Bowl season is nearly upon us.
Last year the Big Ten sent nine teams to the postseason as the conference went 5-4 in its bowl matchups. Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes won the Rose Bowl, Wisconsin beat up on Miami, and Northwestern took down a good Utah team. Things didn't go quite as well for the Wolverines, Nittany Lions, and Boilermakers.
Whether you're someone who roots for every Big Ten team to win or you have no rooting interest whatsoever, the lengthy bowl lineup does help to make the holiday season that much more enjoyable.
The 2019 season will again see nine of the league's top teams in the spotlight over the coming weeks with a few of those matchups standing out above the rest. Most importantly, the Big Ten is finally back in the College Football Playoff after being shut out in back-to-back years.
|Dec. 27||Pinstripe||New York||Michigan State vs. Wake Forest||Michigan State (-3.5)|
|Dec. 27||Holiday||San Diego||#16 Iowa vs. #22 USC||Iowa (-1.5)|
|Dec. 28||Cotton||Arlington||#10 Penn State vs. #17 Memphis||Penn State (-7)|
|Dec. 28||Fiesta||Glendale||#2 Ohio State vs. #3 Clemson||Clemson (-2.5)|
|Dec. 30||Redbox||Santa Clara||Illinois vs. California||California (-6.5)|
|Jan. 1||Outback||Tampa||#18 Minnesota vs. #12 Auburn||Auburn (-8)|
|Jan. 1||Citrus||Orlando||#14 Michigan vs. #13 Alabama||Alabama (-7.5)|
|Jan. 1||Rose||Pasadena||#8 Wisconsin vs. #6 Oregon||Wisconsin (-2.5)|
|Jan. 2||Gator||Jacksonville||Indiana vs. Tennessee||Tennessee (-1.5)|
Michigan State vs. Wake Forest • Pinstripe Bowl • Dec. 27 • ESPN
I can't tell you a whole lot about Wake Forest except that they play in the ACC and it's probably the worst conference in America. The analytics show that the Demon Deacons have the country's 12th-best offense but the defense is a major concern. The Spartans haven't exactly been lighting the scoreboard up, but Mark Dantonio's defense is at least competent.
There were a total of 13 points scored last year when Michigan State fell to Oregon in the Redbox Bowl. Let's hope for a better showing this time around.
Excitement Meter: 6.0
No. 16 Iowa vs. No. 22 USC • Holiday Bowl • Dec. 27 • Fox Sports 1
Clay Helton has survived yet another year in Southern Cal and will return in 2020. He has the chance to prove his worth against the Hawkeyes in San Diego. The Trojans have the country's No. 5 passing offense despite a number of injuries at quarterback. Iowa is solid against the pass and A.J. Epenesa has just shy of 20 sacks over the last two seasons.
Getting into any sort of a shootout would be a bad idea for Kirk Ferentz as the Hawkeyes haven't had a ton of firepower in 2019.
Excitement Meter: 7.5
No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 17 Memphis • Cotton Bowl • Dec. 28 • ESPN
Penn State fans are mad that their Nittany Lions are playing in Arlington instead of Pasadena. A matchup against the Tigers isn't near as appealing as what could have been against the Ducks, and this is a bit of a lose-lose situation for PSU. A win likely results in an "oh well it was just Memphis" reaction. A loss to the power-five foe would be a tad bit embarrassing.
Mike Norvell is headed to Tallahassee and announced yesterday that he won't coach in the Cotton Bowl. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact that has on a Tigers team whose lone blemish was a 30-28 road defeat against Temple.
Excitement Meter: 8.0
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson • Fiesta Bowl • Dec. 28 • ESPN
There are dozens of storylines heading into this one, and we'll be touching on all of them leading up to kickoff on Dec. 28. Justin Fields versus Trevor Lawrence, the Buckeye secondary going up against some of the country's best wideouts, Fairfield native Jackson Carman trying to slow down Chase Young, etc etc.
Ohio State hasn't had much success against Clemson, and the Buckeyes are a slight underdog heading to Glendale. Brent Venables' defense lost a ton of talent to the 2019 NFL Draft, yet he still has put together the country's No. 1 unit. The Buckeyes are far more tested than the Tigers, and this should be a great one in the desert.
Excitement Meter: 10.0
Illinois vs. California • Redbox Bowl • Dec. 30 • FOX
Illinois showed some signs of life this year and that was most evident with the win over an unbeaten Badgers team. You have to give Lovie Smith some props for reaching the postseason, but this still isn't the most exciting bowl matchup. Both teams rank outside the top-100 in total offense and their defenses aren't all that good either.
Ohio State does travel to Champaign next year, so at least this will offer a bit of a preview of what's to come.
Excitement Meter: 5.0
No. 18 Minnesota vs. No. 12 Auburn • Outback Bowl • Jan. 1 • ESPN
The Golden Gophers were a pleasant surprise this year as P.J. Fleck came close to capturing the West Division. Tanner Morgan has been good at quarterback and the Minnesota pass-catchers should present a challenge to any defense.
Auburn has an ultra-talented defensive front but has been vulnerable against the pass. I don't foresee the Tigers doing what they did to Purdue last season, and this one has the potential to be a sneaky good matchup even with an eight-point spread. Antoine Winfield Jr. manning the secondary against a true freshman quarterback may also be fun to watch.
Excitement Meter: 8.5
No. 14 Michigan vs. No. 13 Alabama • Citrus Bowl • Jan. 1 • ABC
I was surprised to see this spread at only 7.5, but I'm wondering if Vegas is thinking the Crimson Tide could have some key contributors sitting out in preparation for the NFL Draft. If both teams are at full strength (even without Tua), this one shouldn't even be close in Orlando. But strange things tend to happen during bowl season.
I have no idea how the Michigan secondary is going to keep up with Alabama's four wideouts who all may be first-round picks over the next two years. Nick Saban's defense hasn't been as good as we're used to seeing, so maybe Shea Patterson can continue his solid play while eliminating some of the costly turnovers.
Excitement Meter: 9.0
No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Oregon • Rose Bowl • Jan. 1 • ESPN
This is one of my favorite games of the entire bowl season. The Ducks have a solid rush defense, but Jonathan Taylor has pretty much destroyed all competition this season. Oregon is coming off an impressive win over Utah and the Badgers looked dang good for a half against the Buckeyes.
This will be Justin Herbert's last collegiate game and the same can likely be said for Taylor as both should be selected in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Excitement Meter: 9.5
Indiana vs. Tennessee • Gator Bowl • Jan. 2 • ESPN
Getting to eight wins was quite the feat for Tom Allen. Taking down an SEC opponent in Jacksonville would be just as impressive. This is another contest that I think has some sneaky intrigue to it, and the Hoosiers' only losses have come against the East Divisions blue bloods.
Jeremy Pruitt's second season in Knoxville started out as a disaster with the Vols losing five of seven; including a home loss to Georgia State in the opener. It's been a nice turnaround, however, with Tennesee having won five in a row heading into the bowl matchup. This will be a bit of a strength vs. strength battle as the Hoosiers have a top-15 passing offense and the Vols' defense ranks No. 16 against the pass.
Excitement Meter: 7.0