Ever since last year's horrendous 1-6 bowl record, the Big Ten has faced constant scrutiny, and has lost respect among most people involved with college football. This year's slate looks a bit more manageable, but the conference still has some very tough games.
Insight Bowl: Minnesota vs. Iowa State
Let's be honest, neither of these teams is very good. Minnesota started off the year with promise, but slowly faded back into the Big Ten's irrelevant. Iowa State also started the year off well (with the exception of a blowout loss to Iowa), but also faded down the stretch.
At 6-6 neither team as a whole has what it takes to win this game, so a game-changer needs to emerge. With Minnesota's wide receiver Eric Decker out, Iowa State quarterback Austin Arnaud will be the difference maker in this one and head the Cyclones' program in the right direction with a win.
Prediction: Iowa State 33, Minnesota 31
Alamo Bowl: Michigan State vs. Texas Tech
In what looked like it would be a promising year for Michigan State, 2009 was a disappointment for the Spartans. Picked to finish third in the conference by the Big Ten media, Michigan State constantly underachieved and finished a dismal 6-6.
Even with their whole team available, the Spartans would be over matched. But to make matters worse, ten players have been suspended for the Alamo Bowl because of a dorm fight. This one could get ugly fast.
Prediction: Texas Tech 45, Michigan State 23
Champs Sports Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Miami
This is one of the most intriguing lesser bowl matchups of 2009. Both teams arguably should be in January bowls and will be out to prove themselves after feeling they got "ripped off."
Wisconsin surprised many Big Ten teams this year and was much better than expected, especially at quarterback, its biggest question mark heading into 2009. The Badgers were worse down the stretch, but still have a very solid football team.
Miami also faded a little bit down the stretch, but they started off the season tremendously. Jacory Harris has been unstoppable at quarterback most of the time and the offense as a whole has been clicking.
It seems like Miami is underestimating Wisconsin, though. Yes, the Hurricane offense is good, but it may be in for a shock against the Badger defense. Plus, the Miami defense is less than impressive and Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien should take advantage. Look for Wisconsin to pull the upset.
Prediction: Wisconsin 34, Miami 23
Outback Bowl: Northwestern vs. Auburn
Both of these teams approached the season in opposite ways. Northwestern started off the season miserably, but ended on a hot streak, upsetting Iowa and Wisconsin. Auburn started off hot, but faded down the stretch and is lucky to be in a January Bowl.
Most "experts" are writing off Northwestern because it plays in the Big Ten and because, well, it's Northwestern. But the Wildcats have very impressive athletes that can give the Tigers a run for their money.
Quarterback Mike Kafka is a very dynamic player and fits well in the Northwestern offense. The defense has also shaped up over the last half of the season and defensive end Brandon Graham has been phenomenal as well.
Yes, Auburn has potential, but coach Gene Chizik and his team are still a few years away from being a legitimate January bowl team again.
Prediction: Northwestern 20, Auburn 17
Capital One Bowl: Penn State vs. LSU
This is a hard game to predict because neither team has beaten anyone of note this year. Sure they each won the games they were supposed to, but neither could step up in big games. Penn State lost to both teams ahead of it in the conference, Ohio State and Iowa, and LSU did the same, losing to Alabama and Florida.
In Vegas, LSU has the advantage because it plays in the SEC. But in real life, Penn State may have the edge. They have an outstanding defense with linebacker Navorro Bowman and defensive tackle Jason Odrick.
Penn State also has outstanding senior leadership from quarterback Daryll Clark and help from running back Evan Royster.
The Nittany Lions should also win the coaching match up with coach Joe Paterno matching up against LSU's Les Miles. Miles has made some questionable decisions this season, including blowing the game against Ole Miss due to clock management.
Like I said, this is a very hard game to predict, but I see the Nittany Lions coming out on top.
Prediction: Penn State 24, LSU 23
Orange Bowl: Iowa vs. Georgia Tech
While it may not mean much to the average college football fan, the Orange Bowl offers one of the best match ups of the bowl season: Iowa's defense vs. Georgia Tech's offense.
The Georgia Tech offense, which runs the triple option, is one of the most potent offenses in college football. Quarterback Josh Nesbitt and running back Michael Dwyer lead the way, and both will undoubtedly finish with more than 1,000 rush yards each by the end of the Orange Bowl.
The Iowa defense, on the other hand, is one of the best in the country. Linebacker Pat Angerer and defensive end Adrian Clayborn head up an elite defensive front, key to stopping the triple option.
The secondary is one of the most opportunistic in college football, with sophomore safety Tyler Sash leading the way with six interceptions.
The Iowa offense also gets a big boost with quarterback Ricky Stanzi coming back from an injured ankle. He will be playing in his first game since Nov. 7.
Stanzi has led many fourth quarter comebacks this season, and expect one more as Iowa beats Georgia Tech in a thriller.
Prediction: Iowa 27, Georgia Tech 24
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Oregon
For both teams, 2009 started off as a season that many thought they would want to forget. But now both teams are on hot streaks and have a lot of momentum heading into the Rose Bowl.
Clearly, this will be a high-scoring game because of the offenses that will be showcased. Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli are both outstanding dual threat quarterbacks.
But what this game will really come down to is defense. Both offenses are about equal (Oregon may have a small edge, but not much), so the best defense will take over the game.
Ohio State's defense has been phenomenal all season long, with Kurt Coleman leading the way in the secondary. Add that to an outstanding defensive line and Ohio State looks like it has a good chance to take home the roses.
Prediction: Ohio State 38, Oregon 34
Call me crazy, but I think it's possible that the Big Ten goes 5-2 in its bowl games this season. Sure, none of them are clear winners and the league could easily go 2-5. But all of these match ups are winnable for the conference and look for a much better showing by the Big Ten in 2009 than 2008.
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