Big Ten Bowl Recap: Golden Gophers and Hawkeyes Deliver With Big Wins, Conference Blue Bloods Fall Short

By Andrew Ellis on January 5, 2020 at 7:05 am
P.J. Fleck and the Gophers made a big statement against Auburn.
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 Big Ten season has reached its conclusion.

There are now just two post-season contests remaining, and unless you're a fan of the Ragin' Cajuns or Redhawks, probably only one that you'll actually be paying any attention to.

Nine Big Ten programs made it to this year's bowl season after hitting that same number in 2018. Last year the conference went 5-4 and it was headlined by Ohio State's Rose Bowl win over Washington. Lowlights included Penn State falling to Kentucky, Purdue getting dismantled by Auburn, and the Wolverines getting blown out against Florida (though that was enjoyable).

Things didn't go quite as well in 2019 as the Big Ten ended up with a 4-5 record that easily could have – and probably should have – been a little more impressive. Ohio State outplayed Clemson in Glendale and really should be prepping for LSU right about now, but we've already dealt with that heartbreak, though we probably won't get over it anytime soon.

There were plenty of ups and downs for some of the Big Ten's top teams with questionable officiating, outstanding college careers coming to an end, and a bit of momentum being built heading into the 2020 offseason.

Outback Bowl • No. 18 Minnesota 31, No. 12 Auburn 24

We're starting with the Outback Bowl because it really was one of the surprises of the bowl season. The Tigers had a nasty defense, and nearly all of Gus Malzahn's draft-eligible players decided to suit up in Tampa. I figured the Gophers would really struggle against the Auburn front seven, but they put up nearly 500 yards and collected win No. 11 on the season. 

Tanner Morgan threw for 278 yards and a pair of scores. Wideout Tyler Johnson was the star of the show as he hauled in 12 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns; including one of the best catches of the entire season. Mohamed Ibrahim also had a fine showing rushing for 140 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. 

The Gophers weren't quite able to take down Wisconsin in the West, but there's no doubt their 2019 campaign was one of the season's biggest surprises. 

Rose Bowl • No. 6 Oregon 28, No. 8 Wisconsin 27

This was a heartbreaker for Paul Chryst and the Badgers, and it unfortunately involved yet another officiating blunder. Wisconsin was down by one with about three minutes left when Jack Coan hit tight end Jake Ferguson to convert on third down.

And then everyone realized that a flag had been thrown on the play.

Wide receiver Danny Davis was called for offensive pass interference even though he appeared to be merely running his route. There's certainly no way of knowing if the penalty changed the result of the game, but the Badgers were put in a third and 20 situation, ended up having to punt, and then never did get the ball back. 

Jonathan Taylor rushed for just 94 yards on 21 carries in his last game as a Badger. Jack Coan threw for 186 yards and a score and Aron Cruickshank returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. A botched punt attempt led to a third-quarter Oregon touchdown while Justin Herbert did most of his damage with his legs. The senior threw for just 138 yards and an interception but added three rushing touchdowns; including the game-winning 30-yarder.

Citrus Bowl • No. 13 Alabama 35, No. 14 Michigan 16

Folks, I really hate to see Shea Patterson go. In his last game as a Wolverine, he completed just 17 of 37 attempts for 233 yards with a touchdown and two picks. On offense, it took the Crimson Tide exactly one play to go 85 yards for a touchdown. This one wasn't close as we all got pretty much just what we expected. 

The Wolverines did put in a bit of work on the ground as Zach Charbonnet ran for 84 yards and Hassan Haskins added another 61. Tight end Nick Eubanks scored the lone Michigan touchdown as Quinn Nordin did the rest with three field goals. Donovan Peoples-Jones is off to the NFL (and should be a good pro) but he caught just one pass for 34 yards in his final game. 

Mac Jones threw for 327 yards and three scores as Don Brown continues to have absolutely no idea how to slow down a potent passing game. Najee Harris and Jerry Jeudy destroyed Michigan as they combined for three touchdowns. Jeudy caught six passes for 204 and a score. Harris rumbled for 136 and a pair of touchdowns. Jeudy is off to the league, but Harris still has a decision to make. The SEC would love to see him bolt. 

