The good news for the Big Ten this bowl season is that they are mostly playing conferences experiencing down years this year.
The bad news is the Big Ten isn't so strong itself, not that it has been for a few years now.
So, this is definitely the year that the Big Ten teams, fans, and media should either put up or shut up about the Big Ten even being relevant anymore.
Its marquee team this year is Ohio State, already with losses to a down USC team and a Purdue team with a losing record. That's proof that the Big Ten is already irrelevant.
It's now down to the bowl season to prove that this is little more than a cupcake conference. Here are the likely bowl games for them to try and make a statement in, along with the projected outcome.
The Rose Bowl
Ohio State vs. Oregon is an interesting matchup. It takes away the boredom of seeing USC beat them every year.
The Ducks are far from a powerhouse team and appear beatable, but this is a Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup, and the outcome will be the same.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Iowa vs. Boise State is a game that has the most interest. Can Iowa's defense slow down that blue grass offense? Iowa does have a defense capable of doing that.
I think Iowa has a chance to win this one and help settle future arguments that Boise State could have won a national title game.
I'm tempted to call this a toss up, but I have a soft spot in my heart for a team with a good defense, so I'll say Iowa in a close one.
Capital One Bowl
Penn State vs. LSU is another one of those games where the SEC flexes its muscle against the Big Ten. This one could get ugly, and I hate that for one of my favorite coaches of all time, Joe Paterno.
LSU is just too big, too fast, too talented, and too SEC for Penn State. If they don't like this game, they won't like the series they're about to start with Alabama.
The Outback Bowl
Northwestern vs. Ole Miss is yet another Big Ten sacrificial lamb being laid at the altar of an SEC team. There's ugly, and then there's UGLEEEEEE. This one will be the latter.
Ole Miss may have their ups and downs this year, but this one will have them feeling better during the offseason and will once again cause people to speculate about the Rebels being SEC contenders once again.
The Insight Bowl
Missouri vs. Minnesota is a bowl of two conferences going through down years and two teams right in the middle of them. This will be one of the chances that the Big Ten has to pull out a win if the Gophers can get the offense going.
However, Missouri can get their offense going on most days against middle-of-the-road teams, and I look for them to defeat Minnesota by nine.
The Alamo Bowl
What a relief for the fans of Iowa not to have to go back to San Antonio. The Alamo Bowl will be dumping the Big Ten after this year, and who could blame them?
This year, it's looking like Michigan State vs. Texas Tech in what would be a virtual home game for Tech. But they won't need that advantage to beat the Spartans, as they put on their track shoes and make this one another one of those UGLEEEE games.
Champs Sports Bowl
We'll see Wisconsin slide in and play an ACC foe, either Miami or perhaps Clemson. Either could beat Wisconsin, and that says much to the depths to which the Big Ten has sunk since this is the lowest the ACC has been in many years, too.
If Wisconsin loses this game, one of the Big Ten's better shots at a victory, then you can stick a fork in the myth of the Big Ten, because it's over and done for at least this year.
All that being said, I expect Wisconsin to win this game and bring the total of the other games I expect them to win to two.
If a 2-5 performance in the bowls spells disaster for the Big Ten, can you imagine what a 1-6 or 0-7 will mean? This is the first year in many that a conference shutout could be a real possibility.
If so, then maybe we can get just one preseason poll without one of these lame teams in the top 10 to start the year.
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