No. 17 Utah • Holiday Bowl • Dec. 31 • FOX Sports 1

Neither one of these teams bring too much to the table from an offensive standpoint, so it's unlikely there will be too many fireworks. The Utes put up just three points against Washington in the Pac-12 title game and Kyle Whittingham has dealt with a number of injuries throughout the season.

Clayton Thorson is a competent albeit unspectacular quarterback and the emergence of Isaiah Bowser has really helped to boost the offense. Still, it'll be a challenge going up against a Utah defense that ranks No. 15 in the country.

Excitement Meter: 6.0

Iowa vs. No. 18 Mississippi State • Outback Bowl • Jan. 1 • ESPN2

There will be plenty of NFL talent in this contest with the Bulldogs locked in as a touchdown favorite. Both teams come into the game with 8-4 records but only Mississippi State is ranked since it plays in the SEC and has wins over heavy hitters like Louisiana Tech and the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. 

Iowa boasts the country's No. 7 defense but Joe Moorhead is a creative offensive mind; though the Bulldogs haven't been all that great in 2018. Nathan Stanley and Hawkeye offense will be squaring off against a stout defense that ranks third in America. Sophomore tailback  Mekhi Sargent has totaled just shy of 300 yards and three scores over the Hawkeyes' last two games.

Excitement Meter: 6.0

No. 12 Penn State vs. No. 14 Kentucky • Citrus Bowl • Jan. 1 • ABC

Trace McSorley's final game for the Nittany Lions will be in Orlando against Kentucky. Both teams have three losses on the season and this is actually one that I'm excited to watch. Anytime a Big Ten power faces a player like Lynn Bowden the game automatically is a must-see for me. 

Kentucky can run the ball but the passing game isn't exactly its cup of tea. Penn State also is better on the ground. Wildcat outside linebacker and pass-rushing specialist Josh Allen has become one of the fastest-rising prospects for the NFL Draft, and it will be interesting to see how McSorley and the PSU offensive line handle him. Allen was the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year and recorded 14 sacks this season.

Excitement Meter: 8.0

No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 9 Washington • Rose Bowl • Jan. 1 • ESPN

Urban Meyer's show comes to an end in Pasadena on Jan. 1st in what will be his first appearance in the Granddaddy of Them All. Ohio State is a seven-point favorite against Chris Petersen's Huskies and so far it looks as though all of the Draft-eligible prospects are going to partake. 

Dwayne Haskins has a chance to boost his stock even more against a secondary that has two potential first-rounders in cornerback Byron Murphy and safety Taylor Rapp. The Huskies' pass defense is ranked just outside of the top-20, but it certainly impressed me while watching the Pac-12 title game. The Buckeye passing attack against the UW secondary is likely the top storyline in Pasadena.

Outside of Haskins against that secondary, many are probably wondering which Ohio State defense will show up. The unit played well against Michigan despite giving up plenty of points. And while Northwestern managed a few big plays, I'd say it wasn't all that bad in Indy either. The contests against Maryland and Purdue were clearly different stories.

We will obviously have plenty of coverage leading up to the New Year's Day showdown.

Excitement Meter: 10.0

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