The struggle is real. It is happening. We worried on Sunday that the Big Ten might not win a single bowl game here in 2012; now that fear has the backing of Vegas.
According to The Michigan Daily, the Big Ten is expected to lose every game it plays in come December and January:
The Wolverines are one of three Big Ten teams that will play SEC opponents on Jan. 1. All three are underdogs. In fact, not a single team in the Big Ten is favored in any of the seven bowls its teams are playing in.
Combined, the conference is a 53-point underdog, though the lines do change.
Noting as always that you should never bet on college football anyway, here's a look at all seven bowls and how much of a shot the Big Ten's got in them.
Northwestern vs. Mississippi State, Gator Bowl: Mississippi State has beaten nobody this year. Even when the Bulldogs were 7-0, their schedule was so cupcakey (new word alert) that polls refused to push them past the mid-teens. Yes, an undefeated SEC team that voters yawned at. The 1-4 finish to the season proved that wise. Northwestern's got the talent to hang with MSU here, and the motivation from the Capital One Bowl snub and the bowl win drought should keep Northwestern hungry.
Michigan State vs. TCU, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Both teams are capable of beating 90 percent of the FBS...and losing to at least 75 percent of it as well. This is the curse of playing low-scoring games: Both teams stay in it longer. Expect this one to be 13-10 or 10-7 or 9-6 or something equally heinous late. That's close enough to be a toss-up.
Michigan vs. South Carolina, Outback Bowl: The South Carolina offense still misses Marcus Lattimore, and while Connor Shaw is a good quarterback, there isn't much that suggests he's going to torch a tough Michigan secondary. The key's going to be how Michigan moves the ball with any effectiveness against that monster defense, but as long as Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner are on the field at the same time, Michigan should be able to throw enough curveballs to keep this close.
Wisconsin vs. Stanford, Rose Bowl: This was a tough one for Wisconsin even before Bret Bielema bailed for Arkansas unexpectedly. Stanford is monstrous in run support and will be as big a challenge for Wisconsin's rush defense as Nebraska and Ohio State were this season. Wisconsin was 1-2 in those games, and it's not like it shut the Huskers down in the title game win; Nebraska did rack up 282 yards on the ground.
Nebraska vs. Georgia, Capital One Bowl: Georgia is talented enough up front to cause major problems for the Husker offense, and Aaron Murray will be the best thrower Nebraska has seen all season (although in the Big Ten, that's a low bar to clear). This doesn't look like a blowout, but Georgia's defensive talent and offensive balance will probably be too much for Nebraska to overcome.
Minnesota vs. Texas Tech, Meineke Car Care Bowl: This might be the most lopsided matchup of the bowl season. Texas Tech's defense is more than capable of shutting down a tepid-at-best Minnesota offensive attack, and while the Gopher secondary is talented enough to not let Tech run up the score, it's awfully hard to conceive a scenario that involves Minnesota outscoring the Red Raiders.
Purdue vs. Oklahoma State, Heart of Dallas Bowl: We take it back: THIS is the most lopsided matchup of the bowl season. Purdue was whipped by every bowl-eligible team it played in 2012 (except, oddly, Notre Dame) and is now having to deal with the search for a new head coach after Danny Hope was unceremoniously axed. Can Purdue forfeit?