Cotton Bowl • No. 10 Penn State 53, No. 17 Memphis 39

A few things stood out in this one: the Penn State running game was dominant and Micah Parsons is not a human. Journey Brown and crew ran for nearly 400 yards and scored five touchdowns on the day. Brown was the leader with 202 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries. True freshmen Noah Cain and Devyn Ford both pitched in with scores as well. 

Memphis quarterback Brady White had a big day but was plagued by a pair of interceptions. White threw for 454 yards with no touchdowns and the two turnovers. The Tigers' rushing attack found the end zone three times but managed just 63 yards on the day. Kicker Riley Patterson booted six field goals.

As for Parsons, all the sophomore did was record 14 tackles, two sacks, three TFLs, and two forced fumbles. He – along with the ground game that returns everyone – are going to be big-time problems for the conference next year.

Holiday Bowl • No. 16 Iowa 49, No. 22 USC 24

The Hawkeyes opened as a favorite in the Holiday Bowl, but the line moved in USC's favor leading up to kickoff. It was close for a quarter until Nate Stanley and Ihmir Smith-Marsette cruised to an Iowa victory in San Diego; giving Kirk Ferentz win No. 10 on the season.

Stanley threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns while Smith-Marsette scored as a rusher, receiver, and added a 98-yard kick return touchdown. Trojan quarterback Kedon Slovis threw for 260 yards with two scores. Amon-Ra St. Brown was the game's leading receiver with nine receptions for 163 yards.

Clay Helton will be back for another season in SoCal, and he promptly fired two of his coordinators after the loss. 

Pinstripe Bowl • Michigan State 27, Wake Forest 21

Mark Dantonio reached seven wins thanks to the victory over the Demon Deacons. It seems like Brian Lewerke has been in East Lansing for about eight years, but this was his last hurrah for the Spartans. The senior had a solid showing with 366 yards of total offense, two touchdowns, and a pick. Cody White also put in some work with eight catches for 97 yards and a score. 

Wake Forest managed to put up 351 yards of total offense as quarterback Jamie Newman threw for 175 yards and three touchdowns. Last week Newman announced that he's leaving the program as a graduate transfer. Oregon appears to be the favorite for his services. 

The best play of the game was without question the 14-yard interception return touchdown by 300-pound defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk. 

Gator Bowl • Tennessee 23, Indiana 22

I don't root for every Big Ten team by any means, but I was pretty heavily invested in Indiana beating Tennessee, so this one was a bit devastating. The Hoosiers were up 22-9 with 10 minutes left in the game, but the Vols scored two late touchdowns to give them the win in Jacksonville.

Indiana managed just 303 yards of offense as Peyton Ramsey threw for 227 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Ramsey did add 54 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The Hoosiers' other touchdown came via a Jamar Johnson 63-yard interception return. Logan Justus pitched in with three field goals.

The Vols' quarterback situation was disastrous all season long, and nothing changed in the bowl game. Jarrett Guarantano threw for 221 yards with no scores and two picks. Tailback Eric Gray (a former Michigan commit) led the charge with 120 yards of offense and a score. Tennessee also kicked three field goals in this one.

Redbox Bowl • California 35, Illinois 20

Props to Lovie Smith for reaching a bowl game, but this wasn't one that was particularly exciting. California quarterback Chase Garber carved up the Illini defense in Santa Clara. The redshirt sophomore completed 22 of 31 passes for 272 yards and totaled five touchdowns. Makai Polk hauled in five for 105 yards while tailback Christopher Brown Jr. dashed for 120. 

Illinois was led by Brandon Peters and his 273 yards and one touchdown. Reggie Corbin rushed for a score, Donny Navarro added 77 receiving yards, but the rest of the damage all came via the kicking game. The Illini finished the season with a 6-7 record that included wins over Wisconsin and on the road in East Lansing.

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